Work From Home - Switch Conference 2011


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  • Really insightful... the all-nighters were pretty commonplace back at college, but that doesn't make it right on the workplace.

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Work From Home - Switch Conference 2011

  1. 1. hi, I WORK AT HOME my name is Zé. I have no clue.terça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Hi and welcome to this talk on working at home.My name is Zé, I work at home and have been for the last 7 years. Chances are that many of you in this room alsowork from home or will probably do so in the near future.So, what qualifies me to talk on working at home? Am I a specialist on ergonomics? on business workflows? ondiets? on physical exercise? On anything, really?I am none of those, nor am I an expert at much of anything. What I am is someone who has made every imaginablemistake there is to be made and who has learned the hard way how to be more productive once I had to work inless formal work environments.I work for a company called Automattic, better known for a little piece of software that you may have heard of,called WordPress. In this company of nearly 80 people, everyone works at home, all over the world, and no twopeople work the same way.In that spirit, I’ll divide this presentation in two: - First, I’ll talk about that which I have learned from others, either from reading about it or from talking to otherpeople. It’s the part about the basics.- After that, I’ll talk about those parts nobody ever told me about, and that apply to my specific experience.
  2. 2. the BASICS self-help books are for sissiesterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Ok, let’s talk about the basics, as a reminder
  3. 3. the ZONE where the magic happens. and it smells of lavender.terça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Define your workspace, separate from your living-space. Ideally it’s an area physically separate from the rest ofyour house, or at least where clear boundaries are visible. You should have specific place to work, one to live,another to live, and so on.If none are visible, create them. Use a bookshelf, curtains, anything. You don’t have to become invisible to the restof the house, just make the boundaries clear.For me, it’s also crucial to have a clean and organized house (and that smells good :) ). It has to made be clear, foryou and those who live with you or visit, that there is a separation between working and living.
  4. 4. gear PR0N you don’t need half of all that crapterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Treat yourself to the top of the line gear. For me that means the best laptop, external monitor, keyboard, mouseand internet connection my cash will allow.Change it when it ages, which means, for the previous example, at least every two years or so. All the rest is fluff.Yes, your iPad, and your iPhone, and obviously your Xbox and your TV.You may need them for other things, but I doubt that it’s work. And no, Angry Birds does not count as work.Backing up your work does, however. Don’t forget that external drive.
  5. 5. routine ROUTINE apply, rinse, repeatterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011I need a routine. Something that after a time of being forced and conscious, will simply become what I do withoutthinking. I have a time for breakfast, for working, for eating, for being with my family, for doing nothing and formany other things.I don’t always respect the routine, it’s true, but at least I have found that it is what I return to naturally. The restare very clear exceptions, from which I am usually in a rush to end.I could go on and make a whole separate point about distractions like Facebook or Twitter, but the point is moot ifyou specifically include distraction-only time in that routine. Plus I’m sure you all know what distractions are...
  6. 6. co WORK annoy your friends. repeatedly.terça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Also cowork if you can. Either go to some friend’s place or invite him over. I am lucky enough that a good friendof mine works in the same company and hence in much the same way as I do, and we try to work in the samespace whenever we can. Recently we have been nagging everyone we know to work at their offices or spaceswhenever we can. Some of my best work is done this way because the temptation to distract yourself is minimal.In the same spirit, socialize. Talk to human beings who are not online. Go out for drinks once in a while, talk tothe waiter at the café, invite friends over. Better yet, maneuver your friends into inviting you. This, by the way,should be part of the routine mentioned above.
  7. 7. MOVE walking that jungle in Call of Duty? doesn’t count.terça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011This one was the hard for me: move. I’m not saying to necessarily spend hours on end at the gym (although that’sprobably a good thing) but at least walk for half an hour, outside, especially when it’s sunny.It’s been said that the best ideas come to you at the speed of walking, but it’ll also do wonders for your breathing,for your digestion and for most of your body. The whole internet will still be there when you come back, trust me.
  8. 8. remember FOOD? it’s like... fuel for your body, man.terça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011I try not to eat lunch at home, if I can. Yes, even if you have a family. This can mean going to some restaurant, orsimply going to a park or similar with food you take from home.Trust me, long before you go crazy from seeing your family/roommate/partner/dog or whatever the whole day,they’ll go crazy from seeing you sitting at your desk. It’ll make communal dinner all the more enjoyable.
  9. 9. all the other LIFE HACKS let me google that for youterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Those are obviously only some of the practical aspects of working at home. I’m sure a lot more can be said,especially in what concerns the millions of “life hacks” everyone develops with time.I’m more than happy to discuss mine either during questions time or else just grab me if you see me pass by.Much more important to me are those aspects of working at home that nobody told me about and that to this daysurprise me when I listen friends who are just starting.
  10. 10. a life of LEISURE talk to the handterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Two of the most common things I hear when someone asks me what I do, are first of all “Ah, right…” where youcan literally see that what they’re thinking is “Poor guy. That’s not really working. He probably hangs around inpajamas all day, playing Modern Warfare and eating bowls of cereal”. The other, completely opposite, is “You’resoooo lucky. You get to choose when you work”.They used to puzzle me and drag me down. They are equally dangerous if you’re the kind of person for whom thisis important. Either to defend what you do in the first case, or to become all proud and smug in the second case. Iknow I was that person.I felt a need to either correct the first statement or to gloat about the second. The sad news is that I never gotanywhere. Nobody ever changed opinions because of anything I could say. So, I stopped saying things andfocused on this very simple fact: crucial is only that I know what I do. No amount of explaining is going to makeme do it better. My advice? Politely ignore. Change subjects. Talk to someone else. About something else.
  11. 11. don’t plan it BE IT from the day it was born, it was troubleterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011During the first months of working alone, and especially because I was my own boss, I felt the need to reassuremyself with plans and more plans for the next semester, the next year, the next five years.You know what? Cool down. Right now, you might be exploring the idea that will revolutionize the way the worldworks. It’s unlikely, but hey, it’s possible. However, and to state the obvious, every journey starts with the firststep. Every day. Focus on what you need to do this week, today, this minute. Don’t waste your time planning for afuture you cannot predict or anticipate. Make that code work today.I have a friend, who is a scholar of ancient greek dialects, who claims that the original etymology of the word“future” in greek is “that which is behind us”. This gives a whole knew perspective to our standard view of uswalking forward towards the future. We’re walking forward, alright, but the only thing we can actually see isactually, well, the past. Relax.
  12. 12. staplers & THINGS I’ll have my people call your peopleterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011This next one took me a while to understand.I had convinced myself that in order to be “working”, I needed “working accessories” around me, like those officesupplies you’d see on a “serious” desk. Staplers, Post-it blocks, paper clips, folders, you know what I’m takingabout. But finally, I had a revelation:- That stuff is mostly decoration, in reality you don’t use most of it. I, for one, used none of it. Except of coursewhen…- Indulging in this “office atmosphere” lead me down a very dangerous path. Soon you will move to “needing” allkinds of business-y equipment, but most of all processes and routines that will justify all that junk.So, I got used to throwing or putting things away, regularly. I remembered that I am a person who has lived atmore than 40 different addresses to this day, and that throwing stuff away was something I was good at.
  13. 13. 36 hours on COFFEE! someone give me a medal alreadyterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011I also worked, for many years, through whole nights, the famous “directa” in Portuguese. And I was kind of proudof it. Sometimes I even bragged about it. And be honest, aren’t you actually proud of it most of the time? Ofmaking that deadline? Of rewriting the code in a 36 hour marathon? Don’t you feel like giving yourself a medalsometimes? Doesn’t going to bed after a marathon like that fell extra-special?If it does, you need to look at yourself in the mirror, and repeat after me:
  14. 14. “I am an idiot”terça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011“I am an idiot”.It’s not a sprint, it’s long-distance. Maybe you feel you absolutely have to make that deadline. Maybe you getpulled by those lines of code singing at you in their siren voices (“come to me, come to me”). Trust me, the worldis not going to end because you go to bed. The world around you, your family, your friends, even your body willonly put up with so much of it, and if you keep on doing it you will inevitably find that they are gone.The trick is knowing this beforehand. The trick is, in your head, to exclude time to rest as time available for work.It goes back to the beginning of this talk: plan for a day, a few days at most. Define and respect your routine.Otherwise, pulling all-nighters is what the routine will become. And you’ll find yourself being the only one pullingthem.
  15. 15. the lessons of FAILURE #fails are not #winningterça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011And finally, I can hear some of you thinking, “oh, so one must learn from one’s and other’s mistakes”. How oftenhave we heard that “you should fail often and gloriously”? All the time, right?Let me set the tone straight of the bat. Bullshit. (I’m older than most of you, I’m allowed to say these things)The only thing I’ve learned from my mistakes, is that what you should pay very close attention to, are not themistakes, but rather your successes. In other words, learning from “wins” is incredibly richer in information thanlearning from “fails”.I’m not saying that learning from mistakes is not important, I’m just saying that it is an horribly overrated meme.When you do something right, you know that it worked and you can do it again, and who knows, even better.There is nothing wrong in cultivating failure, as long as there is a quest for success. What we seem do to thesedays however, is cultivate failure as statistic, like a 4square badge.
  16. 16. KTHXBYE @zedejoseça-feira, 19 de Abril de 2011Thank you!