Solving Problems & Saving Time through Software and Crushing Entropy
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I have been a remote worker for quite some time now. It started innocuously when I moved to Boston, MA. The company I was working for had a 2-day per week “Work From Home” policy, during which you’d have no meetings. They had a few reasons to do this, and one of the big ones was that commuting in Boston can be really terrible depending on where you’re coming from. It is a very family-friendly policy as well. That is how it started, which was 10 years ago.
When I moved on from that job after 18-months I was able to keep that policy at my next job. We had regular meetings with clients, but they were all virtual, so not being in the office did not make a huge difference. Once I had a proper office (finding a good apartment is amazingly hard here) and our snowmageddon winter hit—I went fully remote.
Ever since college I’d never had a problem getting things done at home. I never had the feeling that I had to go to the library, or student union, or somewhere else to do my work or reading. Working from home never triggered that common “get the ball rolling and actually work!” psychological problem for me.
Now that I’ve been working remotely for a while here is how it has shaken out. My morning actually has a good amount of energy these days (a welcome change in adulthood). I generally have two good hours of energy where I can bang something out. Sometimes that means cleaning up the kitchen. Sometimes it means reading articles, listening to an interview, or even writing an article. And sometimes it means writing that feature you planned yesterday, your unconscious mind worked on overnight, and is ready to flow out from your fingertips first thing. After those two hours subside in the mid-morning is when I poke my head above water; I answer emails, ping teammates or clients, scan twitter to see what conversations are happening, check on communities I am a part of.
Lunch is when I get outside and walk the dog. We do two miles each day.
Then after lunch is when I dive back in for another round of completing tasks. At some point in the morning more things creep onto the to-do list, and it is now time to get that list clean again. Depending on the task, and how interesting it is, this phase can last until the end of the day. Usually with my last hour of the day I go back to reading, watching interesting talks (I have watched everything I can find by Nikolas Means and Bryan Cantrill), and winding down.
I am pretty attached to this pattern. There are definitely times I am on-site with a client, or head into the office that don’t fit this pattern (how could they?). I actually do enjoy those visits because they are wildly different and on purpose for a specific outcome. But when my natural schedule gets disturbed for…reasons…I am less than pleased.
One surprise I have discovered is that winding down is actually one of the most important parts of my day for me personally. I have found that I cannot just jump out of work-mode immediately. When my hands leave the keyboard five seconds before I walk out of the office into “home-life” it doesn’t end well for me. It feels like whiplash for my brain. I can’t drop the context of whatever I was just doing fast enough to adjust. And I can’t adjust to my new “inputs” that aren’t a keyboard and screen reacting to my key-presses and clicks. That winding-down time looks like I’m not doing anything—but it is my mind and my inputs coming to rest and back to a baseline level.
After ten years I don’t think I would want to go back to an in-office commuting arrangement. Something very special and different would have to happen to make that appealing.