Monthly Archives: June 2021

my unscientific work from home tips

my qualifications: i have been working mostly from home since 2014 or so.

productivity / quality of life things:

  • have a window behind your computer screen if possible, so you can look out once in a while to change the distance of your eye’s focus, it’s good
  • the pomodoro technique works pretty well for reminding you to get up every 25 minutes to take a break (there are apps if you want)
  • play good upbeat music that will keep your energy up (e.g. i love this old BT album)
  • make a list of the “3-5 things i must get done today” – IMO it helps if it’s on a 3×5 index card you can prop on your desk or tape to your monitor. keep it pointed at your face so you can’t ignore it (stolen years ago from pmarca on productivity)
  • other people mentioned this: taking walks is good
  • ignore slack as much as possible, it is frankly terrible for productivity/focus. it’s even worse as a todo list. redirect people to your official input channels as soon as possible from slack. i like to check in 2x per day, same as email. some people like to schedule this – for me it’s first thing AM, then mid-late afternoon
  • avoid interactions with other family members in the house (if any) as much as you are able during work hours. lunch together can be nice though, or walk in AM/PM
  • don’t do “house things” that pop into your brain during the work day. write them down and do at night/weekends
  • try hard to set a 5-minute timer before checking something on the web “for just a minute”
  • set up a dedicated workspace that is only for work, even if it means you spend 10 minutes in the morning/evening doing setup/teardown in your dining room. it creates a psychological entry/exit point for the work day.
  • similar to the above using different words: keep the work computer in one place that is just for work, don’t bring it around the house with you
  • finally, and this is important: work your scheduled hours and only those hours

computer opinions:

  • if you type on a laptop all day you are gonna die. buy a keyboard (i like this specific old msft ergo and/or the kinesis freestyle 2, some people have other opinions)
  • if you use a laptop trackpad all day you are gonna die. buy an external mouse (i like trackballs, especially the kensington expert, they give big scrolls with little movement / energy expenditure)
  • if you can’t get (or fit) an external monitor, get a Roost laptop stand as many people on the internet have already mentioned (or the cheaper Nextstand knockoff, which I have – it’s fine)
  • (only applies if work gave you an apple laptop) if you are buying an external monitor right now, IMO the ~2012 era apple display with multiple built-in USB ports is STILL the best one to get (i can’t believe i’m saying it, but it’s true). they are on ebay for like $400. using those weird usb-c dongle adapter things sucks. if you get the apple display, you will need to buy a thunderbolt to usb-c adapter, which also sucks, but it sucks less. the apple display will allow you to plug in your external keyboard and backup drive (see below) to something solid, not a flimsy dangling wire that will wiggle your laptop’s usb-c ports until they get loose. bonus: apple display has built-in speakers, microphone, and camera that work well for remote meetings
  • buy an external hard drive and back up your stuff. best option for non-nerds is to plug in a big external drive and use Time Machine. see also: jwz on backups