Note from Peter:
I’m working on a new tool for web developers. It's called phpconsole.com and it will speed up your development process. Feedback welcome!
Having a big monitor means having a lot of workspace, which in turn means higher productivity, right? WRONG! I’ve recently came back from nearly 2 months long trip abroad, where I was working full-time remotely with the rest of my office, located in Scotland and I wanted to share my observations with you.
My productivity during that time increased, despite working on small laptop, so I started analyzing how this experience changed the way I work now. I hope we can get a good conversation going on Hacker News and create a list of useful tips for staying productive.
Get yourself a 12” notebook and move your ass out of the office! Now!
First, look at your monitor, the one you use for work. There’s a chance that it’s a big fat 27” Mac screen or at least something in the neighborhood of 24” compatible with PC. Now look at your favourite editor that you use for work. How much of this space is really taken by the code you’re working on? 1/3rd? 1/4th?
Having a big screen is a good excuse to stick a Twitter client here, mail client there, have list of files pane constantly open, and in general keep every window at some random size, definitely not full-screen. In best-case scenario you’re just lost in open documents and you’re juggling windows, dragging them to the left, to the right, pushing out of visible workspace etc. More realistic scenario: everything above + each open app takes a bit of your attention, which is counter-productive and annoys you in the longer run.
Back in the office I have 27” Mac workstation that has been replaced by 12” laptop while I was abroad. Having screen resolution (and physical dimensions) over 4x smaller than usual, forced me to change the way I work - every window is always maximized (preferably full-screen), every element of app’s interface that is not extremely useful is hidden. As a web developer I’m constantly switching between text editor and browser and frankly, having everything maximized, the amount of code that I can see without scrolling is just slightly decreased comparing to what I had on 27”.
Replace your screen with a smaller one.
This one needs separate paragraph. Twitter is an amazing tool to communicate with others, especially for us, geeks, but it’s also a very big source of distraction. I’ve spent 2 months without Twitter client, using only their website to occasionally tweet something or reply to tweets where I was mentioned. Movement on the side of your screen caused by new tweet can easily destroy your focus built over last half hour and you have to start again from square one.
Keep Twitter client off, or at least hide it.
Skype and email are both great tools to communicate with your colleagues if you do it the right way. Working remotely forces you to communicate clearer, plan better and keep track of your work. Try to cut all the crap from your Skype and email conversations. Filtering fluff and leaving conversations about lolcats is a good start to better focus on task at hand.
It’s also a good idea to set up email notifications to, let’s say, once every half hour. If there’s anything urgent, people can always call you, right?
Reconfigure your email client and don’t let others drag you into pointless conversations.
People around you
It’s really nice to work with others in the office and I enjoy it quite a lot (is it just me?), especially if you have a good, friendly atmosphere at work, but usually people == distraction.
If you’re away - your colleagues have to call you on Skype or send an email to contact you, which means an effort for them, so they are less likely to do it if they don’t need you that badly. If you’re physically in the office, all it takes is just leaning over monitors and asking a question.
Being away also reduces your ability to attend meetings, which means you will be forced to Skype-attend only important ones - that can save quite a lot of time.
Find location, where people can reach you only when they need you.
Working in the same location 40h per week, every week can be really boring. Changing place you work from can do wonders to your productivity and morale, as long as you have access to everything that you need. In my case it’s decent internet connection and power outlet, which gives me quite a lot of flexibility.
Remote work allows you to change place as you please (depending on your needs).
All above comes from comparison between working on-site and working remotely. I enjoy both, and I believe that you need both to stay sane. Average human being is rather social beast, but sometimes you need few days without anyone else to get things done before deadlines. Working remotely off of 12”-13” laptop can give you a boost that you don’t expect and erases many “I’d like to, but…”.
And as a bonus, working from a different country (even full-time) lets you explore foreign cultures, learn new languages (much more efficient than language schools), meet a lot of new people, make friends with them and increase quality of your life!
Do you have good tips for productivity or stories about working remotely? Share them in the comments below.
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