Friday, March 30, 2007

Something to Look Forward To

For the more mobile remote workers, this report from Business 2.0 about a product called Powercast really seems like a potentially Big Thing. This company has technology that will recharge a device -- cell phone, Palm-Berry, headset, or other hand-held thingy -- through the air. No more having to remember to plug in that cell phone. It would start charging itself automatically when you get within range of its power unit happily plugged into the wall and beaming power through the air.

The Irrational Fear of Things I Can't See side of me (you know, the part of me that is certain that the furnace is just waiting to blow) thinks, "Will having juice flowing through the air cause cancer or more static cling or whatever?"

But the Gee Whiz Isn't Science Great side of me thinks, "Gee whiz, isn't science great?!?"

So get ready to chuck your phone and buy yet another version that is Powercast-enabled. This is one upgrade that may, in fact, be worth it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

May I Complain?

Just a little bit. I try really hard to remain relentlessly positive, because honestly, how bad can a day where I can wander out into my backyard at a moment's notice and throw the ball for my dog really be? Not that bad. Except when...

...the VIDEOCONFERENCING INTO MY GOSH DARN CONFERENCE ROOM STOPS WORKING RIGHT. Sorry to yell, but I'm getting mighty tired of listening into meetings on the phone. Nobody will 'fess up to changing anything. The firewall guys say they haven't made any changes. All the people in the Real Office claim to be too scared of the conference room unit to touch it (it does have a rather Terminator-esque affect when it fires itself up in response to my call, swivels its electronic eye frontwards, and scans the room ominously searching for people to meet with). I know I haven't changed anything on my desktop rig.

And yet it won't work. I really think it's got to be the firewall, because almost every new connection problem I've had with any of my other videoconferencing partners-in-crime has been resolved by a call to the firewall fellas.

I'm staying calm. And petting the dog. She's a very good dog.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Telecommute Job: Right-Wing Radio Host

Here's a job option for those seeking a remote work arrangement: this article from the New York Times profiles a radio personality who telecommutes. This guy is commenting on Arizona politics from California. So he reads the paper, takes internet feeds of the local news, and does his job, and most people are none the wiser.

While I'm not sure the world needs yet another conservative radio host, the general vibe of this story is consistent with what I find in my remote work-life: if you don't make a big deal about being far away, nobody notices.

I stay up-to-date on what's happening in Baltimore by reading the local paper online. I keep abreast of activities at the university where I work by staying on top of the internal news sites and talking to folks. I work the same hours as my East Coast colleagues and customers, and maintain a local number.

There have been several times when a customer has said to me, "Well, why don't you swing across the street some time and we'll grab some lunch to celebrate finishing this project." When I come out of the closet wearing my slippers, so to speak, the genuine surprise on the other end of the phone is wonderful.

I need to figure out how to record those conversations for my quarterly remote arrangement reviews.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Even Real Office Workers Need a Third Place

The Wall Street Journal (via a reprint in the Career Journal specialty site) notes that many companies are trying to keep their employees in the Real Office by upgrading the in-office coffee offerings.

Good luck.

It turns out that in many cases even the lure of a freshly brewed, individualized cup of coffee isn't enough to change people's habit of running down to the coffee shop for a quick (or not so quick) cuppa joe. In fact:

"Higher-level managers such as Joe Garber also say they enjoy getting out of the building, though they may take their work along with them. Mr. Garber, the 63-year-old president of Woodrow Funding & Management Corp., a financial-services firm in New York, likes to go to a nearby coffee shop and spend 15 or 20 minutes working there instead of in the office."

Maybe my earlier concerns about languishing in the local cafe were misplaced.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Office to Guest Room, Store Room to Office

As I mentioned earlier, the whole office-guest room conundrum is resolved. As you can see, we now have both a lovely guest room (our soon-to-arrive houseguests should feel reassured) and I have a very nice office. The guest room provides a useful space not only for certain ten-year-old bookworms, but all of our recording equipment and myriad instruments.

The office provides ample space for...well...whatever it is I do all day. I'm sure I'm up to something in there. I have lots of files and cables, monitors to spare, and a small headset collection. So I must be doing something useful.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How Many of You Are Worried

...about the pending Vonage injunction, and the possibility that Verizon's lawsuit may ultimately be successful? Like many remote workers who work really far away from their Real Offices, I rely on Vonage to supply a local phone number for my Maryland-based customers. Naturally Vonage is full of assurances that not only will the injunction never go into effect, because they are going to file an appeal, and anyway they have lots of evidence that shows not only did they not infringe Verizon's patents, but in fact Verizon tried to reverse engineer their technology back in 2003.

WhatEVer. I must confess that I'm a little concerned. As it is, Vonage drops every third call for me, and at least a third of the time I can't quite get my voice mail just as I would expect. It seems like the distractions of the lawsuit, scrambling to put other technology in place in case the injuction does take effect.

I'd be distracted. I'm a little distracted, and I'm just one little end user. Sheesh.

Maybe I need to get a cell phone.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Red Letter Day

Stella Commute's alter ego has a published piece on Web Worker Daily. I've carefully balanced the risk of revealing my secret identity against my egomaniacal tendencies, and determined that:

a) Anyone who knows who I am will instantly recoginize me in my StellaCommute postings.

b) I'm always careful about not getting too specific about my real job and whatnot.

c) I'm stoked about being a real blogger.

So enjoy! And look for more postings from me on WWD in the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Such a Pretty Mess

A lot of people are writing about A Perfect Mess, a new book by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freeman. Okay, I should probably read the book, but I'm not actually writing about the book, here. I'd like to hold forth a bit on general tidiness.

I used to to say this indifferent housekeeper. Before we moved out west, we lived in a fairly decrepit row house in Baltimore that vigorously resisted all attempts to clean -- elderly wood floors, terrible linoleum, original fixtures in the bathrooms all conspired to look dingy without regard for the bleach, oil soap, or other medicaments that I might apply. This was compounded by the fact that we had vastly more room than we needed, and could thus fill rooms with assorted detritus that was of no further use to the family. And we went thrifting. A lot.

Since moving into a home that is at least 1500 square feet smaller than the old joint, I've turned into a bit of a Stepford Wife, I'm afraid. In part it's because in a small house there is no room for detritus -- we're just a few pairs of shoes in the living room away from complete chaos. And, in part it's because the house reacts well to my ministrations -- the floors actually shine when steamed with the steamer. The bathrooms can be perceptibly cleaned. I'm a little obsessed, because as Marge Simpson notes: I spend 23 hours a day in this house. I need to be able to concentrate, and It's Hard For Me when there is disorderly conduct in my environment.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not spending my time lining my pencils up and sharpening them until they're all the same length. But for me and my working style, it's important that I have the stuff that I'm currently working on out, and the rest of it hidden away where it doesn't trouble me.

I've got a junk drawer in my office, and we have a couple of junk drawers in the house. Don't get me started on our garage, which, needless to say, does not contain the car. But pockets of mayhem aside, we can put everything we own away, and we don't buy a lot of new stuff, so there isn't this inflow of crap that takes up space.

Look, you keep your desk as messy as you like, but I think that overall the benefits of knowing where the things you're working on right now are, being able to put your hands on things that you did last year, and not having to fight your way through stacks of clothes you can't or don't wear in order to get dressed in the morning are worth the time and effort it takes to get your stuff-universe in some kind of order.

I'm coming down anti-Messy Desk. Will wonders never cease?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Office in Full Force

The office transformation is complete. The carpet guys showed up yesterday, and depsite earlier fears about the need to glue down the tack strip for the wall-to-wall install, they were in fact able to nail the tack strips to the cement floor and install the carpet and baseboards. With that step complete, it was just a matter of moving all my office crap into the new space, and that only took a couple of hours. I realize these pictures don't really give you any idea what the office actually looks like. Disclaimer: I took them with my webcam during a conference call with someone else about mass email, and the webcam is really not the optimal device for capturing snaps of your home office for the next issue of House Beautiful.

It turns out that my desk is rather too enormous for the new space, but it also turns out that it is easy to take off the little pod that the multifunction printer-fax-scanner rests upon and use that as a free standing accent table. Isolating the printer from the rest of the desk has other advantages, too. It can be noisy, and it shook the whole desk complex when printing. Now I send print jobs across the room, and then walk two steps to pick up my print job. It's just like in the Real Office.

There are a few malingering issues. I may need to get a super long telephone cord to run from the router that is across the room to my desk. Right now, I'm just taking the handset to the desk -- we'll see how it holds its charge and then evaluate whether it needs to be on its base more often during the day. And I'm feeling a little woozy from the paint and carpet off-gassing. My natural-foods friend in Baltimore would be horrified that I'm working amongst all these VOCs, but I find the mind altering properties are really quite enjoyable. Never mind that stuff about the liver damage. I'm sure my liver is fine.

Best of all: I can't hear the neighbor's dog barking at all. Lovely!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Is Telepresence Not Videoconferencing?

It's no secret that our friends at Cisco are making a big play into what they call the "telepresence" realm. Whether it's their videoconferencing offerings, their purchase of WebEx Communications to beef up their application sharing bits, and there's the whole providing the network-in-general stuff they do, too, they are really beating the telepresence drum.

But I can't help but wonder, as I read the descriptions of their life-altering multipoint dreams, if it's really that different from what the folks at Polycom are doing already. Like this announcement from February, or maybe even just their basic set of offerings. I use Polycom almost every day and value the low price entry point (for the PVX desktop edition of their videoconferencing software), relative ease of use (if opening ports on your local firewall is easy, which, honestly, is not that bad), and high video/call quality over normal consumer bandwidth.

Now if I could just get my institutional and department firewalls to be more accommodating and less prone to random changes in what ports are opened and closed, I'd really be cooking with gas.

Look, there's probably some deep difference between what Cisco is hyping and the offerings that existing market players like Polycom, Lifesize, Raindance, and other nice companies bring to bear. But I'm not sure I'm seeing it in the PR bonanza that accompanies their WebEx acquisition.

Maybe someone out there can enlighten me.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Annoying Co-Worker

Say what you will about awful coworkers, overpowerful cubicle neighbors, or bad bosses lurking over your shoulder. At least they don't stand outside your window between the hours of six and ten in the morning barking every five seconds.

My new co-worker is a really nice shepherd-border collie mix, who, despite his billing as an "indoor-outdoor dog", is actually quite nonplussed about being left outdoors for hours at a time while our neighbors are at work. I'm still hopeful that he'll grow more sanguine about this over time; they've only had him for about a week, so there is a chance that he'll become secure in his position as dog and master of his domain. And failing that, I'm soon moving to my new office across the patio -- and a house away from his little dog run.

I have a problem with the whole thing (burgeoning insanity from the barking aside): I can't quite get used to the idea that beloved family members (e.g. pets) are treated kind of like farm animals, even here in our suburban Albuquerque neighborhood. Our neighbors across the street never ever let their dogs into their house -- although they've given over about half of their yard to the dog run and have created a lovely little habitat for them. They value them as guard dogs and abstract companions, but not as friends.

I grew up in farm country, as I've noted in the past, and many of the cats and dogs I have known over my life have been farm implements -- there to help herd, get rid of vermin, guard, and so on.

But seriously. We're in the 'burbs, here. Give your dog a kiss. Let her sleep in bed with your kid. Tell her she's a good friend to you. Rest your feet on her while you blog. You'll enjoy your life more.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Relocation, relocation, relocation

In the cooling housing market, relocating for a job can be a real deal-breaker for some prospective employees. USAToday has a vaguely depressing article about people who are really taking a beating because they can't unload their houses to accept a new job in another part of the country. Employers are also dealing with the results of the slowing real estate market, because it's harder to move your existing employees around.

In the war to recruit and retain top-tier talent, companies with robust telecommuting programs that allow people to be effective from where ever they may be could have a real advantage. Build in flexibility to accommodate new hire training -- for example, requiring new hires to be on-site for six months, and then allowing them to return to their home town. Use remote work arrangements to ease the transition from the old location to the new location -- allowing a transferred employee to work remotely for six months to allow her to settle affairs before making the move. These are smart strategies that work for the employer and employee.

And you might find that remote arrangements work so well there's no need to move after all.

Not Just for Knowledge Workers

Working where you live isn't just for the technorati and the multi-level marketers. It turns out that a lot of different kinds of jobs are done by people who work and sleep in the same basic space. Jobs like:

1. Sailor: When those folks are at sea, they sleep under, swab, and otherwise live and work on the same decks all the time. Of course, most of these folks also have a land-based home, possibly populated with family members, but when you're on a three-year tour of duty, you really have to consider that you "live" on board.

2. Submariner: Perhaps this is a form of being a sailor, but again people serving on submarines live and work in quarters closer than almost any home office situation I can imagine.

3. Field Biologist: I may be romanticizing this job, but living in a platform tent in the jungle and wandering outside to make observations, wrangle snakes, or collect the nightly data downloads from the camera trap sounds like a pretty amazing working arrangement.

4. Parent: This is a second job that many of us already have, but parents are working to nurture small children -- what an important job and one that you generally do from your home (and car, and out on the playground, and at the doctor's office, and all those other places you drag the darn kids).

5. Farmer: I've written about this before -- farmers live and work in their small business, and are on their own in determining what work needs to be done on any given day to keep that business profitable.

6. Commander In Chief: The Oval Office is just down the hall from the presidential suite at the White House. Nobody worries about the President working in his jammies.

Well, I do a little bit. But I'm sure it only happens during times of national emergency.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More Disturbing Than Helpful?

I read about this in the Guesswork blog: a lovely device called The Giraffe from HeadThere promises to take me off the wall in the conference room and into the realm of wandering around. This thing is really disturbing on many levels -- it reduces you to something even stranger than you already are in the 2-D world of videoconferencing.

It's like being the Magic Mirror in Snow White, or the lovely and vivacious (disembodied) head of Kitty Carlyle. I could sneak up behind people and yell boo, causing great consternation in the land. My co-workers could accessorize it with humiliating hats, antennae, or other costuming, making me an unwitting laughing-stock.

I'm not sure I need this or want this. And yet I'm strangely compelled.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Office Progress

After a few delays (window wildly the wrong size, dependency issues) there is finally meaningful progress on my new office space. Today the installer showed up with the correct door and window and put them in.

They look fantastically lovely, let in nice light, and have strong locks. Could I be more excited? I think not.

As an added bonus, the cable installer showed up to add a drop to the office space, so when the rest of the work is completed, there will be no impediment to getting moved in promptly and efficiently.
Now I get to move on to the final spackling and then paint, paint, paint. The carpet installers will show up next Tuesday, and that is the final step.

Other than emptying and moving my enormous four-drawer file cabinet. Sigh. It seemed like a good idea when we bought it on Craigslist, but now I'm thinking that I should have just gone paperless.

Nice City ISO Shut-Ins for LTR, Maybe More

This is an older article from Business Week (I'm on a spree with that magazine, lately), but it nicely demonstrates the idea of towns chasing the telecommuters. In this case, it's my town, well part of it anyway. While I loathe the idea of more McMansions being built in the fragile desert, I heartily endorse the idea of a place working hard to attract knowledge workers.

McMansions aside, it sounds like some of it is going to be some nice urban planning:

"Business centers strewn throughout the community -- all within a short walk
or electric-cart ride -- will offer rent-by-the-hour support staff plus
state-of-the-art meeting rooms and seamless videoconference hookups to China and
India. With the Albuquerque airport only six minutes and one stoplight away, a
former regular of the big-city airport crush can leave for meetings in other
cities after breakfast and still be home for dinner."

They have an elegant master plan available on their site, although it's hard to tell what progress they've made. Much of the recent news about Mesa Del Sol seems to focus on the film studio they're building out there, but the concept of a telecommuter-focused community is so appealing.

I find that many existing communities already have many of the amenities they list. Okay, state-of-the-art meeting rooms, not so much, but in my much older, established community I have a Starbucks (not that I go there, but I could), a grocery store, several restaurants and shops all within easy walking distance, and virtually no McMansions. More importantly, I have non-crowded and excellent elementary, middle, and high school within very easy walking distance. So many newly-built housing conglomerations result in overcrowded schools, and I'd hate to see that happening to all the intelligentsia that Mesa Del Sol is luring to its halcyon streets.

Give me an old house in a neighborhood that isn't going to have a hundred new people moving in a week any day. But more power to all the knowledge workers who'll soon be flocking to the Land of Enchantment.

Look me up when you get here -- we can have monthly meet-ups or something.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Debating the Pros and Cons of the Shut-In Lifestyle

Although, can it really be called a lifestyle when your wardrobe consists almost exclusively of jeans, wrinkled shirts and slippers? But I digress.

Business Week has an interesting debate on the pros and cons of telecommuting, prompted by the Governor of Virginia setting a goal to have 20% of state employees telecommuting by 2010. Maybe I'm biased, but all the cons seem like problems that could be handled with the appropriate use of technology.

The thing I struggle with most, isolation, is something that I'm addressing with more IMs, getting more people on IM, and sending cameras to the folks who need them. I'm also using this blog to make me feel more connected, and to remind myself about all the good things about telecommuting.

But it's a good read, nonetheless. And an admirable goal -- way to go, Virginia!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why Are We So Obsessed With

...getting things done? There are so very many blogs and sites devoted to productivity, work flow, efficiency and the like, and telecommuters seem particularly obsessed with reflecting on how they're working and seeking better ways to get more done.

Even I have fallen prey to the "make every minute count" mania that is gripping home-based workers. I eagerly follow sites like LifeHack and WWD, I seek out better ways of mapping and managing my projects. I'm a nut for this stuff. My problem extends out of the office and into the house. For example, I would never dream of vacuuming before I dust, because that is just inefficient, and will result in a less clean floor. I'm constantly tweaking my housekeeping routines and devices for optimal results in minimal time.

Let me tell you: I was not like this before I started telecommuting full time.

But I think I know why. Activities undertaken in the Real Office are, by definition, "working". You go there, and you're at work, so there is less of an imperative to justify what you're doing all day. If your day gets derailed by having to clean up after the file cabinets all fly open simultaneously, divulging their contents all over the floor, well, that's okay. You were at work, and it needed to be done.

In space, nobody can hear you scream, and in my home office, nobody can really see if I'm doing something mission-critical, something useless but still vaguely work-related, or if I'm knitting socks. My mania for tracking how I'm spending my time is, in part, an effort to have something to point to and say, "Look, I'm adding value to the process here, guys!"

It may also be like the recovering alcoholic who keeps a fifth of bourbon in the house, just to be able to know that he's resisting the evils of drink effectively. I think deep down, we're all a little worried that one day we'll wake up and find that our day's work plan includes two trips to the coffee shop, some office supply purchases, a nap, and then a few hours of ESPN before we call it a day. And that's the kind of thing that leaves bosses and clients nonplussed.

By spending some portion of our days actually thinking consciously about how we're working, we avoid spiralling into sloth.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Going to the Real Office to Get Less Done

All optimism about being on-site aside, my week in the Real Office has been the worst of both worlds. It's like being on vacation (in that I'm not at the computer at all and away from my phone so email and voicemail are piling up and there is a ton to work through when I get back). But it's like being at work (in that I'm attending meetings all day and getting piles of things that I need to address, working through issues, and just generally being busy).

The net result is that I go home tomorrow with a bag full of dirty laundry and spend next week picking through the backlog of email and work that I haven't been doing this week. And my feet are really not happy about wearing Real Shoes all day in the Real Office.

But good things happen when you're in the Real Office, too: I got to meet a lot of new staff members we've hired in the past few months. I was able to contribute to the baby shower gift pool for one of my co-workers. I met the project manager for one of my key vendors in person for the first time after working with her for more than a year. And I'm going to be able to participate in a project finish celebration in person rather than as a vivacious disembodied head on a screen.

That seems better than sitting in my office at home having a beer at noon by myself, somehow.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Would You Ever Give It Up?

Telecommuting, that is. Sometimes I wonder if I'm setting myself up for a lifetime of limited advancement possibilities by telecommuting. My kind and indulgent boss assures me that, given time to adjust to our new ways of working, he doesn't necessarily see this as an impediment to advancement. Which is a good thing.

But would you give it up? And if so, for what?

I have a hard time imagining a scenario that would be a significant improvement over my current situation. Again, maybe it's the limited prospects of the music major, but I have a boss who trusts and values me enough to let me move across the country and work in my slippers. And I work in my slippers. I have a schedule that suits my early-rising nature and lets me hang out with my children after school (a perquisite that seems increasingly important as we stare down the barrel of middle school). So why would I change things?

I can't imagine. Maybe a boatload of money? Possibly. Or the chance to go on tour with our band. (Okay, that would just be a leave of absence know what they say...don't quit your day job.)

What would get you out of your slippers and back into a Real Office for real?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Making the Most of Your On-Site Time

Even the most dedicated telecommuter must make occasional forays into the Real Office. Whether you go in once a week or once a quarter, making the most of your face time is critical. I'm starting my third big trip from the Land of Enchantment to the Land of Pleasant Living, and I've planned things a little differently this time from the other two.

I'm sure you're dying to know what I've learned about kicking off the slippers and slipping on the pumps.

Use your time to confront difficult issues and people: If there are projects that are proving hard to advance from afar, take the opportunity to get all the players in as few rooms as possible -- preferably just one! Often you can reinvigorate things with a little in-person pep rally, and get a better read on what the interpersonal dynamics might could be that are impeding your progress. Likewise, neutralize negative people by judiciously applied lunch meetings. If you know there are some squeaky wheels in your office, apply the grease while you're close at hand.

Find a "hook" for your trip: I try to schedule trips around significant events where I will maximize my visibility and the impact of me actually being there. It might be an all-staff meeting with my colleagues from around the division, a retreat, the kick-off of a new project, or the wrap of a project. Large gatherings, especially those that include people you don't see that often online, really reinforce the idea that you still actually work there. I then build meetings, conduct training classes, and do the other stuff that needs doing in person around that major "hook".

Make the most of your time: Schedule your time carefully -- it doesn't really help you increase your visibility to sit in the server room and work on servers (although that's important too). Get out and about and hit the conference rooms hard.

Don't schedule your time too tightly: Running from meeting to meeting will make you feel busy and important, but it's a good idea to leave yourself a little wiggle-room too, especially toward the end of your trip. Having some open space in your schedule will allow you to add some follow-up meetings if needed, and to spend a little time reading email, returning calls, and kind of acting like you are working, not just gadflying from pillar to post.

Never underestimate the power of happy hour: What's the one thing that's hard to do from your home office? Socialize with co-workers. Take every opportunity to socialize with your colleagues to remind people not only that you work there, but that they like you. It's an invaluable opportunity to catch up on the gossip -- and gossip flows a little more freely when everyone is all likkered up.

That's not unethical, right?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Facade Time

Web Worker Daily has an interesting post about how virtual employees can simulate face-time -- giving the folks around you the impression that you're working hard. Because of course you are working hard, they just can't see you like if you were there in the Real Office making paper fly around on your desk.

I try to remember to use my IM status to give people who might be thinking about popping in on me an idea about what I'm up to. There are the obvious statuses: "In a meeting", "On the phone", and the rare "Away from my desk". I recommend other status messages that help convey the nature and intensity of the work I'm engaged in:

"In the throes of [insert monolithic unresponsive vendor name here] Hell"


"Programming, please do not disturb"

"On a spree!"

"Making progress"

"Making the best of it"



I find that the ones that are a little obtuse tend to make people pop in on me -- misanthropic almost always gets a fly-by from my boss. He knows that I might be having some kind of issue with one of our customers and checks in to see what's up.

It's the virtual equivalent of the boss walking by your office and overhearing you struggling to reason with a customer over the phone. And that's something better than banal face time -- it's helping me work better. Nice!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Location, Location, Location (Location)

In a first (for me anyway) I had to synchronize an operation that took place in four timezones. I feel...well, not exactly global, but darn nearly Continental. The developer is on WST, I'm in MST, the vendor representative is in CST, and the server and main end-user is located in EST. We all made changes in the same fifteen minute time period, and it all went smoothly.

Real-time communication, once again, carries the day. I'm able to be online with the developer and on the phone with the vendor representative to make sure that we're all ready to push our respective buttons at the same time. And remote server management tools let me see exactly what is happening on the server where the app is deployed.
It is actually easier to do it this way, because I'm at my desk and able to see everyone at once. If I were in the Real Office without access to remote server management tools, I'd have to be in the server room, not at my phone number, and rather cut off from the outside world. Our investment in server access tools allows everyone, not just the shut-ins ... I mean full-time telecommuters ... to more efficiently work on server issues whilst staying in touch with the technical service reps from our various vendors.
How efficient.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

I'm A Sucker For...

...beautifully designed forms. David Seah is a designer who has made some of the most beautiful time management forms and pages I've ever seen. I have a paper planner that I use, and of course an electronic calendar/email software that allows me to have my appointments visible to my colleagues.

These tools are good for the macro level time management tasks, but when it comes down to figuring out how you're spending your time, more specific forms can really help. With these forms from David Seah you have a tidy, aesthetically-pleasing format that encourages you to track your tasks and work in a meaningful and easy-to-analyze way.

They are things of beauty for the relentlessly organized.

In a Related Note

Keeping track of everything I did yesterday was really interesting. Of course, today was totally different. I've been ignoring the phone and email all morning, because I got to working on a little programming task and it took me over. Two and a half hours of uninterrupted puzzling later, success.

But here's the kicker: it wasn't actually uninterrupted. I popped in on a colleague in IM to make sure that what I was trying was even possible. She was able to chat with me in real time, and then we took it to a phone call when typing became tedious (for her -- I can't get enough typing in IM windows).

I maintain that if interruption derails you in the Real Office, it will do the same in the home office. If you can discipline yourself to focus on the task at hand, you're ahead of the game. It can be easier to filter out certain distractions in the home office: you don't get as many casual walk-by interruptions, for example, or if you're a sometimes telecommuter, it may be that people tend not to call you at home as much. But they always manage to find you, and it's up to you to get back to work.

So get back to work.