Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Home is Where the - Ooo, shiny!

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  • Megan Wegan,

    “What did I just say? Anyway, I was saying to Megan-”

    “Oh Jesus.”

    HEY!

    (Also, yes, you totally did have that conversation with me.)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1268 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    “hire a housekeeper and a nanny so those little everyday tasks don’t keep distracting you”. [Try to remember the name of that parenting advice that actress whose name I can’t recall writes, fail.]

    You are surely referring to the charmingly tone-deaf (as in charming-my-head-into-my-desk-repeatedly) GOOP. Well, it's OK, Gwyneth feels your pain:

    Q: When actors or artists do something different, they open themselves up to criticism. How would you respond to the people who are critical of your latest endeavor?
    A: I think part of the problem is people get a hit of energy when they are negative about something, and it is a very detrimental way for them to get that hit of energy. They do not understand why they do not have a happy life. That kind of stuff is just noise to me. I just feel sorry for them.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Much to agree with there. This is my 10th year of working from a home office.

    I'd like to stress the "go out sometimes" point. Even if you consider yourself to be not naturally sociable, you'll be amazed by how nutty you can get after being alone for too long. Other humans form anchor points of reality around you, and regular contact with them is good.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8040 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    These are not the biggest dangers, though. The biggest problem with working your existing office job from home [ha, look, a 2000 year old ad for a male prostitute, that’s awesome] is your job eating your life.

    Abba-solutely. People sometimes ask me how I avoid slacking off. The reverse is more often true: that you lose track of when to goddamn stop.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17980 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I've worked at home several days a week since my eldest kid was born (he's 20 now) and 5+ days a week for the past 6 years.

    Simple rules:
    1) get dressed before noon - no you can't stay in that smelly bathrobe
    2) leave home every day, if only to go work in a cafe

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    Any time someone mentions working from home, I feel obligated to post this:

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 707 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    How did I guess it would be Gwyneth?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Jack: I was waiting for that. And could not, of course, possibly comment.

    You are surely referring to the charmingly tone-deaf (as in charming-my-head-into-my-desk-repeatedly) GOOP.

    That's the one. Where were you last night, hmm?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    To be serious just for a minute, if people do have good tips on working from home, please share them. ALL the office people we know are trying to do this now, and probably for the rest of the year. One dear friend hadn't noticed the 'work eating life' thing until I asked him what time he was starting, and it was before breakfast.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4286 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    That's the one. Where were you last night, hmm?

    Hint: not my favourite flower shop in London.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'd like to stress the "go out sometimes" point. Even if you consider yourself to be not naturally sociable, you'll be amazed by how nutty you can get after being alone for too long. Other humans form anchor points of reality around you, and regular contact with them is good.

    Between August and December of last year my allegedly better half spent his time in what you'd think would be the perfect conditions for ensuring productive work at home: a room with him, a computer, and a desk, in a semi-rural area of a foreign country, with no car, and a two-hundred page technical thesis to write. Oh, and a cat.

    Honestly, I'm still a little surprised he's still here. And, you know, sane.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I know of people who walk to and from work (walk around the block before and after), or have a shed at the bottom of the garden to separate their lives.

    I did it originally to spend time with my toddlers - I skewed my day around their schedule, went to a playground and/or a cafe with them every morning and started work when they went down to nap - it worked because my partner was working half time and would take over at about the time they woke, later on I'd be the one who drove them to preschool and later school - all this took care of 1) and 2) above most days

    Now days I live on California time which skews my day the other way - I get up early, finish by lunch time, leave the house.

    Certainly things were a lot easier without the distraction of the 'net

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Honestly, I'm still a little surprised he's still here. And, you know, sane.

    Did he get it done, though?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1268 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    BTW: here in Dunedin, as an outgrowth of the Makerspace, we have a small group of home workers who meet and 'work' in a cafe every Wed afternoon

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    OK, someone beat me to the Mitchell & Webb "working from home" link - am I too late with this one?

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Did he get it done, though?

    Yep, and got an A for it. He also changed things up by writing a thirty-five page review article when he got bored of the thesis. (So, okay, there's our family work-from-home secret: have a really freakish work ethic. And a cat.)

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I am terrible at working from home. So, so terrible. I get distracted so easily, and before I know it, it's 7 pm.

    I live with flatmates who are seldom there, and my computer is in my room, so I'm seldom distracted by anything that isn't food or already on my computer. Paul's advice upthread is really useful though-get dressed and get out.

    One other thing that works for shutting down my own personal work-kryptonite is turning working from home into a kind of ritual. Associate certain actions with it, and make them stick until they become unconscious. Get dressed in clothes you'd wear to work. Start at a specific time. Have set breaks. Contact your workmates (if you have them) regularly. If you use your personal computer, set up a seperate user profile for work stuff seperate from your non-work stuff, with no games, etc available and a picture of your boss as your wallpaper (no, really.) Finish at a set time.

    This won't work for everyone, obviously.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I don't think I could ever work from home because the Internet would get me. It's been bad enough the last couple of weeks, home on holiday, having to remind myself that the world won't go away if I don't check my email and PAS and twitter and facebook every 10 mins.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Josh Addison,

    OK, someone beat me to the Mitchell & Webb "working from home" link - am I too late with this one?

    Oh that's perfect.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    It's been bad enough the last couple of weeks, home on holiday, having to remind myself that the world won't go away if I don't check my email and PAS and twitter and facebook every 10 mins.

    Prove it.

    I'm struggling to work out how different this is, apart from the pyjamas, to having an office in a corner of a building where no one can see you chair dancing. (He says hopefully).

    Should I ask the IT person to put some http blocks in for me? Yeah, nah.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Recently I've found one of the stock rules of time management to be most helpful. Write on paper a short list of things you want to achieve in the day. Do it first thing, every day. Don't let it get too long (less than 10 things is ideal) or it becomes highly demotivating. It should be an honest guess at what you could actually do in that time.

    I've found this much more useful than any number of computerized versions of the same thing. The danger with using an automatic task management system is that you don't get two of the most important functions of the process: Firstly the time spent organizing and focusing yourself, and secondly the elimination of those things you won't be doing that day. With computerized task tracking, it's too tempting to analyze too far into the future, planning out in great detail every step in a process. I've done this for projects that spanned many years, and found looking at or reviewing such a thing on a daily basis mostly demoralizing. There's a feeling that the elephantine project dwarfs anything you could achieve in the day, that it wouldn't really matter too much in the big picture if you worked or didn't.

    A small number of achievable tasks is quite the opposite, highly motivating. I tend to cherry pick the easiest tasks first, getting nice senses of achievement after each one. Then I usually break the next big task left down in a similar way and do the same thing - pick off the easy stuff. In the end, you get through your tasks, and pretty much every step was "easy".

    This kind of planning is highly flexible, you're building the task lists as you go, ticking them off as you go, and can thus rework or elaborate a task that turned out to be harder than thought.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8040 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’d like to stress the “go out sometimes” point. Even if you consider yourself to be not naturally sociable, you’ll be amazed by how nutty you can get after being alone for too long. Other humans form anchor points of reality around you, and regular contact with them is good.

    I have to leave the house to work a couple of times a week, which is certainly good.

    But what I’ve found really beneficial is getting out for exercise. Don’t want to be too much of a bike bore, but 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise is a really good thing for us home desk jockeys.

    Also: Invest in a bloody good chair. I spend a lot of time in my Formway, and I have never regretted spending the money on it. (Disclosure: I discovered the product when Formway provided the Media7 chairs and was able to get a deal for one at home.)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17980 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    I'm pretty envious of people who are able to get anything done at home. When I was at uni, and could easily have just popped into lectures and labs a couple of hours a day and been with my wife and kids the rest of the time, I found I had to do 9-5 days (well, 9-3 with the occasional 9-12 thrown in) on campus to achieve anything at all. Even in the office I find it hard enough to focus (eg. what am I doing right now?).

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Something else that works for me: identify your own productive and non-productive times, and work to that.

    I hit the computer almost immediately I get up, work (with the usual commenting and tweeting distractions) through till noon or 1pm, then head out for a ride or to the supermarket or the fish shop or something. My mojo's usually back by about 4pm and I get a surprising amount done 4-6pm. Wine can help the flow after 5pm, but we all need to be careful about that, don't we?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17980 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Josh Addison,

    That link has made my day Josh! Thank you – have bookmarked it-

    I’ve worked from home for 27 years – because I live in a remote area (with excellent broadband for the past 9 years), most of my tips for staying sane wont apply to most people but the following may-

    *if you can, go for a daily walk
    *have music available when wanted
    *if you live by yourself, talk to another human at least once a day – even if it’s just by Skype or ’phone
    *dont make every day a work-day…

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

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