Five ways I make telecommuting work

November 13, 2009

Most of the time I spend working for Young Adult Cancer Canada, I’m not in the office on Kenmount Road, the second story of a former McDonald’s. Rather, I’m at home, or at a coffee shop, or, well, anywhere me and my laptop are.

And: I can’t imagine working any other way. It makes me feel better about my work, and, on the whole, allows me to do better work. But, there’s a few things I’ve learned along the way that I need to do to focus my work.

1. Silence is loud

I’ve always worked with music in the background- studied too! And, I love my indie-rock: the Decemberists, Elbow, Arcade Fire all have been played many a time from my iTunes. But, I can’t help but be distracted by a riff from one of my favourite tunes. So, of late, I’ve taken to playing internet radio stations that play classical music. But only when I’m working- so, I’ve trained my brain to associate it with work. And, the instrumental notes are enough to end the silence, but not so much to take me out of the zone.

2. Multitasking is imaginary

I like to think that I can juggle a half dozen tasks at once with ease, but the truth is, I can’t. So, I’ve taken to focusing on one thing at a time. Doing it well, and moving on to the next task. This is a lesson I’ve apparently had to learn again and again, but, hopefully, today is the day that I won’t get lost in a mess of windows on my mac.

3. Easy is great

I have the terrible habit of working on the item on my todo list that has: a) the furthest deadline from today, b) the most conceptual, and c) the most ambitious. It comes at the expense of the item that really should be done by tomorrow, for the quick question I should spend three minutes to reply to in my inbox.

4. Productivity in blocks

I’ve taken to (trying) to schedule meetings together. Ideally then two days a week are filled with nothing but meetings, and the rest is focused on nothing more than getting things done. Any task requires a few hours to finish- designing a webpage, squashing a bug in a script. And they always have warm up time: looking through what you’ve already done to find what you’ve already done, getting fully up to speed.

5. Paper is crumply

Nothing feels better than crumpling a sheet of paper, and tossing it through the air to a waiting recycle bin. The photo up top shows the remains of the latest round of revisions for the forthcoming YACC annual report…

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