Brady Valentino • March 29, 2019

Making the Most of Wednesdays

There are advantages to working in the same office as your team. Sometimes it’s great to just walk over to a coworker’s desk and answer a question or hash something out. Still, there has been a slow and steady shift taking place: more and more companies are moving towards remote work. Before joining Steamclock last year, I experienced this first-hand: I worked from home full time for more than a year. Toward the end I was given a chance to summarize my thoughts on this working setup:

Working remotely allows the freedom to set my own schedule and to work in the environment best suited to my workflow. Some days it’s my home office, others it’s a coffee shop, and once in a while it’s on the couch with Grey’s Anatomy on in the background.

This still rings mostly true; although I’ve since switched from Grey’s Anatomy to The Sopranos. However, it does brush over the downsides that can come with remote work – in my experience, distractions and losing focus.

Although we mostly work in the same office at Steamclock, we do observe Work From Home Wednesdays™. It’s a special day of the week where most of the team chooses to work remotely. Based on that experience, I’d like to share my preferred approach of working from a home office, and how you can make it awesome.

So Fresh and So Clean (Clean)

The key question when working remotely is: “How do I stay fresh and limit distractions while working untethered?”

Enter Brady’s Code for Surviving Your Home Office:

  • Optimize your workspace
  • Limit distractions
  • Keep healthy eating habits, and
  • Practice mindfulness

Let’s take a look at these one by one.

Optimize Your Workspace

It’s important to be aware of what kind of workspace works best for you. Try completing this sentence: “My workspace should be x, y, and z.”

For me, my workspace should be simple, functional, and bring joy.

Let’s break down what makes a workspace optimal for me:

Simple
I keep my desktop to just the basics of what’s needed to accomplish my tasks — simple and free of clutter.

Functional
The cleaner your desktop is, the more space you have for the items you actually need to be productive. For example, a designer may need space for a drawing tablet, or a writer may need space for a large clickity-clacky keyboard.

Bring Joy
Many people use this as an opportunity for a photo of a loved one. For me personally, it’s some juggling balls and a cute piggy succulent planter — but feel free to choose the cute succulent planter that works for you.

Limit Distractions

An obvious goal, but how should you go about it?

Take a moment to name the things off the top of your head that could pull focus from your daily tasks. TV? A game console? Spouse? Pets? Lack of a Bill Lumbergh type peering over your shoulder to ensure you’re working hard?

Reducing these distractions my be easier said than done, but I’ve found that noise-cancelling headphones and plenty of natural light help me stay focused on my display rather than being drawn towards the Apple TV remote or Xbox controller.

Eating Habits

There are plenty of scientific studies showing that light snacking throughout the day is better than eating several large meals at pre-determined times. While this may seem obvious for your health, it also does wonders for mental clarity. Keep it light and healthy as much as possible. Set aside the chips with soda combo, and instead reach for some fruit with water.

My go-to snacks at home are mandarin oranges, or carrots with hummus. A little goes a long way.

Mindfulness

Don’t be afraid to step away from your desk. Keep your head clear and your mental acuity will stay sharp. I like to use a variation of the Pomodoro Technique:

  • Focus on a task for 45 minutes
  • Step away from my desk to grab water or a light snack
  • Dance to some music, catch up on tweets, or watch a short YouTube video

The official Pomodoro technique recommends working in bursts of 25 minutes, with a short break after each burst, and then a longer break after 4 bursts. Personally I’ve found myself to be more productive when working in bursts 45 minutes with 15 minute breaks.

It will take a few tries to find the balance that works best for you, but the key thing is not to underestimate the importance of giving your mind a break.

Closing Thoughts

While it’s important to give yourself breaks, it can be all too easy to brush your tasks aside when surrounded by the comforts of home. Staying mindful should help you keep not just a positive headspace, but a productive one too.

So follow my code: use your workspace as a canvas for self expression, focus on being the best you that you can be, get a cute succulent planter, and watch as your productivity reaches new heights. Of course, in the immortal words of Captain Barbossa:

The code is more what you'd call guidelines, than actual rules.

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