It’s still pandemic time and most of us are
working from home. Let me share with you my best pieces of advice to make your remote experience as productive as possible!
Don’t let your goals constrain you
The life of a developer is chaotic. Period.
We all have dozens of top priority tasks that are only waiting to be swept off from the board by our bosses when a priority zero matter comes in.
Whatever you plan for your day, there will be always something even more urgent to take care of. One of your managers will get in touch with you asking to throw away whatever you’re doing to fix a typo in the documentation he just discovered. Another will ask you to add a simple button - and the underlying service - to the 7-year-old webpage that was visited by at least 12 people during the last 18 months. Some colleagues will send you some instant messages because they need your help to get some names that they could find in less time than you go over the mandatory rounds of howareyoutodays, or maybe an experienced colleague will ask you to act as his living git documentation. Ah, all those urgent matters!
If you are on a lucky break and people think you are still on vacation, for sure you’ll have to pop to the post office because the mailman only left a notice saying you were not at home. Not that you are even allowed to go out, but he didn’t even try to ring the bell. He just applied social distancing, right?
Your significant other will ask you to immediately fix the cabinet that is broken for the last 3 years when you’re in your deepest meditation about which design pattern to choose.
After spending an hour adjusting the height of your son’s bike that got a bit stuck and rusty, you’ll be given a nice snack exactly at the moment when you start to understand how that undocumented library is supposed to work.
Why would you take your time to set some small yet unachievable goals when interruptions will drive your days?
Why the hell would you waste your bloody time to set up goals for your days when all those people around you will contact you with their urgent problems and change the course for your day?
Don’t have a dedicated place to work
Should you create a dedicated office space in your apartment? A corner where you have a desk, a chair, one or maybe more screens?
The answer is definitely not!
Having a dedicated office space leads to boredom. Do you think you can be creative and productive that way? And even if you could, who has so much space at home? My wife started to complain in just a few months that I by myself occupy like 2 square meters that is more than 3% of all the available space for us.
Do you really want that in your life?
Instead, work wherever you feel like! I’d even encourage you to switch places often. You can start working from your bed in the morning, maybe while your partner is still snoring next to you. Do you like to throne for long times? Well, please don’t answer this question in the comments, I really don’t care. Nobody does. Yet, the loo is also a calm place to work. Just beware of meetings. Don’t keep your mic on!
A few meetings from the kitchen while you’re slicing onions and preparing a nice boeuf bourguignon? You also have access to your fridge! Who could resist to pop up… a coke?
After lunch, you can spend the afternoon just lying down on the sofa and progress a bit with the requested features - unless you’re constantly interrupted -, it will be so comfortable!
Speaking about interruptions, all that I said might be useless if you have young children at home. In that case, you might follow what I call the Cry Driven (Away) Development and in the midst of all the crying and drama you just always look for the calmest corner of your home.
Anyway, at the end of the day, you can still work a bit from your bed and then place your laptop next to the bed, just to prepare for the next morning.
Span meetings all over the week
Did I already mention how great the kitchen is for meetings? Let’s continue discussing meetings. I think that you should span them all over the week. If I have to jump from one meeting to the other often without having the time to obey the call of mother nature, I get irritated.
Hey, can you hear me? … Hallo? Hallo? … Sorry, I’ve been speaking for 5 minutes and I just realized I was on mute. Let me start over. Or just guess what I said. … Can you hear me better or do you still hear an echo?
Say you’re far from the mic again, say you’re far from the mic again, I dare you, I double dare you, say it one more goddamn time and… I’ll call Samuel L Jackson to tell you a nice bedtime story.
I prefer to have at least half an hour between meetings in order to get some rest and calm down. I usually break down all my user stories into microtasks, so I have some time to work on them in between (and sometimes during) the meetings.
By spanning them all over the week, I’m not overwhelmed with meetings during any part of the day or the week.
Be always available on IM
In the office, your boss used to see you. Maybe she even saw your screens all the time, or at least she could if she wanted to. You were a good
slave employee, you were under constant surveillance.
It’s not the case anymore! Of course, unless your company is capturing your screen and maybe even takes some pictures through your webcam… They cannot know whether you work in a given moment or you’re chopping onions for your midday chilli.
So what is left for your masters is to contact you on chat at random times. If you don’t want to disappoint them - and play Russian-roulette with your job - you should reply all the time instantaneously. They have to know both that you are there ready to go the extra mile and also to provide them social support as - just like you! - they also lost their usual circles with the pandemic.
But as you’re a smart person, you can go a step forward! You should be contacting others and note if someone is replying late. After all, maybe at a moment, you’ll be asked about a person and then you can tell that he replied to you about that TPS report 17 minutes after you pinged him after your late-night dinner.
But a good company soldier works long days and always available to serve, right?
Don’t eat, don’t drink much!
Please don’t eat if you want to stay productive! Food intake takes time! I know you have a lunch break - it is for time wasters anyway - but imagine what will happen if you fill your tummy. You eat your programmer’s special pizza-coke combo and we all know what’s going to happen. You’re gonna pass out in a food-induced coma. If you manage to avoid it, you’ll still only be a shadow of yourself for a couple of hours.
Do you really want that?
The best you can do is that you don’t have breakfast, you don’t have lunch and you only eat once a day after office hours. Will it be only the end of your workday or your whole day doesn’t matter that much anyway. The french used to characterize the big-city life as metro-boulot-dodo. You commute, you work, you commute then you sleep. With the home office, there is no more need for the metro, it’s just boulot-dodo. We work and sleep. And of course, we pay taxes, that’s the most important! Don’t ruin the cycle.
If you can limit your water - or whatever you drink - intake, even better! Don’t go overboard, if you start dry coughing in a meeting and the mute button cannot solve it because actually you must present, drink a few sips! Otherwise, if there is a chance, try to limit your drinking. Do you know what’s going to happen if you follow the bandwagon of heavy water drinkers? You’ll have to pee. A lot.
Do you have time for that?
Oh, by the way, keep an empty bottle with you. Just in case. You know. Ladies, I don’t know what to suggest.
Let your motto be no drink, no pee.
Today I shared with you 5 pieces of advice on how to be productive or … Well, I hope you don’t take them too seriously and you had some good laughs. Next time, I’ll come back with something real on productivity!