Improve productivity while working at home

Improve productivity while working at home

Improve productivity while working at home

Most of us here at BugSplat spend most of our day at our computers. If you are reading this post, there's a good chance that you probably do too.

And, like us, you probably expect that computers are just supposed to work for you. However, in my experience, this close relationship we share with our machines expands the realm of possible annoyances we encounter daily.

Here are some easy ways to help you improve your relationship with one of the most essential pieces of equipment in your working life.

Whether you're trying to debug a difficult defect, untangled a botched pull request, or understand why your local development environment is mysteriously broken—there are plenty of opportunities to get frustrated.

Unfortunately, being frustrated doesn't help fix the problem, and it can lead you into a miserable downward spiral.

It makes it hard to remember that you're in control here—you're the one driving, not the problem your facing or your computer.

I've found a few simple pleasures that make working on my computer more enjoyable. They're little daily improvements that help make me a better friend to my laptop. Maybe something on my list below will help you create your own little oasis of calm on your computer.

And if harmonious bliss is unattainable for you - one or two of these items might keep you from turning on "Still" by Geto Boys and taking your laptop out to the field and demolishing it with a baseball bat.

Still By Geto Boys youtube video

Note: Some of these are Mac-specific. If you have the Windows equivalent for any of these tasks, please share them on Twitter and I'll add them to the list

1. Start each day with a completely clean desktop

When I open my laptop in the morning, there are no open programs or tasks leftover from yesterday: no half-written emails, partially outlined technical documents, or open terminals awaiting me. It's a clean slate for me to begin working on. I get to decide what I want to be working on—it isn't dictated by what my previous tasks were. It's an immensely refreshing way to start the day.

Tip: Use Alfred 3 to automate this task. I have a simple command built for closing all open apps with a single command. It appears that the Windows alternative to this is a project called Wox, but I can't vouch for its quality having never used it.

quit all tasks

2. Minimize and remove all applications from your dock

I use roughly a billion applications in any week, but I don't need them to always be in front of me. Keeping the dock minimized and empty helps me focus on the task at hand and helps to keep me from thinking about the next one.

clean home screen

3. Remove unnecessary notifications

Technology, in general, has become good at getting your attention. Notifications, badges, alerts, pings, pokes, etc.—all are designed to distract and hold your attention. I recently read this wonderful post about making your phone more of a tool than an entertainment device (see here). Implementing its suggestions was incredibly freeing. I took similar principles and applied them to my computer. There are now very few applications that can send me an unwanted notification, alert me via a badge, or otherwise distract me from my tasks at hand.

4. Noise-canceling bliss

Many places I work have lots of background noise. To combat that, I take great pleasure in using my noise-canceling headphones. There are a few great options, but the consensus seems to be that the Sony and Bose options are the best for their price point. I bought the Bose and they're magic - easily the best purchase I've made in the past year. Worth the money as they bring daily joy to my life.

I regularly pair my noise-canceling headphones with light music and ambient background noise from a tool like Noizio. No matter my environment, I have an acoustic atmosphere in my head. That's huge for me - it helps me stay on course and get more done. It doesn't matter how loudly my neighbor is talking - I'm not there to listen.

5. Work with a Pomodoro timer

Twenty-five minutes of work, 5-minute break, 25 minutes of work, 5-minute break, 25 minutes work, longer than 5-minute break. That's the Pomodoro technique. It helps me focus on specific tasks and avoid burning out on hard tasks. Do I always stick to it. No! Damn that would be hard with all the things that pop up in the day and me being a human and all—but it does help as a structure for moving quickly and efficiently through work. Adding in breaks—even ones I don't feel I need—helps keep me fresh and less likely to get frustrated with my computer when something ends up annoying. It’s the computer implementation of the famous Navy SEAL saying "Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast".

6. Consume high-quality content druing breaks

Typical locations for breaks on the web —Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, New York Times, or equivalents—are built to continually pull you away from your task. Something new always threatens to suck you in deeper and derail your productivity. If it’s a particularly compelling or frustrating news event, it can affect how you're feeling going back to the job. Instead, I read articles from some of my favorite non-news blogs, take a quick walk, do some air squats, or grab a coffee.

7. Movement during the day

I've found a direct correlation between how long I've been in my computer chair and how likely I am to get frustrated with something happening on the computer. Get up and move. Take a walk. Do some air squats or jumping jacks. Invest in a standing desk. (They're not as expensive as you think.)

8. Drink really, really good coffee

Good coffee makes the rest of the day easier, and you are more optimistic about the bullsh*& that may pop up on your computer later. Support a local coffee shop, create the perfect coffee drawer at your office, or upgrade your home coffee set up to pump out thoroughly enjoyable joe.


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