Productivity, the Quantified Self and Getting an Office
This is yet another blog post by some “info-preneur” on how it’s challenging to work out of your...
TThis is yet another blog post by some “info-preneur” on how it’s challenging to work out of your garage. There’s nothing to learn here, but perhaps this will give budding entrepreneurs out there some things to consider.
Some use the phrase “working out of your garage” as a metaphor for being a shoestring startup. I, however, really *do* work in my garage. I converted it several years ago. Its bold colors were intended to provide an interesting visual appearance in my videos. It wasn’t all that expensive, and it is a good office … most of the time.
Garages have weird electricity requirements. For example, all of the plugs are GFC and it will pop under too much load. That doesn’t happen often, but once in a while when there’s a surge inside or outside it can pop and everything goes quiet — except for the cries of a man deep in anguish who was working on something important when the power dried up.
However, the biggest challenge to working from home is that it is my home. I’m pretty good about avoiding distractions, avoiding the urge to take a nap in the middle of the day, avoiding television, etc. Yet despite my attempts self discipline, I still have challenges with “getting things done”. More about this in a moment.
A few months ago I said this to someone and I was surprised it came out of my mouth. However, I’ve repeated to myself hundreds of times since: “If you’re not tracking it, you’re not serious about it.”
And so, I set out to track exactly how productive I really am. That’s difficult to measure, however I settled on RescueTime for this purpose. (Yes, that’s a referral link. If you click it, I get credit towards my next bill. Also, I pay for this service myself without any promotional consideration.) Since my work is primarily on a computer, I figured that while it may not be 100% accurate and may not categorize things the way I always want them, it does a really good job of watching me and keeping track of my productivity.
RescueTime also sends out this handy little email each week. It’s like a weigh-in at Weight Watchers. Some weeks I see the score and think “Wow, I did great this past week.” Some weeks I cringe.
A good example is the past two weeks.
Here’s a report from the week of June 15th:
Here’s a report from the week of June 22nd:
I’ve been told that the average office worker has a productivity rating of somewhere around 20. So, 70 isn’t so bad.
If you’re not tracking it, you’re not serious about it.me, Bob Tabor, just now
Yet, I was upset about last week — there were extenuating circumstances. We had a massive toilet / plumbing issue in our upstairs bathroom that leaked onto the ceiling of our downstairs kitchen / breakfast nook area. We had a second and third unrelated plumbing issue — all in the same week! Furthermore, my mother-in-law and father-in-law were moving in with us temporarily since their house sold fast and they are desperately in bidding wars on houses near us (it’s a great sellers’ market in Dallas Texas right now, apparently). Wife pressure to get cable, especially since Aereo was shut down by the Supreme Court (grumble) so naturally I spent 4 hours researching whether I should go with Verizon Fios or DirecTV (my bad … I got sucked in). Kids are home from school. Dog needs to potty. Cats want food (despite the fact that the bowl is always full).
So yes, extenuating circumstances … but there are *always* extenuating circumstances.
In our house, the garage is the main thoroughfare to where our cars are parked. Therefore whenever someone is leaving or coming home — distraction. As I write this, I just heard my wife pull in the driveway. It’s all I could do to type this sentence in a coherent manner. (Interruption #1)
And therein lies the challenge. There’s always movement at home. There’s always exceptional circumstances at home. There’s always someone who needs something at home. Sometimes I need to be … unavailable until later.
(Interruption #2 … she just came over to my desk and started talking. I love my wife, couldn’t imagine life without her. We’ve been married for 23+ years since I was 21 and she was 19. I want to be accessible to her and my boys, but finding boundaries with those you love is hard — I certainly don’t want to offend, I love that my family can feel like they can talk to me, but I need to balance that with being heads-down for long uninterrupted stretches of time.)
Now I have statistics, quantifiable proof that I’m not getting things done as I ought. I have hard evidence that I need to spend both “more time” and “more quality time” working. I’m not saying I have to always work 60 hour weeks, but my challenge is eking out long stretches of uninterrupted time to read, think, write, record video, etc.
Had I NOT tracked how I was spending my time, I would NOT have come to the conclusion that working from home — especially in the summer — especially since we have my in-laws living with us — is NOT going to work.
I needed to get out of the house, if for only the next two or three months.
So, I asked my friend / accountant / management consultant …
(By the way, my wife just asked me if I had an extra mouse … her dad wanted to use her laptop. Interruption #3.)
(The phone just rang, I let it go to voicemail, but that’s Interruption #4.)
(The cat just meowed for no apparent reason. That’s interruption #5.)
So, I asked my long-time friend / accountant / management consultant Mark … to help me find a short-term lease. 3 months, somewhere quiet. I didn’t need a lot of square footage … 150 square feet maybe? I would be ok with one of those executive suites. I had an executive suite 18 years ago with a failed venture … it was nice. I told him my budget was $500 / month. $500 is a big sacrifice to me. But I justified it because I really want to work on and finish my new 2014-2015 Curriculum as quickly as possible.
Then I got a dose of reality. You cannot find decent office space with a short term lease in Dallas (and I’m guessing in most parts of the country / world) for less than $1000 / month.
And so I swallowed hard. Quiet. Short-Term. Sacrifice. Curriculum. $1000. 3 Months. Get Things Done.
He called around, negotiated, and found me something that (I hope) will take care of my needs.
Here’s the new temporary offices of Learn Visual Studio.NET. (I know that link’s got a weird strike-through thing going … can’t figure out why this is and I don’t want to waste the time figuring it out.) It is located in a cool part of Dallas called Uptown (just north of downtown, obviously). It has a cool vibe … neat restaurants and buildings and lots of character.
I have a small office (150 square feet) which should be sufficient for my needs. I won’t need to spend every day there, but when I need / want to be heads down for a long stretch, it will be a blessing.
Here’s a bad pic … you can see that it has a good view from the sixth floor towards the east:
I’m going to use that as the backdrop for my videos, assuming I can get the lighting to work well … sometimes it’s hard when you have a light to your back to get the computer’s web cam to compensate correctly. They’re removing the furniture in there and I’ll be replacing it with my crank stand-up desk.
Here’s just the frame … I put a simple desktop on it from Ikea:
(Yep, another affiliate link to Amazon … and here’s the last one:)
I finished reading the “The War of Art“. It’s quite a read; short, simple, authentic, powerful and a little flakey. But mostly powerful. It personifies everything that gets in your way as Resistance (note the capital ‘R’). Resistance is the sworn enemy of the Professional (i.e., you). The Professional realizes the only way around Resistance is through Resistance. In other words, regardless of your surroundings you must produce work. You cannot let anything stop you. Resistance is insidious in all its forms … from procrastination and writer’s block to plumbing emergencies.
There’s no real moral to the story other than …
(Another interruption … #6. I’m painfully reminded our dog needs her nails clipped.)
There’s no real moral to the story other than … it’s hard to work from home. Everyone who works from home faces this. As a professional, you have to fight it, fight through it, create a Fortress of Solitude where Superman (i.e., you) can “get things done”. Don’t apologize for it. Don’t over-do it. Set boundaries, explain your boundaries and needs as nicely as you can to those who have a propensity to interrupt your thought process, and even open the coffers if you must.
How do you handle these sorts of things, whether at home or at work?