Work-Life Balance and Other Related Goals

1. Get out more.

I’m fortunate to work remotely. That is, I’m not bound to a physical office. Other people in this position use co-working spaces to make it easier to focus, or to have backdrops for video calls that don’t include pets or dirty laundry.
Unfortunately, there are no such options where I live. There are a few coffee shops with seating, but the atmosphere isn’t great. As a result, I spend all day every day at home.


My car is currently sitting in the garage, has about a quarter tank of fuel. I last filled it at the beginning of November (2017). I’m not confident that if I tried to go anywhere right now that my car would start. I’m not withing walking distance of anything (well, I’ve definitely taken walks into town, but it’s a couple hours), including the nearest bus stop. No Uber around here either. My circumstances are simply that I don’t need to leave much, when I do, I can often carpool.

I almost used my car yesterday, but I was blocked in by a guest so I borrowed someone else’s car for the errand. 🙂

The goal to get out more isn’t just about weekends. Though that’s certainly something I should do more. But even during the week, grab my laptop, drive to the waterfront, work a bit. Grab a coffee, top off the battery, drive to a viewpoint, work a bit. I’m really only limited by my cell reception (which admittedly, isn’t super great around here).

2. Ergonomics

This might seem a little ironic given the goal of getting out more, but I want my work space at home to be more comfortable. It’s not exactly uncomfortable, it was just never really intended to be used so much for so long. I wonder if my productivity would see an improvement if I had a space that seemed more intentional, if that makes sense.

I currently have a fixed standing desk, with a tall tractor-seat stool/chair because I get lazy. The desk is homemade (thanks Dad!), but never had any finish applied, so it’s showing its age more and more with every drop of coffee.

I’ve been eyeing the options out there, and I’m oddly excited for getting a monitor arm accessory. I have dreams of reducing the clutter on my desk, and it starts with not needing the monitor stand.

After the desk, I’ll look for a chair. Ideally I’d be able to try some out at local office supply stores, but their options may be limited, and there are some really neat ones online only. We’ll see.

3. Setting stricter “work hours”

Sometimes there is a need to work evenings and weekends. That’s okay, I often work better later in the day anyway. But does this stop me from being around during the mornings, or weekends when I’m not officially covering any shifts? Rarely.

I need to truly step away from work when it’s not work time. It probably starts with being more mindful of my Slack status. But it likely needs to graduate to things like quitting Slack over weekends, closing the work email tab, closing all my other work-related tabs, and starting fresh on Mondays, or whenever my week begins.

Since I don’t have kids or a spouse or any other similar requirements, I tend to let myself “be available” for off hours, but then I’m also available during regular hours because, well, they’re regular hours. So my mind spends a lot of time work-mode, even if I’m not actively on a task. I need to take real breaks and do so without feeling somehow guilty. Make no mistake, it’s purely an internal guilt, no one is putting this pressure on me. In fact, I wholly expect some coworkers to see this post and tell me to take a day off.

I shall stop at 3 goals for now, if only because I ended up with more words than I expected 😳

Things I’ve learned by working from home

I’ve been working from home full-time for most of the past 4.5 years. I haven’t reached any special milestone, but nevertheless I’m going to compile a list of some of the things I’ve learned, some bits of advice, and general observations. In no particular order, numbered for reference:

  1. Not commuting is awesome
  2. Sometimes your car battery will die if you don’t drive for a while
  3. I’m possibly too comfortable not leaving my house for days on end
  4. Getting a dog is probably healthy
  5. Playing fetch is a good way to get out of the house when you don’t really want to do anything
  6. I don’t worry about someone stealing my packages
  7. I’m pretty sure the UPS man thinks I’m unemployed, and possibly a recluse
  8. It’s easy to forget you’re still wearing pajamas at 2pm
  9. Comfy slippers are worth it
  10. Roosters are loud
  11. If you leave a window open, people on your video call are likely to hear some crowing, or even mooing
  12. Pets have no concept of work hours
  13. Pets have no concept of personal space
  14. A cat is likely to send at least one Slack message
  15. Check for nearby cats before entering any commands in a production terminal
  16. If you can’t be work productive, be personally productive
  17. A decluttered desk can mend a cluttered mind
  18. If you’re in the zone, don’t worry about the 4 coffee cups you’ve acquired next to your keyboard
  19. Someone in your life will believe you’re unemployed no matter how many times you tell them you work, just at home
  20. It’s easy to use “sorry I’m working” as an excuse to avoid social events, even on evenings and weekends
  21. Don’t do that. At least not too often
  22. It’s hard to take a sick day unless you’re at a high risk of literally vomiting on your keyboard
  23. Hardly anyone steals my lunch
  24. Sometimes I don’t eat lunch as much as snack between breakfast and dinner
  25. Taking an actual lunch break is hard
  26. Don’t forget to wash that hoodie
  27. Regular video meetings, even if sometimes unproductive work-wise, are good for recalibrating your teammates’ sarcasm levels
  28. Sarcasm is likely to backfire once in a while in text based communication
  29. Emoticons and emoji can actually be helpful in setting tone
  30. Imposter syndrome is very real
  31. People you look up to are also asking so-called stupid questions, they’re just in one of the other 2839416 Slack channels you haven’t stumbled into
  32. Don’t forget to stretch
  33. Sometimes the scenery gets boring
  34. Working from a coffee shop is tricky
  35. Working from the couch is cozy
  36. Mind your posture
  37. A second laptop charger is worth it
  38. No rules against sitting outside
  39. Working from a hammock is logistically challenging
  40. It’s hard to ignore work stuff during off-hours
  41. I’ve saved so much money by not commuting past fast food and coffee stands everyday. Oh, and the gas…
  42. Drink more water
  43. It’s hard to take “unnecessary” days off, but they are necessary
  44. I bet real office chairs are nicer than hard plastic, I should consider this
  45. The less you drive, the more handy a key hook is
  46. You’ll forget how tall/short your coworkers are
  47. Document everything
  48. I will never be able to convert UTC to PST in my head
  49. Yes, I know it’s just add 8 hours
  50. Video chat will never remember the proper audio/video settings

Dog Bite

I’d gone for a walk as I often do. And I passed a dog I often pass.

In the past, the dog has barked but has usually been chained up in the yard. Even when the dog was loose, it never seemed threatening, it would run up, smell me out, and leave. This time, the dog was on the chain, but either it was longer than usual or was loose at the other end. There is no sidewalk where I was, just a narrow shoulder, a little ditch, then the yard – but the dog was able to jump the ditch (even I could) and get my leg.

I didn’t really feel the bite, and the dog didn’t attack, just nipped and went back to its owners. Maybe a couple dozen steps later my leg felt wet. Eww.

From there, I called my mom to come pick me up, then did a casual “maybe I should go to the ER…?” She agreed. It was a peculiarly busy Thursday evening. Checked in around 9pm. A deputy met me in the waiting area, took a report. I was terrible at describing the dog (medium sized… yellow… not a lab or pit…), and couldn’t describe the house either – but the deputy is pretty sure he knows the dog. I guess there’s some history.

I got to triage at maybe 10:30. Around 11pm I got into a room, and waited.

At some point, a nurse came in to give me a tetanus shot. I waited at least another 2.5 hours (ish) before I finally saw a doctor. Apparently there was only one on shift. Then at 2:20

In the end, they gave me 2 stitches and prescribed some antibiotics. No painkillers, but it surprisingly doesn’t really hurt.

Pictures here, password is cujo:

Follow up: Personal Project Sprint

I got off to a strong start, but I can’t deny I lost steam. I may do this again in a few months, but I’ll make a few amendments.

  • Need to have a better record of what I want to have accomplished by the end of the month.
  • Need to stash new ideas out of sight so I don’t get distracted.
  • Need to have a more convenient method of tracking what gets accomplished.

Overall though, I got my taxes done with more than a week to spare, got a few blog posts published, spent some time learning some new things. So not a loss 🙂
Continue reading Follow up: Personal Project Sprint

20 Pound/$500 Challenge

Update: I won!

20lbs in 55 days

That includes losing two weeks to travel (one week of eating out, and another spent to undo the damage). In the end, it got very close, but I had some events coming up (read, free food) that I didn’t want to miss out on, so I used all my willpower to lose the last few pounds – and I did it!

The true challenge will be maintenance from here on out. But first, lunch.

I made a bet with a friend: Whoever loses 20 pounds first gets $500 from the other.

For me, losing 20 would put me at 10 below my driver’s license weight – which was accurate when I got it at 16—10 years ago. So that’s the big challenge for me, I don’t know when I was last at that weight, so it’s lower than I’ve ever been as an adult. On the other hand just about 2 years ago I put my mind to it and lost almost 50 pounds (though I’ve gained a little back…) so I at least have some experience.

Challenge Accepted.

For my own sake, I’m going to commit myself to a few rules. I don’t usually like “rules” or going on “diets” because they both tend to be unmaintainable. But for the sake of this bet, I’m okay with that. I’ll make some big, hopefully short-term, sacrifices to win, then relax back into good habits. Head on to page 2 if you want to see some of those, but I mostly added them for my own reference. I’m thinking I’ll also make a desktop wallpaper for myself…

Be Nice

There’s a lot of talk about sexism in tech. For the most part I shut it out, even the sincerest stories tend to irritate me. But I think that’s to do with my own feelings on the subject – particularly, that I don’t really know what they are.

Having taken a brief moment to consider it, here’s my position (Spoiler alert: this applies to a lot more than just sexism in tech): be nice.

That’s all I wanted to write on the subject. Two words. But people love rules. Or rather, people love to find the exceptions and loopholes that rules beget. So I wrote some other words. Continue reading Be Nice

Personal Project Sprint

Here’s the deal — I’m really good at making lists… but in quantity not quality. I can make a dozen or more to-do lists between assorted notebooks, sticky notes, email, Evernote, Trello, and who-knows-what-else. (I’ve created a super simple list tool that I’m hoping will help combat that problem)

But I’m not always very good at following through with the tasks. Lists from 6 months ago might be the same as a list I jotted this morning. That’s right, I still haven’t cleaned up my worktable, or fixed that bug in that code…

Some I’m issuing this challenge to myself:
get as much done on my projects and to-dos as possible during April.
Continue reading Personal Project Sprint

Why I Love

Despite appearances, this post is not an in-depth review of features. Yes, it covers many, but not all as there are some features I haven’t used to the full yet. Here, I’m covering the assorted features that I use on a regular basis. With how hard Alfred works for me, I really don’t know how I’d ever get by without it.

As of this post (and since Sep 13, 2010) I’ve launched Alfred 17,402 times for an average of 33.0 times per day. But combined with my office computer, it’s closer to 60K launches.

Continue reading Why I Love