My name is Neville, and I’ve never had a job.
This means my entire working career there’s been no office to show up at everyday.
There’s no such thing as “vacation days” or “sick days”.
There’s nothing I can do to get fired!
I can work from home, a coffee shop, a co-working space, my own office space, my bed, the couch, the pool, or fly across the world and work from there.
To someone who’s worked an office job their whole life this sounds pretty amazing. But like everything in life, it has it’s Yin’s and Yangs….good’s and bad’s….pro’s and con’s.
Working from home is great in some ways: PRO’S
- Can wake up anytime you want.
- Can go on vacation anywhere for any length of time.
- Can do stuff during weird hours. Going to WalMart at 5pm is a nightmare….but going at 10:30am on a Tuesday is great!
- Can do fun stuff during weird hours (like go wakeboarding on the lake at 10am on a Tuesday when the lake is smooth and no other boats are out), and then do work stuff at night.
Working from home can also suck in some ways: CON’S
- People miss the social element of an office.
- No accountability and people telling you what to do.
- It can get lonely.
- Sometimes kinda boring.
So for someone who’s been at it his whole life, here’s some of the tools you can use to successfully work from home. This list comprises of the things I’ve invested in that’ve massively increased my work output consistently over the years.
1.) Wear ear plugs:
I love working with ear plugs on. It’s like “my own little space.” Whether at home, in a coffee shop, a co-working space……ear plugs drown out just enough noise to let me write in peace wherever I am. However they still let sound through enough to hear your phone ring, people talking to you etc. I’ve been raving about ear plugs forever.
I’ve been through a lot of brands of ear plugs, and the only one’s I can stand to have in my ear for long periods of time are Hearos.
I’m not sure why they’re different than others, but all I know is they block out sound really well, and they’re super comfortable.
A pack of 14 pairs will run you like 5 bucks.
I think ear plugs might be the highest ROI (return on investment) product I’ve ever bought! They are especially helpful when writing. Since I have to write a lot, the ear plugs seem to keep the focus “in my head” for a lot longer than not using them.
I’m an easily distracted fellow, so cancelling out all auditory distractions is super helpful.
2.) Have a good pair of headphones that allows hands-free calling:
Over the ear. On the ear. Wired. Wireless…..I don’t care. Whatever your preference is. Just make sure you have a reliable set of good headphones you can wear for long periods of time that also allows hands-free calling.
This means it’ll have that little volume dongle that also has a microphone in it so you can take calls.
You’ll be using these for phone calls, and also for Skype and Google Hangout video calls. Honestly the standard headphones that come with any iPhone are pretty dang good in all respects, so you don’t need to spend a lot of money on headphones.
I personally prefer the standard Bose in-ear headphones. They’re compact, they’re extremely comfortable, they fit in my pocket, and I can use them for other things like running and the gym. For some reason the design of the Bose in-ear silicon thingy is the most comfortable I’ve ever used. I can leave them in all day without a single tinge of pain on my ears:
I also have the large over-the-ear Bose headphones, but they’re so damn big I can’t possibly take them everywhere! They take up a ton of space in my backpack when traveling and also require batteries. So over the years I’ve transitioned 100% to a nice pair of in-ear headphones and love it.
3.) Use “Self Control App” to block distracting websites:
This is a handy little program from Mac computers called Self Control that completely nukes certain websites on your computer for a set amount of time. For example, I’ll set it to completely block my top-most distracting websites for a certain period of time to get work done:
You can also set it to only allow certain websites to be access for productivity purposes (Like Outlook.com or Gmail.com).
This app has saved me TONS of time when I’m feeling super lazy and start slacking off. By simply restricting my access to websites like Reddit or Digg, I’m pretty much forced to do work.
4.) Install “News Feed Eradicator” Chrome Extension:
I use Facebook for my business a good amount…..but the damn thing is so addicting and distracting. ESPECIALLY the newsfeed (which is precisely designed to get you hooked in and scroll through Facebook). Because of this, I may go on Facebook to answer one little message, and then 30 minutes later I’m stalking friends-of-friends!
To combat this distraction, just install the “Eradicate Newsfeed” extension for Chrome to block the Newsfeed, yet still use Facebook.
This thing is a lifesaver. It only prevents the Newsfeed from popping up, but allows all the other functionality of Facebook.
If you want to re-claim some of your time, this is one of the best ways to do it. I’ve had people tell me of any tip I’ve EVER given them, this Newsfeed Eradicator was the most useful thing.
5.) Have a big brainstorming surface (Either a whiteboard, chalkboard, mirror, or window):
Being able to write things out on a giant white board is extremely helpful. It’s also really helpful if you have a friend or colleague over and you’re trying to explain an idea to them.
Having access to a big ole white board is always great. However you don’t ONLY need a white board. It can be any large surface you can write on with a dry-erase marker. Mirrors and windows make great dry-erase surfaces also. I routinely use a big mirror in my living room to scribble on:
6.) Have basic office supplies ready:
This includes tape, paper, stapler, pens, markers, and a printer. Yes….a printer.
The reason I say stock up on stuff like this is because when you ACTUALLY NEED THESE THINGS and you don’t have them, it wastes an exponentially large amount of time.
You know how much time I’ve spent fastening together random sheets of paper because I didn’t have staples in my stapler? Or how hard it is to print something out if you don’t have a goddamn printer? It’s so so so so much easier to spend $50 in advance and knock out all the office supplies you’ll need.
Here’s my little desktop-stash of office supplies, always within reach:
7.) Have fun toys laying around!
Working hard and earning good money isn’t about trying to just work all day….it’s about working hard so you can have a great life. Life is better when you can sprinkle in a little fun into anything you do!
I have guitars all over the place.
I’ve got a piano.
I’ve got a 3D printer to play with.
I’ve got a hoverboard thingy to lazily roll around on.
You’re the goddamn CEO of You Inc……bring as many toys to work as you want :)
Whenever I take a break to jam on an instrument or good around, I usually get the best ideas. There’s something about putting your brain into a playful state that helps you get a lot of creative work done.
8.) Have a “3rd Place” where everybody knows your name:
This is a concept I stole directly from Jordan Harbinger from The Art of Charm Podcast (here’s the episode about the 3rd Place).
A “3rd Place” is someplace that’s not your house or office…..it can be a regular coffeeshop where you know a lot of people. I think my 3rd Place would be WeWork. I love going there, I know enough people to strike up a conversation whenever needed, it has lots of cool nooks/crannies where I can work in a non-traditional format. Rain or shine, weekday or weekend, holidays etc….I can always go there.
Some people’s 3rd place is a pub.
Some people’s 3rd place is a park.
Some people’s 3rd place is a restaurant.
Some people’s 3rd place is a friends place.
9.) Keep relevant books for inspiration:
If you’re a designer, have a bunch of books about design.
If you’re a copywriter, have a bunch of books about copywriting.
If you’re a programmer, have a bunch of books about programming.
Whenever you’re stuck, or need some inspiration, you can always bumble through your stack of books and get some great ideas.
I have a separate “Reading Room” in my place where I keep an assortment of copywriting & marketing books.
10.) Have a sitting AND standing desk:
Sitting all day is not the optimal work position. However…..standing all day is not the optimal work position either.
The optimal position for optimal work is BOTH sitting and standing.
Every single person I know who went to an all-standing desk goes back to sitting in less than 3 months. Sometimes standing is not the optimal comfortable position.
The desks that are most badass allow you to sit AND stand.
I personally have been using a HumanScale Float Desk for about 3 years now. This thing is a BEAST. It uses no electricity, it’s freakin huge (6 feet wide), it’s extremely simplistic, and it works via an internal counterbalance that allows you to move the desk up-and-down with one hand with up to 165 lbs on it.
If you’re going to be at a desk allllll day long, you may as well be comfortable….and sometimes being comfortable means sitting, and sometimes it means standing.
When I bought this desk it cost near $2,000. I asked my mom before buying it if I was crazy for spending $2,000 on a desk. She said, “No! At my job they would spend $6,000+ on each workstation so people would be comfortable and work more.”
Suddenly $2,000 didn’t seem so bad, as I use this thing every single day for multiple hours.
I’ve noticed a lot of copycat desks like the HumanScale Float which are faaaarrr cheaper than the $2,000 I paid. You can Google “Sitting Standing Desk” or “Adjustable Height Desk” and find a variety of them.
I would highly recommend setting up your home office environment up in a way that’s conducive to your particular line of work. While I think most jobs nowadays can be done with a laptop and a simple kitchen table, it’s much better to have a proper workspace.
If you’re a programmer or designer, perhaps you’ll have a workspace with multiple large monitors. If you’re an architect perhaps you’ll even have an old-school drafting table near your computer desk. Whatever your job is…..take some time to make a nice, tidy, comfortable, and functional home workspace. A huge part of this setup will be your desk, so chose wisely!
11.) Lighting behind your desk for video calls:
If you work from home quite a bit, my guess is you take a decent amount of video calls. For this reason it’s important to have lights BEHIND your desk that brighten your face & surroundings.
If you already have great lighting in your home office then you probably don’t need these lights, however most people’s home office will not have ideal lighting. This means when you get on a video call it looks extremely unprofessional and just plain hard to see. This is where having a set of lights behind your desk comes to the rescue:
I have a set of 3 lights behind my desk from Wistia’s Cheap Lighting Kit guide. The whole set of lights cost less than $100, and have really improved the quality of my video calls. They are setup to a remote so I can click a button and all three come on at the same time.
This way whenever I hop on a Google Hangout or Skype call, I just press a button and it brightens up the picture!
The difference is easily noticeable. Here’s the LIGHTS OFF and LIGHTS ON pics from my 27″ iMac stock webcam:
Desk lights off:
Desk lights on:
The picture with the lights on is far more easy to see. Even with the bright sun shining through blinds of the window, with these lights I can still be seen. #brownpersonproblems
12.) Keep a bunch of Sticky Notes around:
You know what they’re for. They’re so useful. You can never have enough.
13.) Throw “co-working parties”:
It’s important to actively seek out others to work with, bounce ideas off, and just hang out socially. You can do this by holding a casual “co-working party” every once in a while.
I used to hold “Morning Pool Writing Sessions.” I would just send out a small Facebook Event invite to a few friends I knew would show up, we’d go to the pool downstairs with laptops, grab some coffee, and work from IN the pool!
Fortunately these chairs hover your butt like 2 inches above the water so you don’t get wet.
Here’s Me, Noah Kagan, and Ryan Holiday chilling in the pool at 8am on a cold day. I call this:
“Morning Pool Writing Sessions: Hoodie Edition”
Here’s another co-working party, but this time at a rock climbing gym. I sent out an invite for a random Wednesday for people to meet at the Austin Rock Gym and bring their laptops. It was nice combination of getting some work done, friends meeting friends, and rock climbing.
“Rock Climbing, Horsing Around, and Co-Working”
These co-working parties are super cheap (maybe just buy some chips, salsa, water) and fun to throw. It also brings out people who you may not know want a buddy to co-work with.
Have a co-working party at your home, at a coffee shop, at a work space, or even an unusual venue. Just send out a quick Facebook invite to your friends and you’re done!
14.) Work from a coffee shop (pro’s and con’s):
I used to be a total coffeeshop hound. It was always a fun experience working form a coffee, kind of a like a little “field trip” from work!
PRO’S of coffee shop working:
- If you’ve been cooped up at home for a long period of time and have no where else to work, a coffee shop is always a welcome change of scenery.
- You serendipitously bump into people you know, or make new friends.
- Since there’s other people around and you specifically went there to get work done, you’re less likely to sit around and goof off.
- The distractions can also serve as a creative outlet. Sometimes being outside of your normal environment drums up great new ideas. I’ve had lots of great emails and pieces of content I’ve written from coffee shops.
However there’s some serious drawbacks to consistently working from coffee shops:
CON’S of coffee shop working:
- It’s actually pretty expensive. I would routinely spent upwards of $20 or $30 working from a coffee shop. Getting 2 drinks, a sandwich and a cookie will easily ring up a $20+ tab!
- The amount of distractions are through the roof: People coming in-and-out, jockeying for a place to sit, finding out where you can plugin your laptop, loud people talking etc.
- Shitty internet is a common thing. I’d say when working from a coffee shop that 25% of my time is spent fiddling with the damn internet. It works sometimes, then cuts off. Sometimes it flat out doesn’t work at all. Sometimes it’s super slow. Generally without internet you can’t do much, sooooo what was the point of coming to the coffee shop then?
- Just trying to go pee is a major life decision of leaving all your stuff unattended and asking a stranger to watch your stuff.
- Taking calls or video calls is unprofessional looking and difficult. Slow internet, background noise etc really prevent you from doing any sort of proper video calling.
- Driving, parking, figuring out which coffee shop is open….it’s all a big time suck and distraction.
I’ve gotta say in the past 10+ years I’ve got a TREMENDOUS amount of work done at coffee shops, but the experience of coffee shop working is always inconsistent and riddled with distracting variables.
I’d say I’ve got FAR MORE WORK DONE at various co-working spaces.
This brings me to the next tip for working from home…….
15.) Join a Co-Working space:
I personally love co-working spaces. The very first co-working house in the U.S. was started by my friends right here in Austin, and now the co-working concept has massively exploded into every city.
My personal all-time favorite co-working space is WeWork. Honestly I’m not even sure if there’s a single competitor who has done co-working as well as WeWork.
It’s a co-working space with offices alllll around the world. I obviously go to the one in Austin, but also New York and San Francisco when I’m there. It’s SUPER CONVENIENT to have a proper place to get work done besides a janky coffee shop.
It’s got all the things you need to get some serious work done: Conference rooms, coffee, water, beer, restrooms, safe to leave stuff around, 24 hour access, power outlets, printers, office supplies, fast and reliable internet, and great locations.
I used to associate “co-working spaces” with just a bunch of semi-un-employed freelancers, but WeWork is a legit collection of real businesses, freelancers, lawyers, accountants, big companies etc all bundled into one great space.
There’s developers/freelancers/designers/lawyers that use the huge WeWork network to drum up all their clientele.
I probably get the MOST AMOUNT OF WORK DONE at WeWork compared to any other single location. There’s something about the way it’s setup, the people there, and the amenities that make it a great spot to get hours and hours of work done.
I particularly like that at one WeWork working session I may sit at my desk, use a little “phone booth room” for an hour, setup in a conference room for a while, take a break on the balcony, go to the little yoga room and do some pushups and handstands, grab a cold brew coffee, grab a snack, chat with some friends. It’s like having a full-on tech office experience without actually having a job (or having to hone my workplace communication skills) :-P
Ever since getting a WeWork membership I no longer enjoy going to coffee shops to work. There’s too many variables, shitty internet, and distractions to deal with compared to WeWork.
So if you’re looking for a great spot that can be your own “3rd Place”, a nice getaway from home, and a place to socialize yet get work done, I’d super-highly recommend a nearby co-working space if you have one!
16.) Have a nearby caffeine source:
Most people like a bit of caffeine, so instead of having to hunt it down every morning from a store or restaurant, it’s nice to have it handy.
This means keeping some coffee or tea at home.
In my apartment complex we have a free coffee station thingy, and it’s a morning ritual of mine to go downstairs and make the coffee-robot brew me up some fresh black coffee or a cappuccino:
I try my best to avoid putting too much milk and other crap in there. The goal is to get pure caffeine into your system, not shit-loads of sugar that will crash you within an hour.
If you wanna get totally buzzed, try drinking between 200mg and 400mg of caffeine on an empty stomach before noon! It’s safe for healthy adults, and if you cut yourself off by noon it shouldn’t interfere with your sleep.
You know that actually sounds pretty good, think I’ll grab a cup right now :)
Example weekly schedule of working at home:
Every day and week is different of course, but here’s a rough sampling of how a week will go (keep in mind my entire life is within 4 square blocks Downtown, so transitioning from place-to-place requires only a quick walk):
- Monday: Writing day. Work from home in the morning. Take a few calls. Around 1pm head to co-working space and write. 5pm go to gym. Dinner with friends.
- Tuesday: Consults day. Home all day taking calls. Do work in-between. Catch late lunch with a friend. Work or goof off till night.
- Wednesday: Writing day. Go to WeWork early in morning. Work until tired. Around 2pm head back home. Workout. Work some more from home.
- Thursday: Consults day. Home all day taking calls. Do work in-between.
- Friday: Writing day. Will either go work with a friend, to a co-working spot.
- Saturday: Sometimes will do a “Smart Saturday” where all day long will get work done.
- Sunday: Typically get 2+ hours of work in if no other plans.
17.) Getting a Work From Home Job:
All of this information assumes you already have a work from home job…..but what if you don’t?
If your company doesn’t allow it, maybe you can try this script with your boss:
If you want to do your job from home, then you have to convince your boss and your company it will benefit THEM…..not just you! That is the key.
The above script makes sure it shows that if you do your job from home, the company will benefit from it.
Hope this example and all these tips helps you better work from home!
Neville Medhora – Writing this from home