Tag Archive | job

Confessions of a (supposedly) Veteran Remote Worker

Every time I’ve sat down this week to try to compose a blog post that isn’t somehow related to the pandemic, I’ve found myself digressing into the topic, anyway. A comment about it crept into the draft of my Star Trek: Picard review, even. I think I need to just admit it’s a part of my life right now and deal with it.

I’ve seen a lot of people sharing tips about staying productive while working from home. I’ve been working from home at least one day a week for many years, now, but I still have been reading those posts and twitter threads because 1) it’s always interesting to see how other people handle things, 2) they may have some ideas I’ve never tried, and 3) it never hurts to brush-up a skill set.

Now, just like writing advice, what works for some people doesn’t work for everyone. And pitfalls that trip up some people don’t interfere with others. For instance, a lot of folks are advising against working in your pajamas or such. To which I say, “pffft!” I wear sweats or shorts (depending on the ambient temperature) with no problem of thinking of it as a work day. OTOH, I always grab a clean t-shirt and do a runs a comb through what little hair I still have before I log in to work. But I admit mostly that’s because I’m paranoid that I’ll accidentally turn on video conference while I’m in an on-line meeting.

I realized while I was reading the various posts that I haven’t been doing a very good job of sticking to at least one of my own rules about working from home lately. And it started before the semi-quarantine.

That rule is that there is a point in the middle of the day when I close the work laptop, go make my lunch (or pull it from the fridge, whatever), and sit somewhere away from the workspace to eat lunch and scroll through some news sites OR do some writing.

Since we’ve moved to Shoreline, that also almost always meant that I take a fresh mug of coffee, my food, and my iPad out on the veranda, so I’m technically outside. Even in cold weather, a few minutes outside with hot coffee was a great break. But this year we had a small version of the snowpocalypse, again, and I wound up working from home for at least one week. It was a bit too cold to sit outside that week. I did go out every morning and make sure the hummingbird feeder wasn’t frozen, and that the other feeders all had food, but that was in the morning before logging in.

Then I had another two week period not long after that where I had the flu so I didn’t go into the office my usual days. And I didn’t do my lunch outside during that time, either.

Since the current work-from-home stretch started a bit more than two weeks ago, I have occasionally thought, after finishing lunch inside (usually wolfing it down quickly, often at my desk) that I ought to have gone outside to eat. It occurred to me that maybe the reason my work days aren’t feeling as productive and I’m being more cranky late in the day might not be merely ambient anxiety because of the pandemic or all the network lag I’ve been experiencing since everyone is working from home.

So today, Thursday, is the second day in a row that I have made myself stop, close the laptop, get a fresh mug of coffee, and take my lunch and iPad outside to sit at my silly IKEA outdoor table, watch the birds at the feeder, listen to the nearby traffic, and have a real lunch break.

And I’m really glad I have. I think Wednesday afternoon went much better because of it!

So: tricks and tips to put your mind in the work-day mood are good. Just as important, though, are to take regular breaks and a little self-care.

Explaining my job using only the 1000 most commonly used English words

A few weeks back the xkcd web comic posted a cartoon illustrating how a rocket works using only the 1000 most commonly used words in English. This kicked off the Up Goer Five challenge: describe your job using only words from that list. It’s a lot harder than you might think:

I write and draw to explain hard-to-understand things like computers.

I talk to people who make the hard-to-understand things and figure out how to explain the things to people who have to use the things. I talk to people who have to use the things to find out how they use the things. I show the people who make the things how to make the things easier to understand and use.

I figure out how to write stuff and draw stuff once but use it in many places in a way that if we change it one place it changes at all the other places. I figure out how to make the stuff we write and draw once that appears in many places change in ways that make sense in each place it is used, but not change when it isn’t supposed to.

I figure out where the stuff we write and draw is seen. I figure out how to make the stuff we write and draw be in the places it should be without us doing it each time. I figure out where people who need the stuff we write and draw will look for it. I figure out how to make the stuff we write and draw be in the place people who need it will look for it. I figure out how to keep the stuff we write and draw that most people don’t need out of their way but still easy for the people who need it to find. If figure out how to put the stuff we write and draw where we can find it quickly when we need to change it.

I make the things that makes all the stuff we write and draw do all these things. I keep the things I make working. I fix the things I make when they don’t work. I figure out why other things made by other people but that we have to use are not working, and then figure out how to make them do what we want even though they were never meant to do that.

I do things with words most people don’t know that words can do. If I do it right, the people who use them don’t even realize the words are doing the things. My job is not to make the things I do be noticed. My job is to help people who use the hard-to-explain things know how to use them without knowing they are learning.

This was hard because what I do is extremely meta. The words “information,” “arrange,” “organize,” “design” can’t be used. Even the word “itself” is unavailable, so when I wanted to write that the things we write and draw change themselves depending on where they are being seen, I couldn’t. Oh, and “tool” isn’t allowed. Anyway,

You can try it yourself here.

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