The Homebody Diaries

17 October 2011

When I first scored a gig working from home, I hunted around for tips and tricks, and ran into walls of stupid. Either they were written for people who weren't actually going to work from home (they just wanted a place to put a computer and do the bills), or they were for people who had already learned everything they could by trial and error... but forgot what those actual mistakes were.

What I really wanted, I realized, was a diary of sorts. It's not concise, but hey, my background is in psychology, and I deal with developers. Neither are concise people.

Not finding a diary (or journal, as my son would quickly correct me), I've decied to write one myself.

Week Zero


Technically, the work from home gig hasn't started yet. While my work at NASA has ended, my new job doesn't start until next Monday. I was going to use this time to get my home office together, but a burst of inspiration flooded me a weekend ago, and I got it done in one day. Instead, I've decided to use the time to get in the rhythm of working.

Monday was a federal holiday, so I was surrounded by the other people who live here. Work-wise, it was a bust. It's not their fault, of course. I could have stayed home and let the cleaners work around me, and asked my mother to take my daughter for the day, but the last minute things I needed to do beaconed, and I wasn't quite ready to use up a good-will token.

I did get up early, though. I think I deserve something for that.

It does bring up an interesting quandry for when everyone else has the day off but me. Theoretically, I could take the laptop and find a place to work outside of the home, leaving the kids with the SO+ or bribing a grandparent to take them on. That's assuming I'm not dealing with some catastrophpe, like a few flakes of snow falling on the DC region. The SO+ still has to go in (it's a matter of pride, him being from New York State and all), but the kids are more than likely off. I've started to train the kids that when I'm sitting at my desk, they are to come to me with issues that involve smoke, blood, or ruining the carpet.

This, by the way, has lead to the following exchange with my daughter.

Me: *messing with her hair*
Her: Leave me alone! I'm working! *leans over her pink laptop*
Me: On what?
Her: I'm making a website! *shooes me away with her hand*

I'm proud and distrubed at the same time.

The to-do list

Even with having the week off, I decided I'd start with a to-do list.

  • Get Django Explorer site up and running
  • Get data to at least 20%
  • Re-read one of my Python or Django books. Good time for a refresher!
  • Do not eat the entire kitchen

Things I missed

I knew my workspace wasn't complete when I posted last week, but the feedback was so awesome, I thought I should put something up to thank people.

One thing I figured out quickly was that my lighting, while great for typing, sucks for reading. Happily, I had impulse purchased a neat LED light strip during my Ikea extravaganza, so that's doing nicely as a fill in. My cords are once more a mess, however, so I'll have to rewrap everything.

Power strips suck. I mean, seriously, who designed these? People who've never seen how huge power adapters can get? My power strip has six slots on it, and I can barely use four of them. The only reason I can get four is because two are normal sized plugs. I'm now going to be shelling out twenty bucks for the adapter I should have bought in the first place, but ah well. If there's one thing you can never have enough of, it's power strips.

I need more music. Wow. I'm already kind of tired of what's in my library. Unfortunately, before something becomes working music, I need to be familiar with it. Guess I need to work on listening to music on my off-time.

The children have learned where I'm keeping my pencils, and they're already getting raided. Investing in a small badger to live in that cubby hole.


Family (namely my mother, who watches my kids) is taking well to re-training. This came from me having to be crazy firm about not 'doing lunch,' and keeping to my hours. I have a feeling I'm going to have to start screening my calls, though.

On being alone

I'm actually comfortable with being alone all day. I'm an only child of the benevolently neglectful 80's, so being left on my own a lot was the norm.

The big issue with being alone for ten hours a day is that sometimes, when I want to do something, I want to do it NOW. Case in point: my awesome new spreading out desk. I should have waited for the SO+ to come home, help me get it downstairs, then help me set it up. No, I decided. I am strong! I am mighty! I shall do it all by myself!

... with my stupid gimp hand that hurts if I strain it too much. The table did end up put together, but at the cost of three days of sucking down pain killers.

What actually got done

I'm actually really, really proud of the progress I made on Django Explorer. I set up a Django site to make it easier to enter data, then wrote a script to convert that database into an Android database. A few remapped functions later, and I had a very nice system that I'm considering taking live so I can get more feedback on the actual pages. I also read through a sizable chunk of the Python Cookbook, which is always good for getting my head in the zone.

I did not eat 20% of the kitchen. Having my own fridge and snack cabinet were a large part of that.

Time management

I use the simple and somewhat dorky Pomodoro method. That's the one where you set a timer, work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then do it all over again. Every four 'pomodoros', I take a longer, 20 minute break.

I've use so many time management techniques, I've lost count. This is the only one that seems to work for me. Sure, I know people who can hack for hours, but it's actually pretty important for me to have a reminder to get up, stretch, walk around, look out a window, and get some water. Also, those breaks help you out when you're diving down a well of stupid, and you need a moment to realize that the code you thought was brilliant in your head is an Eldritch horror on screen.


I had a goal of doing an hour of standing a day, and found it was easier than I thought it would be. Sure, I don't have the awesome Geek Desk, but a handful of books I never use stood in perfectly fine. I've found doing my standing in the afternoon helps battle my PM malaise better than sucking down another cup of coffee. Will I get to eight hours of standing? I'm not certain, but I could see where I could start upping the hours until chairs are reserved for reading or gaming time.

Am I going to make it?

This was really satisfying week of working on my own. I got tons done on Django Explorer, and we're on target for a October 30th Alpha release.

Wish me luck, because in fifteen minutes, I start for real. :)


Related tags: remote


1 Chase says...

> Will I get to eight hours of standing?

I tried this over the summer, and it absolutely killed my knees. If you can get a config going where you can easily go between sitting and standing, that's probably best.

Posted at 11:58 a.m. on October 17, 2011

2 Doug Hellmann says...

I don't answer the home phone during daytime hours. Theresa uses email instead, so I know I don't want to talk to whoever is on the line.

I had some trouble standing, too, but it was more with my neck. I need to get the monitor into a better position, so until I have time to assemble something better for that I'm back to sitting down.

Posted at 7:34 p.m. on October 17, 2011

3 Shisp says...


Posted at 5:05 p.m. on February 1, 2012

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