Tag Archives: productivity

Working remotely – how much does it cost

People work for many reasons. For me the workaholic journey started from the idea of covering the basic resource needs. I just wanted to pay for the food. Later it became mostly self-realization thingy.

Work is not the only thing needed for a healthy being. Spending quality time with family, side projects, working out etc is also important. For all of that we need some spare resources: time, attention, willpower. Working from home is an incredible setup allowing to boost all of the areas having a more productive employee as a result.

This post was inspired by a recent offering to work on the other side of the city (no remoting), so I’ve decided to evaluate the benefits involved. By the way, you can also check out my story of starting to work remotely.

Time

Whenever I commute in Kiev, it takes 1 hour regardless of where I go to. If something takes more than that, I consider the thing to be outside of Kiev : )

5 times a week an hour to the work plus an hour to return makes 10 hours total. Thus I will spent 10 more hours not on my side projects: 40 + 10 = 50 hrs.

More time

The place I currently live in has everything I need in walking distance: groceries, gym, a few cafes for when we don’t feel like cooking, farmer’s market, my driving school, self-government.

When the infrastructure at work goes down and I exhaust all the ways to make that live again, I just go ahead and do something from my personal task list.

Having to commute somewhere in such cases makes mental barrier higher so just slacking off in the office seems like an easier strategy. I don’t like life setups encouraging things which are not effective long term.

Leveraging the productive time

There are hours when our bodies tell us we’re ready for something in particular and there are hours we feel otherwise.

If I feel like working during the commute time – that productive urge is being lost. The advantage of having the ability to work from home is just that. I can do productive work whenever I feel tike that.

Similarly, when I feel bad, I can have a short nap, work without leaving my bed or do all of that in my favorite pajama in the midst of the day.

Stable energy supply

A few years ago I’ve discovered that eating regularly is very important for my wellbeing. Whenever I’m hungry, I’m more reactive (prone to screaming at people) and less productive.

I guess some of the companies have food catered just because of this reason (yay google with their supplies).

Apart from the feeling good at work, eating regularly allows me to feel good after the work, in my spare time – this is not visible on the time sheets but allows me to sustain a good pace in the long run.

At home place it’s much easier for me to arrange steady supply of foods.

Health

Whenever flu season comes, the public transportation is filled with infected people. Similarly are the offices (especially if your company does not allow working from home while urging the employees to meet deadlines and client commitments).

This year I’m spending a lot of time at home and I didn’t had any of that yet. Last year I’ve been sick at least 2 times while having only once per week office volunteering gig (tutoring kids).

Infrastructure investments are easier to make

From the stuff I’ve observed it is common for companies (yay outsourcing) to put their offices on the outskirts and / or put off installing improved AC’s.

I even have a story in my past where I was not very fond of our AC equipment, found a system to fix that but the thing never happened because of the difficulties involved with the building owner and stuff.

At my home I can do much more with much less hustle. Also it’s rather cool to upgrade both my home and working environment with the same actions (yay standing desk made of cardboard!). Me being happy in this respect too are a direct result of being interested and having this control in the same time.

By the way, me not being in the office means somebody else can be there, in the end less space rented more moneys saved.

Better control over reachability / interruptions

Open space offices are also full of distractions. I can ask my teammates to give me a break for a few hours but that does not prevent people from other teams from reaching out for something.

Working from home is just like having my own personal office in this respect: I turn the Skype off once decided to have some productive time et voila – I can code up a decent chunk of something even in the middle of a day.

Traveling

Ability to work from home also allows us to change bases. Grabbing the whole team to chill at a beach bar is awesome bonding experience as well as a nice refresher for a tired brain.

The other side of the table

I know that allowing people to work remotely feels dangerous as you have much less control over people.

I’ve been in team leading positions with people being on the other side the Earth a few times. Some people tend to work well in such circumstances, other tend to slack off. Herding people to the offices doesn’t solve this problem completely too (especially if you have Xbox there).

I also recognize WFH is not a silver bullet. What I would like to say here is that value of allowing to work from home is tremendous. Use it discreetly to win / reward talent.

Bad, good and the unexpected

This week I had a conversation with another company who seems like a good cultural fit. They have a work from home policy but encourage people to work from the office.

I love the style: instead of putting regulations which enforce your presence, the environment is just built in a way where it feels good to visit the office.

Interestingly enough, I feel compelled with the thing. Let’s see where will I be in a year from now : )

About bullshit

I just felt today that I had a very little amount of moments in my life when I did some bullshit consciously. Even more, I thought that most people do little to no bullshit consciously too. The most important part here is that bullshit is a very relative concept (the same thing can be brilliant for me when I’m stuffed with energetics and very bullshit once I’m tired).

This dude does no bullshit

Those folks do no bullshit

gopnik, гопники

What’s interesting, I can imagine how each of the examples from the above can say that the other example is doing bullshit. Professor is tinkering with a weird thingy which can be bullshit if viewed from the point of you of the guys. Guys presumably like to punch other guys which can be bullshit from the point of view of the professor.

Today I’ve figured that our rejection to do bullshit actually limits us.

People suffer from the same problems for years, because (almost quoting real people):

  • Trainings are bullshit
  • Coaches are bullshit
  • Paying moneyz where I can do myself for free and better is bullshit – that’s stereotypically very american thing
  • Doctors, medicines and vaccinations are bullshit – in the old days people were ok without these
  • Being vegan is bullshit
  • Eating animal flesh is bullshit
  • Politics is bullshit

I won’t be asking you to enroll for a training, buying a course or hiring a coach in your gym. Start simple:

  • Try returning back home using another route than you’re used to
  • If you’ll see somebody doing bullshit – be curious and ask them what is the idea of that and try the thing for yourself

You can share your findings here. I bit you more of useful bullshit in your life.

How to stop stalking your ex on social media (or quitting whatever obsession you have)

For quite a while I was stalking my ex. Actually each of them. Actually I was not only stalking my ex-girlfriends, I was also stalking my ex-colleagues for quite a while (hi, peoples, social media makes that easy :D ).

I thought that’s my personal problem until I’ve realized (after googling) that’s what a lot of people do.

As neurological study suggests, staring at a photo of your ex, triggers reward systems in your brain regardless of whether one is happily or unhappily in love. So first thing is to stop worrying. You’re normal.

Probably each of us was going trough this a number of times, so below are the tricks I’ve learned. Don’t forget to share yours ^_^

Possible approaches

1. The deadline

The idea is to allow yourself to monitor your ex’es activity for quite a while and then quit. Similarly to “quitting smoking tomorrow” this won’t work just because there always will be another tomorrow. Also why wait with this?

I’ve tried this a number of times, also observed my friends doing this with little to no success. I don’t think this is a worthwhile method as it’s often ending up with a lot of guilt to carry for not making it.

2. Blacklist / unfriend

I’ve never tried this mostly because of the consequences I was afraid of. We share a lot of friends and blacklisting people would probably lead to our common friends asking what forced me to do so.

Even if social pressure is not a problem for you, other people reminding you of your ex is something which probably won’t really help to let them go.

Also this one is hard to apply to other obsessions – how do I blacklist alcohol?

3. Sandbagging

I’ve learned this trick from my favorite procrastinatolog doctor’s blog.

The idea is to continue with your obsessions but make it slightly less convenient. E.g. in case of Facebook:

  • Delete mobile app
  • Log off from the desktop browsers
  • Use only mobile versions of the mobile apps (e.g. m.facebook.com) –> no notifications!
  • Remove browser icon from the main screen so you have to look for it
  • Also for Facebook I use News Feed Eradicator plugin for Chrome which hides the most dangerous part from me

Generalizing it further, in this method you reverse engineer tricks the product developers use to make your obsession closer to you and sandbag these.

For more ways you’re tricked to use apps more you can read How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds (this click can cost you 20 minutes of your life :D )

4. Conscious one

The idea here is not to expect anything from yourself and just observe what do you feel / think about when doing the thing you’d like to quit doing.

Good thing is that you’ll learn about yourself and your obsession more. Also it’s the most guilt free of the techniques here. Thus I recommend it as a healthy addition to the other attempts.

Bad thing is that quitting may be postponed indefinitely. But why bother about that while you’re learning?

5. Realize that you’re already there

My TLDR of Allen Carr’s books (helping with quitting smoking, overeating, …) is basically: you’re already there. At the moment you’re reading my article and not doing the thing you’re quitting, so you’re a free person.

Your next step is to realize that you’re already good and enjoy this state (pretty much like ‘conscious one’ but paying attention to what it feels like to be free of the obsession).

Common problem: comebacks

One thing you should know about me before reading this further is that I’m a kind of professional quitter. I quit smoking (I guess 6th time now :D), quit adding sugar to my tea, quit computer games, quit unhealthy relationships, …, you name it.

Thus I can generalize that there are two modes of quitting:

  1. quitting to let go of something because it’s ‘bad’
  2. quitting to make some room for the stuff you’d like to pull into your life

Quick experiment: try keeping your mind clean of all thoughts for a while and then try to think about whatever you’d like to have soon (I thought about yachting or burritos).

In my case nurturing an idea I like (2nd thing) works much better than keeping a piece of my mind clean of anything.

In my case most of the methods from the above were following the 1st approach. It’s ‘bad’ so I’ll quit it. Once my willpower was depleted, I usually was able to negotiate with myself and ‘bad’ things became ‘decent’ and there I was again following my obsessions. That’s what comeback basically is.

6. Substitution

Here you’ll put something rewarding in place of the habit you had. We’ll still trigger our

If you’re obsessed over an ex-partner, get a few new awesome friends to hang out with (or befriend a few celebrities like Mr. Bieber – they’re used to a lot of attention :D ).

If you’re quitting consuming unhealthy amount of foods, learn to have a healthy drink instead (mine is lemon water).

If you’re letting go of computer games, grab a new freelance client or an awesome volunteering gig for something you’re passionate about (look mom, I’m earning new moneys!).

If you’re quitting having evening cocktails, a trustable fitness trainer and a training buddy e.g. from Fitior will help you (I totally quit that thing after learning that alcohol consumption impedes muscle growth and I dream of VinDiesel-like-body :D ). Also a whole bunch of highly addictive jogging clubs are available in large cities.

Once the old habit is gone, you probably will be able to let go of your new one but I’ve never did that until I’ve found even better ones. So the substitution is usually about getting even more stimulating thing discovered – be careful :)

QnA

I have a new *-friend but I’m still looking at the photos of my ex, what do I do?

Enjoy it while you can! ^_^

hulk

Free: You get what you pay for

I’ve just decided to pay people to make things happen even if I [think that] can do that myself better and cheaper.

Nasha Russian TV Show Nay Sayer Dude
Image: A guy from ‘Nasha Russia’ comedy TV show. All he does is sitting by a TV and commenting on the stuff there

“I can do that myself cheaper and better” (c) Pretty much everyone I know

The story

If you’re a regular reader, you might remember my idea from September 2013 (now is June 2015) about attracting street workout guys to the area I live in.

The idea was to install a gymnastic bar nearby and thus make the neighbourhood more attractive to types of people I like to hang out with.

As you might have guessed, I never pulled that off.

On the other hand, I have a broken gymnastic bar just 50 meters from the house.

broken gymnastic bar

Which was fixed in a matter of day (and $20) by a person I’ve hired to do this.

Gymnastic bar fixed  Extender

Wow! That simple. Allocate a budget, get a specialist and save yourself 18 months (or whatever the number is) of your life.

Reflection time

One of the functions of money is a means of value exchange.

Can you really say you value something if you’re not ready to put some money on a table to get it done?

Why do you think it’s worthwhile to do that if the only way you’re ok with getting that is for free?

TLDR

Given it took me almost 2 years to make that simple of a thing happen, how much time would it take me to get myself on to a spaceship?

space ship

Life is short! Ever wondered how much time you’ve wasted trying to get stuff for free?

What the recruiting Bible says about resumes before having a chit-chat?

Today is a big day for the Ukrainian economy: our currency reclaimed a bit of it’s past value and I’m officially giving up on updating my resume when some random people ask. Hours saved will be donated to charity and occasional exposures to Xbox.

Below are a few reasons (including one true story, bro) on why you might want to do the same.

LinkedIn and some reading skills to the rescue

During the latest 30 days I’ve received 16 invitations and none (0) of them bothered to follow the instruction linked from the profile.

Or, to give them a benefit of the doubt: nobody from the contacting people was brave enough to try any of the suggestions on how to cheaply earn some reputation with me.

And as economists say – it’s all about the incentives: given somebody does not bother to read my LinkedIn profile while they don’t have my resume, what the chances are if I’ll whip up a one for them?

Not everybody is a fit – why bother?

nonono

I’ve had a magnificent chat just recently which saved me a few hours from preparing a resume.


A manager: Hi there
A manager: I’ve got your contact from Xxxx, as a candidate for a DevOps position

Me: yup
Me: let’s talk?

A manager: ask urgent questions first – might be you’ll get them answered now
A manager: )

Me: Who DevOps will work for? Who are they delivering value to / who are their clients? Who will manage / work with the DevOps? Who is the Ansible fan there?

A manager:
> Who DevOps will work for?
a company with a foreign investments

> Who are they delivering value to / who are their clients?
No clients yet – we create product(s)

> Who will manage
There is an owner / investor with money – the company is managed by that person

> Who will work with the DevOps
developers

> Who is the Ansible fan there?
some teams do

Me:
>> Who DevOps will work for?
> a company with a foreign investments
what is famous about them? what can I learn from them?

>> Who are they delivering value to / who are their clients?
> No clients yet – we create product(s)
who are the potential clients? market \ domain?

>> Who will manage
> There is an owner / investor with money – the company is managed by that person
where I can read up on them?

>> Who will work with the DevOps
> developers
how many teams (products) is to be supported? what does an average working day looks like? what are the success criteria?

A manager: Ivan
A manager: sorry, you’re asking not correct questions with regards to the investors
can you read up on your investors at the current firm you’re working for?

A manager: ?
Me: yup

A manager: can I see a link please
Me: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/<my_favorite_employer_here>/investors

A manager: cool! sorry, I can’t give you that information
A manager: a good day
A manager: to you

    A manager removed me from Skype contact list here.

Me: is that an ending of the conversation?
A manager: from the context, I clearly stated that
yes – I bid you a good day again!

Me: what’s the reason? have I made you upset with something?
A manager: you’re working on a dream job, it seems, and we’re not matching the criteria in the asked questions. No, you haven’t upset anyone

Me: thanks – I’m always afraid of making people upset
Me: which criteria were not met? – I haven’t named a single one as of yet

    As of yet neither the manager, nor the recruiter have revealed what the problem was.


The End

So while most of people will be busy updating their resumes, me and you can get in front of the queue in this awesome game called life

P.S. There’s no recruiting bible I know of – maybe that’s the reason for all the funky things happening around? ^_^

competitive

Productivity carrot: I’ve just started hating my task tracker less

I think next week I’ll double the amount of the things done and below I’ll tell you why.

Motivating with a stick

Using task management systems for personal productivity largely was guilt building exercise for me: I just add notes when I’m excited but I can’t do things and afterwards I totally forget what was so exciting about the thing I’m willing to do. So there’s no surprise I’m always nervous about reviewing my todo list (:

Homework: ask 10 people about their plans for the quarter, 2 will tell you something concrete other than “None”, interview them after the quarter, see more sad faces around.

Travelers probably have better chances of keeping their smile intact: for me it’s been easier to tell “In 3 month I’ll be in …”, book a ticket and then my airline will do everything to make sure. Done – I’ve got something accomplished!

The stick sticks!

Another problem is that ill-defined tasks seem to stay there for ages. For example I’m tasked with legally getting myself driving rights. In Ukraine that means 2+ months of wasted time.

That’s probably one of the reasons I don’t have Premium account with Trello (although they’re totally awesome). Staring at a bunch of text saying about things I haven’t done or I’m supposed to do during next few months is a super frustrating experience for me

Carrots time

I would not write a post just to complain. I seem to have discovered a solution to part of my pains.

The idea is to have a super sexy image celebrating the results of my work

  1. More task items done means more images reminding me of pleasant emotions
  2. No need for other people to evaluate that to release another dose of endorphin (and my experience says that autonomy drives productivity improvements)
  3. I guess I will end up doing nothing but moving pictures back and forth thus evolving to finally get myself a Pinterest account

Screenshot 2015-04-08 21
Image: I’ve figured out a workaroundish way of attaching the rear view mirror to my bicycle helmet so I’m ready to open another endorphin flood gates

TLDR

If you’re using emotions to get a bump in productivity – inject more of them into your blood stream with your task list.

(I’m already imaging myself asking my colleagues to smile for me so that I can attach that to a task tracking fixing a problem!)

Have fun, build stuff and drink responsibly – California is in drought!

Geeks reflections on starting a conversation

Oh, my, it’s awkward again. Can’t I just chat with nice people like everyone else? (c) Ivan’s brain

Being a Software Engineer I was more used to talking to computers or with their help, so most of the real life conversations (especially with new people and in new contexts) had this overtone of awkwardness.

The problem was not in the awkwardness itself (I still feel it a lot), the problem was in me not entering into new conversations with awesome people just because a few conversations did not happen with a few others.
I blamed myself for this feeling for a while, until I realized a simple thing: two interested parties is what is needed to make the chat happen.

“It takes two flints to make a fire.” (c) Louisa May Alcott

Conversation initiation

– Hey, is that a #$@#^!%-zator?
– Yes, wanna see something cool?
– Sure!

If the conversation is meant to start (i.e. if everyone is interested), it will happen even if all you are a bunch of weirdoes.

Surely, being experienced communicator raises your chances to keep the chat going during the initial stages. But if the other one is not interested – the result is easy to predict. Also do you really want to talk about the weather?

If you’re reading this, you’re kind of interested : ) Understanding when the other person is not is simple too:

  • Not looking at you
  • Short responses (e.g. ‘yes’ vs ‘yes and …’)

Remember: it’s totally ok for someone to don’t care about you at all. We’re all different everybody has their unique interests and strong sides so matches don’t happen all the time. It’s somewhat a numbers game.

not you again carpet

What if I feel like a fraud?

It’s completely ok!

Probably you’ll be glad to hear that your feeling has a name, impostor syndrome. Also some studies say that it is especially common among high-achievers. If you feel that way – hit me up, I’m pretty sure we’ll have what to talk about.

What to do if the other party is not interested?

Walk on and talk to someone else.

Absence of interest might be temporary in a short term (so stop bothering the driver) or long term (so in a few years it will be your turn to be the highbrow).

not_you_again_carpet

It surprised me how changing the model of initiating the conversations on a party from ‘all or nothing’ to the numbers game bloated my ego with self-assurance.

By the way, awesome people I know have this blessing of being able to find interesting perspectives just in everyone and everything. Consequently, if a conversation did not happen – chances are you haven’t missed a thing!

Taking it to another level

It’s easier to be remembered if you ask your date unconventional questions, e.g. “What’s your deepest fear?” instead of “What’s your favorite movie?” (c) Cool Girl Magazine

I don’t clearly remember which of the teen girlish magazines was my source, but the thing does work for me still.

Recent article on NY Times uses a similar principle. Additionally the method on the article slowly transitions from commonalities to probing questions (which I guess raises the chances of not freaking out the companion).

I’d generalize this idea as a quick escalation. PUA (pick up artist) guys use that to describe the process of quickly getting to the bed, I’m ok with stopping the nonsense chat about the weather as quickly as possible!

Summary

What we’ve learned today:

  • It’s completely ok for a conversation to die off quickly
  • It’s ok for you to quit a conversation you’re not interested in
  • It’s ok to feel weird
  • It’s possible to talk to people without sedating yourself with alcohol or the like
  • I’ll kick your ass if you talk to me about the weather ; )

I know, you can do it! Get your ass out and start a joyful conversation!

Don’t confuse me with an optimist

Recently I was judged to be an optimist, which is not quite the case. Let’s find out what the difference is and try to get a feel of that.

Optimism is a mental attitude or world view that interprets situations and events as being best (optimized), meaning that in some way for factors that may not be fully comprehended, the present moment is in an optimum state. The concept is typically extended to include the attitude of hope for future conditions unfolding as optimal as well.

Case 1.
Person: we’ve screwed the search puzzle by picking the wrong route
Me: I feel like I understand the logic better now

Case 2.
Person: I hate playing without a navigator person
Me: I’ll fill in the gap next time

I don’t hope for the better future here, neither do I speculate about the universe(factors that may not be fully comprehended). I only have me, myself and I playing with my words and thoughts, putting them in a way which makes the experience actionable and empowering.

Exercise

If you’d like to get a feel of that try this:knuckles

1. Get yourself a timer
2. Pick a challenging pose
3. Measure your time and notice all the thoughts in your head, in my case I always end up with something like “Oh, I’m tired”, “It hurts”, “It’s raining”, “I’ll do my best next time” — this will be specific to you, but I’m including a good set of excuses as a youtube video[1]
4. take some rest
5. try once again but closer to the end nurse a different set of thoughts, I’m particularly excited by “This current moment represents my whole life, following the wuss route now, I’m accepting that for all”, also having a beautiful girl nearby helps :)

I bet you’ll be better at p5 than at p3.

Takeaways

Now that you noticed how your thoughts can kneecap you or support your goals achievement. Whichever you choose?

[1] Nike ‘No excuses’ commericial

Fairytales in getting things done

While doing my weekly retrospective, I was a bit disturbed by the fact that I’ve adjusted my goals slightly to make them reachable. While discussing that all out load and with a person, I’ve came up with another approach which I’d like to share.

In my universe reaching a goal always boils down to allocating a necessary(usually unknown) amount of resources. The amount required becomes clear during the execution stage and when it appears that I lack those, I try to fix that via one of the methods I’m used to:

1. Give up on it totally and use the resources for the world — e.g. don’t buy no cars(and horses)
2. Try to find some immediate use to the others and pool our resources together — e.g. rent a car to travel
3. Reduce the amount of resources required — e.g. buy a toy car

All of those don’t work in terms of not bringing me the result I wanted initially. P1 is loser way by definition. P2 does not work as I’m not good at thinking in urgent mode, so I usually I abandon this option in favor of other ones in a matter of minutes. P3 as my house building exercise shows (Russian), makes the goal not tasty enough and I resort to P1, which has proven ‘efficiency’ :)

4. Relax, use your imagination and build a LARGER vision — e.g. I was about to give up on building a sleeping pod, but by accident I came up with the following: a) it’s built somehow b) it’s installed in one of the IT companies offices c) competitors catch up –> voila, it’s commonly accepted thing now! I’m excited with the leverage: I do a small thing vs the world changes and that motivates me a lot.

TL;DR: So, if you’re reluctant to do something, try to come up with a fairytale – that helps : )

How to achieve more without straining yourself too much?

Recently I’ve attended the webinar. I love the guys personalities, but what they did as a team, was awesome :) Let me share couple of new exciting ideas with you.

Entertain your brain

There’s an idea that whenever your brain has some spare processing power, it starts on something new. Thus if you want to be focused to have something done in a reasonable time, sandbag(or, better entertain) it a bit.

Example: doing the dishes is boring, but what about doing them in one-handed mode only?

Be fast in decision making. Decide in advance

It’s a known fact that conscious multi-factor decision making is somewhat brittle. And also leads to a “paralysis by analysis” situations. Thus it’s usually easier to pick any option and improve as you go.

Another one thing is when you’re embarking on to decision making process, you have this fancy process of your brain areas activating and sedating each other(I do that all the time reasoning about “Why should I and bla-bla-bla”. Learn to follow your decision once made and that will save you tons of time. Also achievationers ideas apply here: it’s better to have another one deed to motivate you even more rather staying still.

Btw, this article is itself an example of the principle being applied.

Define goals clearly. Define them small

Again, clearly defined stuff prevents you from falling into the reasoning trap. Defining them small allows you to allocate enough resources(e.g. focus) to get the thing done and feel the hormone happiness from actually achieving something – so generate some of your tailwind yourself : )

Example: cleaning the house is rather large and vague, doing the dishes is good enough. Reading a book is vague, reading a book for 30 mins / reading 30 pages is just fine.

Prefer ‘training’ goals

The guys defined two type of goals ‘pitfall’ ones(huge chunks of work/unknowns) and ‘training’ ones – being small, clearly defined and rather easy to achieve.

Training goals don’t strain you that much, so you’ll do something more frequently this eventually yielding better result.

Example: I had a hard time raising my pushups count from 20 to 100 in 3 month, but targeting a joyful gym visit just today is just awesome/yeah, I still have long term numbers to achieve, but I don’t bother : )/

Want more?

If you know some Russian, please feel free to follow the guys:

[Psychology in IT] [Another PM]  [Done a lot]

Or subscribe to my RSS channel – I follow them closely : )