Music, art, video, stories – all of it is more needed than ever, as we’re all sitting at home waiting for things to get back to normal. Humbled and blessed to be working with some of the best people in helping make that happen.
It’s been 10 years since I worked in an office. Way back in 2010 I was a contractor for AOL Music, and I pushed that work-status to the limits by saying “see ya, office,” got rid of all my stuff, and biked my way all the way down to Nashville, TN crashing on friends couches along the way while still working.
Okay, so that’s probably not what you might be doing now, but maybe some of the lessons from that adventure, and the entire decade, may help.
Comfort – Yes, this is #1 because I wish I had paid attention a decade ago. Get a real computer chair. Make sure your arms are supported. Get an ergonomic mouse. If you don’t have an external monitor, prop your laptop up so the screen is at eye level and get a good external keyboard. Trust me, your elbows and wrists and back will be happy.
Have a space to work. Your bed is for sleep, your kitchen table is for eating. Don’t cross the streams. Heck, don’t sit on the couch and work – remember, you’re working. Once you start overlapping leisure time (sitting on the couch, laying in bed) with work time (working from the couch, working in bed), everything gets messy.
Try to work at a standing desk. I know, easier said than done, but if you got a keyboard and a mouse, you can find a way to make it work. And then just try it for 20 minutes in the morning, or in the afternoon.
Wake up early and eat the frog. The biggest, hardest, most challenging thing? Get it done right away. Early in the morning helps, too, because you won’t have co-workers messaging and emailing you.
Take breaks. Walk away from the computer and make coffee. Do some push ups. Do the dishes. Take out the garbage. Go for walk. Being able to do these things during WORK TIME does wonders for your brain.
Put on pants. Believe me, I’ve done the whole working from bed, wearing sweatpants till 3pm thing, and it was murder. These days pants go on right away when I get to work, because I’m working!
Since a lot of people are starting to work from home, and maybe starting to work in Slack for the first time, I wanted to share my favorite feature; “Remind me about this.”
Best used on a Friday afternoon, when someone sends you something and you know it can wait, you just have Slack remind you Next week.
Now, where you go from there is up to you. I sometimes make notes in my paper to-do planner, or make a note in Todoist, BUT… having Slack remind you of a thing, rather than relying on a Calendar or Reminders app is super solid.
I stayed up late on Wednesday night, watching all of the commentary about the NBA game cancellations. Since Thursday morning, things have been hazy. My head just feels in a fog, with so many reports, stories, and noise.
What’s the best course of action? What to do next? Should I get extra cat food?
Then a Friday call with a good friend set me at ease; “just do your work.” I’m paraphrasing, but the first thing I need to do is my work, because it needs to get done, so I can send an invoice and get paid.
Does it NEED to be done? In the grand scheme of things? Doesn’t matter. Now isn’t the time for grand thinking, and figuring things out. Do the work, then do what else needs to get done.
Spoke with a good friend today about being our “authentic self” online, and sometimes fearing the vibe we give off could lead to lost work, as maybe a potential client is turned away by the way we carry ourselves.
One lofty client came up, Starbucks, of course. They’re top banana, sure. But who’s the #2 coffee company? Who’s the #8 coffee supplier on the East Coast? I bet they have a budget, right?
Meg Lewis comes to mind when thinking about this sort of thing, as she is so amazingly herself. Such an inspiration, and a reminder that playing the part is just sort of playing yourself. Be who you are, and you’ll attract your dream clients.
Had a great talk with a buddy I met through Seth Godin’s “Freelancers Workshop” today. They’re a freelancer, and they’ve been sick this past week. Too sick to really work.
When I’m too sick to work, I think too much. Fret. Worry. Think of the worst possible outcomes – missed emails, uncompleted tasks, work piling up. I’m not just bad at my job, but now I’m bad. My work is me, and I am my work. So without it… without about being able to work, what does that say?
It made me think of our how our work is like a store front, and if we’re not working, the store is closed. A sign in the window says “NOT OPEN.” People walk by and mumble under their breath about our closed business. Did they not pay their electric bill? Health code violations?!
Being so connected to work is scary, and so many of us in the freelance world are one stomach bug or flu virus away from being knocked out of commission for a week.
For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with outsourcing some of my more administrative tasks via UpWork and Fiverr. It’s virtual assistant type of work, and by paying someone else to do it, it gives me time to work on bigger projects. Though Close Mondays isn’t some automated machine just yet, it’s good knowing that a handful of my daily tasks are now taken care of by someone that’s not always me.
If a doctors appointment or a work call is on your schedule, nothing interferes with that. It’s a commitment, and you’re offline.
So as a remote worker / remote worker / freelancer / knowledge worker (as I’ve been since 2006), I believe you must schedule times throughout your way when you’re unavailable. Offline. When that last minute ask comes in, nope – your afternoon is booked.
Your afternoon is booked for your sanity, your health, and your mental clarity.
When I started the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club email newsletter, I wanted to try something different, and I picked Revue. It turned out to be simple to use, and easy to manage, but as the list and my process has grown, I sort of outgrew it pretty quick.
Previously I was using a Google Form to collect people’s birthdays and other info for the Birthday Club. This is important stuff, as whenever there’s a birthday, an email gets sent out.
Even more important is people being on the email list! What good are these emails if half the people who sign up aren’t on the email list?
So I moved everything into Mailchimp, and set up the sign up form like the Google Form.
I just couldn’t add all that in Revue, which is okay, since they’re built more for growing a list and then monetizing it, or selling ads – and it’s great for that. I just needed something different.
Exporting my user date from Revue and uploading to Mailchimp was simple enough. I just needed to set up the extra fields in Mailchimp (Birthday, First Name, Last Name, etc.), and everything lined up just fine.
Now when people sign up to be in the Birthday Club, they’re on the email list as well. This removed an extra step from the process for the person signing up, and honestly not everyone who joined the club went and subscribed to the newsletter. Extra steps matter! So now it’s streamlined, which means I get to grow the newsletter at a better clip.
Another reason for moving back to Mailchimp is that the emails will look a little better now, too. Revue only had a few different templates, and didn’t let you add to much to the design, so it’s nice to have some of that control back.
Again, not a knock on Revue – their service is great for what they do! I’ve just been using Mailchimp since forever, so it was nice to “come back home.”
My to-do list app (Todoist) is worthless if it’s not the first thing I look at when I sit down to work.
This Christmas I got a nice Panobook (thanks, Bill), and it’s helped me finally take the plunge into a productivity concept that I’ve read about countless time but never put into practice; write down the most important things you gotta do tomorrow.
Now, when I finish up my work each night, I write down the 3-4 BIG THINGS I need to start in the morning.
Then, when I sit down at my computer, even before I wake my laptop, the most important things are right there in front of me.