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Summary:

A piece by Chris Brogan called “Why Bookstores Are My Office” made me think about how web workers and telecommuters have an enormous amount of discretion in setting up, organizing and utilizing their time. Web working is an enormous opportunity to thrive under an ideal environment and an ideal schedule, yet it’s also a little bit scary for many to figure out how to be productive outside the walls (and cube farms!) of the traditional office workplace.

Here are some tips on how to set up the best web working day for you.

Image by sxc.hu user blu_arim

Image by sxc.hu user blu_arim

A piece by Chris Brogan called “Why Bookstores Are My Office” made me think about how web workers and telecommuters have an enormous amount of discretion in setting up, organizing and utilizing their time. Web working is an enormous opportunity to thrive under an ideal environment and an ideal schedule, yet it’s also a little bit scary for many to figure out how to be productive outside the walls (and cube farms!) of the traditional office workplace.

The “best way” to set up one’s web working day is greatly particular to individual tastes, strengths and needs. Brogan, for example, enjoys working at bookstores and coffee shops to be close to books full of new ideas, being near people who will serve him food so that he doesn’t have to “worry about the sustenance part,” being able to easily meet with small groups of people to chat and brainstorm in a casual environment, and because “…[b]ookstores are actually fun. How many people’s offices are fun?”

Here are some tips on how to set up the best web working day for you.

What Time of Day Do You Work Best?
Many web workers have the relative luxury of setting their own schedule. Therefore it makes sense to really think about a work schedule that puts you in front of a monitor during the hours when you are most perky and most productive. For some it’s the early morning, and for others it’s late at night!

For example, I usually try to get several hours of work and research done in the morning. Then I’ll typically have lunch, take a break to clear my head, and then do another session of lighter and more administratively-minded tasks like e-mail and correspondence. Then after dinner I’m ready to go again for a hardcore session related to a major project that I’m working on. So by stretching out the workday and setting a pace that works best for me I’m able to get the most out of each working day.

Location, Location, Location
Brogan likes bookstores and coffee shops. For many, a home office of some sort works best as it’s the most convenient and comfortable solution (and hey, no commute!). Wherever you work, make sure that it’s an environment that’s most conducive to being productive.

Again, the best environment is highly dependent on individual needs. Some people need to get up early, take a shower, put on “work clothes,” and then sit down behind a desk that mimics a traditional workplace office in some way. Others prefer to get up “whenever,” flip open the laptop while the coffee’s brewing, and therein their workday begins. Personally, I love the flexibility of working on my laptop on my home’s Wi-Fi network, allowing me to work from different rooms in my little house throughout the day.

Coworking
Coworking is a relatively new buzzword in web working circles, but essentially it just reflects a desire for likeminded people to get together while battling away at one’s craft. So if you’re a PHP developer, for example, working side-by-side with a fellow developer can be both motivational and helpful as day-to-day work-related questions come up. And the camaraderie of being around others plying away at their craft can give a motivational boost to the workday.

“Real Life Stuff”
Office workers often like to fantasize about living on the “other side,” latte in one hand, iPhone in the other, an easy life of working from home and not having a boss breathing down your neck. Real life, though, is more… real. Significant others, children, dogs barking, errands and other responsibilities are only the more typical potential challenges to fully concentrating on web work. And that’s to say nothing of the constant lure of distractions away from work – online and off – when that neck-breathing boss isn’t around to keep you on point.

So whether it takes posting an “Office Hours” sign to let others in your home know that you’re “at work,” wearing earplugs or headphones, getting out of the house to work, or simply finding a quiet spot in the backyard (go Wi-Fi!), make sure that your setup can contend with real-life stuff.

Schedule: Varied Vs. Static
Some people do better with having a set schedule, while others enjoy the freedom to get work done on a flexible schedule. This ties into the “real life stuff” section to an extent – real life responsibilities can force changes to a daily schedule. Therefore it’s important to know what works best for you and to try to set up your schedule accordingly.

Wind Down
Another thing to consider is to make sure that you have proper downtime scheduled in. When web working it can be tempting to simply work a lot of hours on your schedule each and every day. While this is great for getting a lot done, it can also lead to burn out. So scheduling days off – whether it’s the weekend or weekdays if that fits your schedule – is important to recharge your batteries.

What are your tips for setting up the web working day?

  1. My job setup is a bit unusual. I am currently working one week out of three from home which leads to nicely varied workdays and lets me try different settings.

    I generally enjoy the relative quietness of my home in Germany and the flexibility it provides me. I like sitting at the kitchen table and have coffee or tea while reading my emails or daily feeds. When I need more focus I carry the laptop onto my desk. Or I settle on the couch for longer IRC meetings or telcos.

    On the other hand, I like the personal interaction at the office in Norway and the easy access to information and input from my colleagues.

    I take habits from one working space to the other such as reading emails right after getting up in the morning with the first coffee. Sometimes I stay at home the whole morning or afternoon during my “office weeks” to get tasks done that need a lot of focus and solitude. During my “home week” I settle in a friend’s office from time to time just for the company.

    It’s a perfect setup for me.

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  2. I work from home, and tend to work all day with mini breaks! I start at 6:30 checking my email and work late at night, depending on what’s going on.

    I try to vary my schedule, getting out of my home office and heading to Starbucks or the park. It’s great to have easy access to my files, email, and documents on my webtop – no matter how I log on!

    @Alexandra, you have the best of both worlds! It is nice to get into an office space and bounce ideas off others. I find I have to do most of that virtually!

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  3. Yes, when I’m working from home I approach the day as if I was going to my downtown office — Wake up, shower, get dressed and eat.Simply throwing on the bathrobe and logging in doesn’t quite set me up psychologically for being productive. It’s to easy to get distracted by turning on Bloomberg or CNBC. What also helps is planning my day the night before and sticking to it. If something pops up on the email that needs my attention, I try to connect with the appropriate people by phone, and later followup with an email. My first tasks though are what I have already defined as the most important thing(s) I can do that day. I am going to post your blog on my website, because I am a promoter of best practices. I really believe we can accomplish so much more when we open ourselves to other people’s ideas and practices. Not that we have to adopt them for ourselves, but to at least ponder the concepts. Dr. Stephen Covey once told me, “If you want to be influential, you have to be willing to be influenced.” I have found that this greatly contributes to building trusting relationships.

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