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Becoming a high performing software developer working from your bedroom (zephony.com)
638 points by kevinpaladin 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments





As someone who developed their career from the comfort of their bedroom, I always find it very interesting to see people all over the world from different cultures experiencing the same basic issues with this kind of work set up.

I absolutely loved working from my bedroom for years. It was great (despite the common down falls like the ones listed here). My family used to make fun of me at parties and seasonal celebration "OH YOU'RE NOT IN YOUR PAJAMAS TODAY", but joke was on them after a couple of years - I was making 5 to 10 times what they were per year, and I was waking up at 8:50am with no commute.

I eventually ended up investing in building my own "detached" office in the back yard - a dedicated space set up for working. This was by far the best thing I ever did. It created a visible boundary between home and work life, and I still didn't have to commute or work in any clothes other than my pajamas the majority of the time.

I couldn't image going back to a bedroom now. But even more so, I can't imagine how painful it is for people to sit in traffic every day, stressing they might be late, burning money on fuel and their car, and waking up earlier than they really should.

It's pretty reasonable to think you might spend $100 a week on a commute straight out of your own pocket. That money is gone forever. Now consider if you invest that money over 30 years in some low to medium risk areas and average 10 - 15% per year. That's a healthy addition to your retirement fund of around $1,500,000, plus a good amount of extra sleep.

EDIT: Okay 15% is maybe a bit hopeful and lucky. But still 7 - 10% will make a difference in your retirement.


> low to medium risk areas and average 10 - 15% per year.

Where can I get this return reliably at "low risk"?


I suggest buying low-fee domestic index-tracking ETFs like "Vanguard S&P 500 ETF" (VOO), using a low-fee brokerage app like M1 Finance.

... or not. Your situation may call for something else. Any specific suggestions people give you will likely sound unnecessarily specific and perhaps arbitrary, unless you have spent a lot of time learning about the modern investing landscape -- you really need to do that for yourself.


> you really need to do that for yourself

And how to do that? Especially for those of us in Europe?

That's one thing I can't get my head around. The ecosystem seems filled with scammers and financial advise salesmen, and my "scam alert" is running on constant overdrive whenever trying to look for any current and actionable educational material.


I have an account with Vanguard directly and research their funds when investing. Currently my US employer retirement fund partner has very low cost access to Vanguard funds I follow already so I am linked into that.

It really depends on your goals and starting point. Avoiding management fees is one of my priorities as well as direct visibility of my accounts and numbers (all offered via Vanguard directly). There are a lot of great, free information sources. Some are directed at people who are paycheck t paycheck and need to start setting like $100/month aside while digging out of debt. Others focus on middle class style employer retirement plan+personal savings like for a down payment on a house. Others focus on those willing to toss thousands on what becomes a bet on the market and YOLO it (not recommended).

I started by just looking at Vanguard funds and using open/free tools to understand terminology and get a grasp of the history or background like lessons learned.


Here are a few starting points.

- https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Getting_started_for_non-US_i...

- (book) The Simple Path to Wealth by J. L. Collins

- (Podcast) ChooseFI


Read "the long and short of it" by John Kay which deals with a lot of the basics around investing for yourself. It's a truly useful book, and I've given quite a few copies of it to people. It is quite UK-centric, but I think the central lessons could be applied in other jurisdictions.

> And how to do that? Especially for those of us in Europe?

https://www.degiro.eu/


There are places in the US where this is the rate of appreciation on real estate. While there are periodic setbacks (see: 2008-2012), real estate is remarkably stable across the country, especially in major cities. The small, somewhat rural area I live in had an average appreciation of 13% last year, which is not sustainable for this area but still indicative of the overall trend.

and you know lots of real estate deals that are low risk, pay 10-15% and available for participation @ $100 / week?

>> an average appreciation of 13% last year, which is not sustainable for this area but still indicative of the overall trend.

not sustainable but indicative of the overall trend? What does that even mean?


It means we aren't going to see 13% every year in my localized market, but we will see a continued upward march - where the data from the past 30 years bears that out. Other markets like Seattle, given the geography and current restrictions it isn't much of a jump to think you could average a 10% appreciation for the next decade.

I don't recall anyone saying anything about participation @ $100 / week, so don't be flippant. The comment was made about low risk at 10-15%. If you had $100/week to spend, I'd put it in a drip and buy pharma stocks because there are many paying a sizable dividend, but I'm not your broker so get your own advice.


Ah real estate: the rent keeps going up and there’s no easy way for individuals to benefit from it.

Real estate is absolutely not stable across the country.

Per your website, you live in Washington state. Rocky Mountains and west are generally very desireable areas to live in, and WA has no income tax.

But you can look all the way from Maine to the Dakotas, down to Oklahoma, and then of course the poor gulf coast states and easily see that real estate is a terrible investment in those areas outside of a few urban areas. Especially in the heavily debt laden rust belt states with undesirable weather and shrinking economic prospects.


10-15% after property tax?

And interest, maintenance, insurance, and upkeep?

It doesn't seem difficult to avg +1% per month doing relatively basic trading in my experience.

The challenge I have is remembering to actually care about it and do the trades, life gets too busy and before I realize it a month has gone by.

But whenever I'm on top of it, 1% gains have been very easy over the past decade, I'm rarely in the market for more than a few hours. But I risk having a pile of cash to trade with I suppose, the dollar could crash.

If you do +1% per month you're already +12%/yr, I consider 12%/yr the minimum acceptable yield for any kind of investment given how easy it seems to be to DIY.


1. The S&P 500 has returned about 14% per year over the past decade, so a return of 12% isn't particularly notable.

2. Market returns vary greatly from decade to decade, so we shouldn't necessarily expect this 14% rate of return to continue. (Most obviously, there were no recessions in the past decade, which is unusual.)


Firstly, it was "low to medium" risk, not "low" risk.

Secondly, pretty much any reputable ETF (or combination of ETF's) can quite easily achieve this over 30 years.


Most ETFs have returned about 7-8 % average long term (before allowing for inflation). Not a bad return, but very different over 20 years from 10-15%

Average rate of return is 7% accounting for inflation, actually. That assumes you're doing dividend reinvestment and such.

Vanguard's predictions of 3-4% over the next decade mean that if you do a straight dollar calculation you'd be closer to ~7%, because that 3-4% number includes inflation, once again.


It has to be said that this 7-8% average is inflated due to being at the end (?) of a ten year bull market.

Vangaurd is predicting low growth of 3-4% over the next decade.


7-8% is still nothing to scoff at. Better than a measly 1% in a savings account :D

There is a slight difference in outcome between 7 and 15 percent return though :).

There is no reputable ETF that will give you 15% return. Even 10% real return is incredibly unlikely.

I don't think 'unreputable' is fair - they're just a different (not 'low - medium'!) risk profile.

No, they're just non-existent. Anyone with a brokerage account had a ~20%+ return last year... it's over 30 years that matters.

I'm sure there's SOME ETF that managed to do 15% returns over a 30 yr period, but that's just selection bias after the fact. It doesn't mean that ETF would do well this year, or next.


What tickers?

Perhaps they're referring to leveraged ETFs like UPRO (Direxion Daily 3X Bull & Bear S&P) and TQQQ (ProShares UltraPro QQQ).

Be advised that they are not designed to be held over more than a day, although with the current bull market, they have not actually been hit by the decay factor inherent to all leveraged ETFs.

Other higher-risk ETFs would be things like solar/wind sector ETFs (e.g. TAN, FAN, PBW, IQCLN, QCLN, etc.) or bleeding-edge biotech (e.g. SBIO).


There's really no other words for it: a six figure job from the comfort of your own home/office is fucking magic

Everyone should get the chance to experience it.


Yes, and some of us reject it. When you work with people you never or rarely meet in person loneliness can be a big issue. If you have addiction problems, having the freedom to drink, game, smoke, ect whenever you want can also be a huge issue. Yes, not having a commute can be great, but if you are young you can usually find apartments close to your work (I bike to work for instance). What I feel is best is having the flexibility to wfh when you want or feel its appropriate.

The issue I find with "flexibility to work from home" is that if it's conditional / occasional then it's also an outlier, and you're not used to working that way. This is why most "telework" programs are weird - because people that are teleworking are seen as goofing off in their pajamas or somehow disconnected.

If you're fully remote then you need to behave that way even when you're in an office environment. Sure, have in-person meetings when you can, but make sure remote folks are 100% present and enabled, otherwise those that choose to work from home will be less present - even in a healthy WFH culture.

As for loneliness - a couple things help with that. First, get together in person for a week or so every quarter to link up. Second, you don't have to work from an office when you work remote. Third, working in the office starting out to understand the culture then going remote is helpful for networking / understanding the rhythm of those in the office if you do work with full-time office folks. Being within reach can be helpful but not required. I'm close enough to the office that I can go in for big meetings or in-person things without too much heads-up, but I'm not expected to be there, and I'm probably there once a month, max.

As for addiction - clearly you gotta prioritize to make sure that stuff doesn't destroy your life. If remote work doesn't work for you, definitely don't do it. Doesn't mean it's not magic for many of us.


I just joined a team that is partially distributed and noticed that they always use video collab software (team.video) to join a call. Even when 8 people are in the same room and only 1 person is remote - everyone sits in the office with their headphones to do standup, pairing, etc. So, I'd say that the team needs to be remote friendly and actively find tools, ways to make the remote team members feel heard and more integrated with the team.

The best setup for me is like what I have at my current company, where I work from home most days and go into the office two days a week. It's enough time to get face time and get back on the same page with everyone, but with most of the benefits of working from home.

Full time working from home wasn't great for me -- it felt isolating and I found myself running a lot more just to see other human beings. (Of course, running was good, but the motivation for it was kind of weird.) I'm shy and naturally form relationships with people I bump into regularly, but I still have no clue to how to do it intentionally, and I also feel uncomfortable practically living at coffee shops.


The addiction thing was what got me.

I got into a bullshit mobile game, I didn't think it was a big deal to just leave it open all day while I worked.

Checking in between every email, and every commit, to make sure I was perfectly optimizing my in game economy. Eventually I became one of the top players in the world and was spending 4.5 hours a day just to keep my spot in the top 100.


Recognized global standing is incredibly addictive in games, actually

If I placed in a world tournament in Smash Bros that was streamed, then I went on to bomb the next 5 tournaments, I'd probably still be trying to get that glory again


Also any addictive vices can ensnare you e.g. alcohol, pornography, gambling, gaming, etc.

I attend standups/morning meetings virtually and then mosey on into work after the standups.

As I'm not a morning person this has been great for my mental health, and it's a good combo of "WFH" with "real work" without the addiction issues associated with the former.


This is a really important point. I agree WFH and other forms of flex-time is a critical option in todays workplace, but it's not for everyone and everyone needs to be aware of your coworkers state of mind and capacity for self-discipline.

Sometimes it's just "hey...you seem to pretty consistently miss the early meeting...you good?" or "you know you haven't been hitting it like you used to...but you seem to be killing it in EVE Online". But I've been through an employee where it was performance falling off->odd behavior on calls->slurring incoherently on calls->intervention->short term disability. Fortunately, recovery can work and they're back. In the office.


I have also experienced peer pressure to drink when working WITH other people, so I guess that problem can affect people either way.

> a six figure job from the comfort of your own home/office is fucking magic Everyone should get the chance to experience it.

Most people don't get to experience a six figure job, period; the median income at peak earning agree is around $80k.


Where do you live? US median income is closer to US$63k and something like US$40k in the UK.

Median income vs median peak income. I don't know whether the figure is accurate, but it's discussing a different thing.

US household median income is $63k, individual is much lower.

Yes, overall median income is around that, it's higher in some age bands and lower in others: https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/median-salary-by-a...

I experienced it and got more depressed than I'd ever been before. It's absolutely not for everyone.

Yes, but you need some people around the house. Spending entire days without any human interaction is mentally hazardous.

> But even more so, I can't imagine how painful it is for people to sit in traffic every day, stressing they might be late, burning money on fuel and their car, and waking up earlier than they really should.

It's not only cash spend directly, it's also time spend. I was spending 2h a day in public transit, but when I tried to do it in car, it came down to less than 45 minutes a day. The parking was quite expensive so I doubted, I was paying 150$ a month for my public transit pass, but the closest available parking would be 250$ a month. Lets round it up to 1h a day and say that a month is 4 weeks, I was spending 20 hours a month. For some absurd reasons, I wasn't considering my time stuck in movement as part of my job hours. By refusing to pay for the parking, I was essentially saying that my time was worth 5$ an hour.

This is so weird that we all forget that our time lost while we go to work, is still part of our work time. Spending 2h a day in transit, that's accepting a 20% pay cut from the get go.


Conversely, on public transit you can engage in other activities. When I take the train to work, it takes twice as long but I'm able to catch up on e-mails, take a nap, read a book, watch a show, etc. That's not possible while driving so I view it as a net time gain.

I think it comes down to preferences. I have never enjoyed reading, podcasts, or whatever else on cramped public transit, but I do enjoy the alone time of driving and I generally enjoy driving if it's not stop-and-go.

That said, the overall amount of time I spend is still my first priority. I don't want to spend any significant portion of my life going to and from work. I live in Chicago so public transit is 100% the way to go since it's faster and many times cheaper than using a car.


“Now consider if you invest that money over 30 years in some low to medium risk areas and average 10 - 15% per year”

How do you do that?


> How do you do that?

For the last decade, 10-15% average annual return would have required keeping 70-90% of the funds invested in Nasdaq-100[1].

Also, Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFIAX) currently has a 10-year average of 13.52%[2].

The general advice is not to keep more than (110 - your_age)% of your retirement portfolio in these high risk / high rewards funds.

Therefore, it's entirely possible to receive 10-15% annual returns until you turn 40, but as the period of time until retirement shorters, it becomes too risky.

In other words, what is a "medium-risk" at 35, can be a "high-risk" at 55, because one might not have enough time to recover from an economic crisis at an older age.

[1] https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/when-performance-matters%3A-...

[2] https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/profile/overview/...


Small caveat - Looking at 10 yr average right now is not a good measurement for future returns. 10 years ago stocks were just coming out of a recession. Right now they are at all time highs.

Agreed. You can’t assume that the current upswing will go on forever. People learned this in 2000 and 2008.

Nasdaq-100 dropped by -41.89% in 2008, and then went up by +53.54% in 2009. That's it. The only other negative performance since 2002 was in 2018 (-1.04%). If you are a kind of investor who starts selling off in the middle of an economic downturn, of course you will lose.

Just worth noting: 3/5 * 3/2 = 9/10. i.e., dropping 40% then going up 50% doesn't get you back up to 100%. Not saying you implied that it does. Just making this fact explicit.

How about 2000?

The 2000-2002 were an anomaly in the entire 35 years history of Nasdaq-100:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASDAQ-100#Annual_Returns


Wow. On the way up and down. What a time.

That's a good point, but Nasdaq-100 had an average annual return of 13% even when counting from December 31, 2007 – which is before the beginning of the last recession.

You can’t take the absolute low point as your starting point and call it low risk.

The absolute low point was in 2008, when Nasdaq-100 went down by -40.54%.

The last 15 years:

2019 35.23% 2018 -3.88% 2017 28.24% 2016 7.50% 2015 5.73% 2014 13.40% 2013 38.32% 2012 15.91% 2011 -1.80% 2010 16.91% 2009 43.89% 2008 -40.54% 2007 9.81% 2006 9.52% 2005 1.37% 2004 8.59%

At no point I called it low risk. It's high risk / high return. The risk of high financial exposure to such funds can only be taken until 40, because one needs to be able to not sell during the entire economic downturn.


> At no point I called it low risk.

The person who originally mentioned those percentages and started this comment thread (and since edited it down) said low/medium risk.


Most index-fund based retirement investment packages focus on 80/20, 60/40, and 40/60 stock-to-bond split, depending on your current age.

Nasdaq-100 or SP-500 can be a part of a medium-risk investment portfolio as long as the exposure to them is adjusted based on the period of time left until retirement.

It's a medium-risk strategy to keep up to 80% of your retirement portfolio invested in Nasdaq-100 or SP-500 in your 20s, up to 60% in your 40s, and up to 40% in your 60s. As long as the rest of the portfolio is invested in low-risk government bonds.


Please do remember that a 10 year average today, is 10 years from the financial crisis. That is not a very objective measure of future success.

Additionally, the trick is to diversify away the idiosyncratic risk so that all that is left is systematic risk (risk common to all stocks that is unavoidable). One does this by picking stocks that are oppositely correlated so that volatility (aka risk which is measured through variance/ st. dev) is canceled out. The more stocks added to a portfolio, the more the idiosyncratic risk is diversified away; this is called holding the market portfolio. You can learn more my looking up the Capital Asset Pricing Model. Here are additional resources: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1l9TfhvUjCasEMPgWzJtn...

I agree that 10-15% is a little optimistic, but even with a more realistic 4-7% you'd still have $300,000-500,000 at the end of 30 years, which is nothing to sneeze at.

I just get annoyed when people throw around unrealistic numbers recklessly. Between 4-7 and 10-15 percent there is a huge difference.

There is already enough bullshit and delusion going around in investing advice so let’s not add to it.


This source has average historical S&P 500 returns, including dividends, at over 12%:

https://www.slickcharts.com/sp500/returns


vanguard funds, but the good ones I have know of require a $500k initial investment.

Most Vanguard funds, even the Admiral ones, only require $3,000 USD minimum these days. The expense ratio is often 0.15% or less. Index funds are as low as 0.04%.

https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/share-classes


Why is the initial investment so high? Is there a reasoning behind it?

He's talking about a specific class of funds that are sold generally to institutions. Think buying funds in "wholesale"; they have low fees, high minimums. Those same funds can be bought "retail" though, with normal fees and typical minimums ($3k-$10k).

which funds require this?

He's talking about the "Admiral" class of funds which have lower fees but higher minimums. (And most are $50k min, not 500k). Most of these funds can be bought at lower minimums too, they just have higher fees.

I'm invested in Vanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares, and the minimum investment is $3000, with fees of 0.04%. Those are pretty low minimums, and seem to me to be exceptionally low fees, and the average annual return is 13.94% over the last 10 years (before taxes).

I think OP is referring to the "Institutional" class of funds. They have much higher minimums because their target market is pension funds and large 401(k) plans that invest using pooled accounts.

My job is flexible and I could work from home 1-4 days/week. But I still come in 4 days. The socializing is something that I really find worth it. I’ve made a lot of friends at work, and it’s also just nice to discuss technical problems in person.

Working in a different room (NOT your bedroom) is critically important to me. Sometimes it's fun to kick back and code, but the separate space that is yours, optimized for work, and assigned mentally to work is useful in that you can walk away from it and also leave your work behind. Going to bed at night with your laptop stashed close by does not inspire relaxation / restfulness.

Last year we moved out of our old (large) home in Philadelphia, where I had stolen the back 1/3 of the separate garage to be my office. My commute was about 50 feet, but it was to a separate (physically, acoustically, psychically) building.

Now we live in a lovely but much smaller house where I still have an office, but it is inside the house. We've been here for 9 months so far, and we have still not really figured out the details of how I can still "go to work" the way I used back in Philadelphia. My wife only has to speak here, somewhere in the house, and I can hear her.

This may improve when some specific physical details are addressed, but I think they won't solve the whole problem, which is a psychological/emotional/relationship one: how to be in the same "space" as someone else but also make it clear that you're not available.


Totally. This took us months to figure out, even after a lot of "hey this is gonna be hard" pre-planning. I started by sharing Rands' "Nerd in a cave" post among others talking about interruptions and remote work (https://randsinrepose.com/archives/a-nerd-in-a-cave/) - my reactions were... uh... not the most civil initially haha - but then mostly tried a number of things until we got to "as much as possible, please try to contact each other like we're in an office" which is a good convention.

We figure out the schedule of the day before I head "in", we communicate via text, and if that fails typically it's a knock at the door just like in an office. I also mention when I have big meetings or other face-time meetings so there's awareness.

That said, after all of that it was really the threshold for things that caused interruptions was what took the most adjusting.

Most of the day I wear headphones and listen to music, which is helpful - you don't feel compelled to shout answers or run down and help unless the person asks. Eventually though we found our rhythm, and it works well. And we both appreciate that when we need each other, we're right there, and that's great.


Through the joys of expensive real estate I don't have the luxury of separate rooms but personally I've never found it that important. I have a desk that is almost exclusively used for work that seems to fill the role, but even that is more for ergonomic reasons than anything. I feel the social isolation others mention, but that's solved with more regular nightly visits to the pub.

The big thing I need to improve on is simply getting outside more and going for walks during the day. A significant part of my commute was walking and now that's gone.


I recently started working from home, which coincided with a move. This is the specific reason I insisted on a two-bedroom apartment. I think it's made a big difference. I was remote before this, but had a private office in a WeWork, which I went to everyday, even though it wasn't required. This kind of separation is crucial.

> I eventually ended up investing in building my own "detached" office in the back yard

This is the thing I want most in work life right now. I have a separate semi-dedicated office room but it splits time as the guest room and has basically no auditory separation the rest of the house including a 3yo and a 1yo.

Edit: OP would you be willing to share pictures of your space? I love seeing how people set up separate office spaces.


I think you've no idea what commuting costs anymore. 100 a week would be absolutely ridiculous. If the company provides parking you're looking at around 70 per month. If you have to pay for parking that might be as much as 250 per month, so still way below 100 per week. This kind of contribution certainly adds up, but you're not looking at 1 million in retirement funds. Also, you built yourself a detached office, which isn't uncommon and you frequently needed to purchase office supplies and I'm guessing your own hardware and computer software. That's a substantial initial overhead that eats away at how much you might be saving by working from home.

Also, consider that many companies now allow employees to work from home for part of every week while still supplying hardware and office supplies. That 250/70 per month commuting cost is down to about 150/40. Just accounting for the expense of building your home office you could already be in the hole compared to people commuting only some of the time for the same job.

Also, none of this accounts for the additional considerations office's typically provide like free lunches and social/professional networking opportunities.

Personally, I'm a software developer so I can pretty much decide for myself if I want a job that allows me to work from home, and after doing the real math, I found you can basically go either way and expect roughly the same financial outcome, so the real choice is about what you actually want. I like the social aspects, so I take jobs where I can come in and expect coworkers to be present. What you want may be different, but neither option is inherently more advantageous.


If you use the IRS standard rate of $.58 per mile as the cost of driving, then if you have a ~17 mile commute (each way), you'd expect to spend about $100 per week on average. That doesn't include the opportunity cost of your time or parking.

A quick googling suggests that the average driving commute is 16 miles so $100/week seems like a reasonable estimate (again assuming parking is free and you value your time at $0/hr).


How did you teach yourself structuring large projects and test driven development? Did you have any senior engineers mentor you when you just started, or did you just force yourself to pick important skills in software development. I ask because I work remotely a lot of the time, and I am skilled in creating a solution, but I am always worried about if it will be maintainable over time and not be overwhelming when I add features.

> I eventually ended up investing in building my own "detached" office in the back yard

I want to know more about this!


Same. Would love some pics or some advice about what you've done to make this a place that is conducive to getting work done.

but... dat time savings!

Seriously, I'm in a major metro area and my commute is considered "not bad" by local standards...

Working at an office costs me at least three hours a day: - 30 minutes of "getting ready"

- 60 minutes of commute there, at rush hour

- 30 minutes of lunch (usually just grab a sandwich at home)

- 60 minute return commute at rush hour

Bonus Time Savings:

Popping on a headset and taking a walk around the neighborhood during low-participation conference calls and one-on-one discussions (I'm a manager). I can flip 30 - 60 minutes a day into "dual use" time (work + exercise)...


Don't forget the fact that you don't have to buy/rent a home in the more expensive areas of a city. Meaning the money you make is money you can keep and speed up your retirement savings.

You drive home to get lunch?

Leave the office and come back. But if you look at the total time, it adds up.

> Buy a whiteboard and write the goals for the day on it, for instance

As a solo dev the biggest productivity booster for me, from a physical and mental aspect, was purchasing a whiteboard. It honestly feels like some sort of hack. Prior to having one I would use pen and paper but that didn't quite scratch my itch - if I made a mistake I would have to scribble it out and that space was now wasted. I can't quite explain why but on a whiteboard my brain juices just flow. Made a mistake? Wipe it off. Need more space? Wipe it off (or purchase additional whiteboards).

My high school maths teacher once said something that has stuck with me since - "When you're stuck on a problem, start fresh on a blank piece of paper." - he must've meant a whiteboard ;)


The Frixion pens they sell in Japan are incredible for this. They're truly erasable, not like the shitty ones I remember from my childhood. The multi-color pens are especially useful. All the fun of brainstorming and erasability, without the bad smells and imprecise lines of whiteboard markers.

http://www.frixion.jp/lineup/work.html?pid=product_ball-3-sl...


Be careful with those. Their ink is erasable because of the heat generated by friction (hence the name), which also mean content can be erased by other heat sources or in some situation like a notebook put in a car parked under the sun in summer. Moreover, doesn't seems super durable, so for notes that much be keep for long time, it is also not the best solution.

The reverse is true though, try putting it in the freezer and you'll see ;). Erasing them doesn't actually remove the ink, it just make it transparent.

I would never use those to write something important in a notebook. I did this and left it in my bag, the sun shone on the bag and because of the heat most of my notes got erased. Well because friction = heat, so it was the same thing.

You can get it back by throwing it in a freezer, at least I was able to when I should prove someone wrong... :-)

(pilot frixion, blue, bought in Norway)


Here's[1] a proof I recorded a long time ago. Enjoy my notes on virtual memory.

[1]: https://youtu.be/hM4-4G36H7U?t=31


Yea, but if you reuse the paper, it becomes an accidental palimpset with all the layers visible.

I had the same experience, still use them. Most ball point pens are not archival safe anyway, so to remove the guess work I scan my important stuff with my phone's camera anyway. It's my go to method for creating a graph for what I'm writing anyway.

But if I were in uni or something and were forced to maintain multiple projects at the same time(modules) I would probably opt for something else.


Ball point might not be safe for archival, but I can still read the stuff I wrote as a child 30 years ago; the stuff I wrote with fountain pen and its water soluble ink, not so much.

Lately I've grown super fond of "micro" liners, which are 0.3mm water-based ink pens. To me, their feeling when writing is awesome. BUT IT IS WATER BASED. So even a light rain can wreak havoc on my notes.

Ball-point pens don't feel the same, and the colors don't stand out as much to me. I've accepted the fact that water is a dangerous thing to my notes now.


> BUT IT IS WATER BASED. So even a light rain can wreak havoc on my notes.

Water based != water soluble when dry

I would suggest you try similar pens with a different ink. Staedtler Pigment Liner and Sakura Pigma Micron pens (both of which come in 0.3 mm) use water based pigments which are waterproof when dry and archival. They both survive rain quite well in my experience and are used for outlining by some artists who then apply water color paints or other water based media without the dried ink bleeding.

There are also waterproof fountain pen inks. Platinum Carbon and Noodler's Bulletproof Black are two good ones.

For a common counter example to a water based substance being water soluble once dry consider water based exterior latex paint.


Will look into them, thanks for the pointer :)

Unfortunately every pen of this kind I've used suffered from being water soluble after dry, so I just assumed all where.


Cold makes "erased" notes to appear, nothing disappears in reality.

You mean I can put my old, blanked out by sun, notes in the fridge and they will reappear ? If that works you made my day, sir !

Incredible indeed. Please update to let us know if it worked!

It worked ! I'll check if it stays dark but my notes have been restored ! Thanks !

So cool, thanks for sharing.

It worked for me (I was trying to prove someone else wrong.)

Freezer for sure.

Exactly. I tried erasable pens in elementary school and they were more problems than they were worth. Dead tree carcasses are unfortunately "cheaper" than losing work. :'(

Haven't tried it myself, but from what I've heard, putting the paper/notebook in the freezer should bring back the ereased stuff

Yup this works, I use Frixion pens and have done this. On the other hand, if you take your notebook out in freezing temps your erased writing might reappear!

For the original stated purpose of "whiteboarding", they're great. And like others stated, you can recover what you wrote if you really need to by cooling the paper past a certain threshold.

I've used those. I would say that they're not perfectly erasable and it still takes more effort to erase compared to a whiteboard.

I think the biggest thing here is the size of the canvas and the speed at which you can make changes. Sure, markers can be messy and smelly, I will give you that. Regarding the imprecision: when I am brainstorming I am not looking to be precise and I would argue that noone should be aiming for that; prototyping should be messy and quick to mutate.


>I would say that they're not perfectly erasable and it still takes more effort to erase compared to a whiteboard. I think the biggest thing here is the size of the canvas and the speed at which you can make changes.

Some FriXion colors do erase less well than others.

But to address your concern about effort to erase I recommend trying a little butane torch lighter. Little puffs (quick clicks) of a lighter on the FriXion ink is very effective as an eraser. A continuous flame strafed across a page will erase large areas without damaging the paper.

While a lighter might seem a bit inconvenient its much less cumbersome than carrying around a white board and eraser.


They sell them everywhere, under the PILOT brand.

Here's some good low odor dry-erase pens in bulk ($20 USD for 60)... because I lose them, or the monster that also steals remotes and New Zealand from maps has a taste for whiteboard markers too.

Not an affiliate link

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NXVH31G


I picked one up almost 3 years ago for my home office. Also happened to document the process of building one here: https://nickjanetakis.com/blog/build-your-own-8x4-foot-white...

I don't mind spending money but it's hard to pass up $15 worth of materials at home depot and 20 minutes of work instead of buying a pre-made whiteboard for $200.

If anyone is curious, even ~3 years later with a decent amount of usage it works great.


The only problem with hardware store melamine is the performance degrades quickly and they ghost badly with almost any brand of marker that remains on the board for a week or so.

I’ve tried a bunch of hacks including wiping the board with WD40 and have since moved on to glass write boards when and where I can.

I’ve had times in my career where I didn’t have $200 to spend, and the hardware store option is great, but $200, in the end, is a small price to pay if you use the board for more than a year.


> The only problem with hardware store melamine is the performance degrades quickly and they ghost badly

I've had mine for almost 3 years and it's holding up just fine using EXPO markers (also listed in the post). I haven't counted an exact number of times I've used it, but it's a lot. Hundreds of times for sure. I just make sure to clean it semi-regularly which takes about 20 seconds once a month. Maybe yours wore out quickly because you didn't clean it?


Protip for hardware store melamine boards: get a Mr Clean Bar, and use it to erase things regularly. Mr Clean is basically a melamine sponge (no, really), so it works exceptionally well on the hardware store melamine.

I've had the same experience with melamine. I'm currently liking my 3M stick-on whiteboard surface. I think it's mainly made for resurfacing old whiteboards, but I just stuck a sheet on my wall and it has been great: https://www.post-it.com/3M/en_US/post-it/ideas/dryerase/

But it looks like they've discontinued the larger sheets? That's a shame.


For what it's worth, not all melamine boards appear to be the same in this regard. I covered a wall of my office in 4x8 sheets from Home Depot. It held up great. So a few months later I covered another wall, but bought the melamine from Lowes this time. The stuff from Lowes was borderline useless after a few weeks.

Dunno how useful this is as I have no idea how to identify the actual brand/manufacturer of the "good" ones...


$200?!?

The whiteboard that I've been using for the past six or seven years cost me $15 - $20 depending on whatever the exchange rate was back then. I could go measure it, but it's about 40 cm tall by 60 cm wide.


> $200?!?

Google around for 8 foot x 4 foot whiteboards (244cm x 122cm). The pre-made solutions are all in the ~$200 USD range.


I see. That is significantly larger than what I use personally, but at 12 times the area it does explain 10 times the cost.

My problem with those boards was that they would not erase at all. It didn't matter which solution I used, the only one that did anything was Goof-Off, which still took a bit of scrubbing for things that had been left on the board for a little while.

> on a whiteboard my brain juices just flow.

Maybe standing up is also key in making your brain juices flow? Or the act of stepping away from your desk. (Assuming that's your setup)

I have a whiteboard that takes me 5 steps to reach and that definitely helps me


There have been studies that show walking gives a cognitive boost with respect to creativity. Some related to increased blood flow.

For me it's that act that helps, plus gathering stimuli you don't have at your desk which may bump you over a hurdle.

Whiteboards only tend to help me when I get to a problem I can't hold in short-term/working memory.


My PhD supervisor had me do all my writing in pencil. I still do it to this day. Being able to erase is great, but I prefer the permanence and limitless space of paper.

I had the opposite experience in research. I switched from pencil to pen. Reading later (e.g. 15 page math derivations) I could see some of the dead ends I took and mistakes made, while still following the thread.

Additionally, some research results should be stored in an immutable material.


try a fountain pen with erasable blue ink

I had no idea that erasable ink (for fountain pens) is a thing. That’s awesome!

You're going to need this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ink_eraser

(We called it 'ink killer' in school, you were however not allowed to use it the first few years after switching to ink from pencil.)

addendum: And you can get ballpens with the ink as well.


I highly disliked them, the result always looked off to me. At some point in school, I reverted to just striking through everything.

Yes, and they smell like pee

Whats even more awesome: The ink is not erased, but literally made invisible by manipulating the molecues in the ink "responsible for the color". By reverting this chemical process, the ink can be made visible again!

Erasable blue ink tends to fade away after a few month/years if the paper is left a bit exposed to air or humidity, since the eraser uses a chemical that is also present in the atmosphere. So be careful if you intend to use it.

Invented by Pelikan in weimar germany!

I too still use pencil and paper

I have an absolutely huge project folder split into hundreds of topics, and a master ToDo in Excel used as a kind of Kanban/white board, with development notes in Word.

It's clumsy AF - the Excel part works, the Word part could be better - but it's a working solution of sorts, with everything synced across all my devices so I can make some notes on my Macbook while out and then pick up the thread at my desk later.

I tried all the usual alternatives - Trello, Org Mode, paper notebooks, real white boards, and so on - and so far this is the most productive.


take that UML

I have the Trello desktop app staring me in the face all day from a third otherwise-redundant screen, it serves me well to know what is top of the to-do list. A whiteboard is on my to-buy list however.

I started working remotely a few months ago and I've been considering buying a whiteboard instead of the pen and paper approach.

Your post convinced me that it's a good thing to explore, thanks!


Also convinced me! Thanks as well.

For me, whiteboard plus phone camera equals flow. Idea -> snap -> iterate -> snap -> ...

I just use a Google Doc. It allows me to link to details, paste images, etc... ... and if I actually need to diagram: draw.io.

I add a new section for each day in bold, and then list todos beneath.

It's the only productivity habit I've ever kept for more than a year.


This is how I justified getting a Surface Hub for the wall. White board for work, TV at break time. Also nice large screen for watching virtual conferences and training videos.

I have an iPad pro with the "Goodnotes" app installed, I don't miss either whiteboard or paper

I move a lot so i'm carriyng a nice rollable sheet of pvc whiteboard.

Are there any large standing whiteboards that people would recommend?

I don't need either, my brain is enough. I sincerely believe if you eat and breathe this, you don't need either.

When people envision working from home, it seems that "wearing pajamas" is a common trope.

That is not a good idea.

The thing about clothes is that they're part of a routine. I.e. I wake up, make some tea, put some fresh clothes on, turn on my computer, and now I'm in work mode. Ideally. In practice it doesn't always work like that, but it's still far better than waking up and just sitting down in front of my computer. Having a routine is really important for not getting lost.

They don't have to be business clothes or whatever, but just something fresh for the day. I'm the sort of nerd that wears chinos and a button up shirt even though I work from home and don't have video calls.

---

In addition, blurring work and personal life isn't good. You ideally don't want to work in the same room that you sleep, but this can't be avoided sometimes.

Variety is also key. Sometimes I go out and get work done from a local cafe for a change of pace.


As a woman the opportunity to wear clothes just for their warmth and comfort is something I will never turn down. Being able to wear pyjamas was definitely one of the top things about working from home. Men don't have the same issues of unpractical clothing and being judged on their appearance.

This misses the point I was making. Wearing pajamas is fine, I was referring to the clothes that one slept in. Changing to something fresh is what I meant.

I'm male but my legs get cold from time to time, also, so I keep a small blanket near my desk and a space heater during the winter.


Ah right. I got it.

I'll invest in bed pajamas, work pajamas, breakfast pajamas and lunch pajamas & dinner pajamas.

I'm not at all being snarky here. I haven't decided if I'm being serious. I would happily wear flannel clothes EVERYWHERE given the chance. Being naked has never really appealed to me but wearing soft, fragranced, soft, woolen clothing every where?

Sign me up!


"Men don't have the same issues of unpractical clothing and being judged on their appearance"

There's research to indicate that attractive men make more than unattractive men, and the variance is greater than with women:

"Results indicated that more attractive men had higher starting salaries and they continued to earn more over time. For women, there was no effect of attractiveness for starting salaries, but more attractive women earned more later on in their jobs."

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229657356_Attractiv...

While that doesn't address unpractical clothing, I think it does address the last part.


There’s a difference between pajamas and comfortable clothes though. One can wear jeans, sweats, workout clothes, or other things that you could leave the house in, while not getting into full “office” attire.

I think this is a critical item for working at home. You want to be wearing something that you wouldn’t mind answering the door in, or if you had to run an unexpected errand. (and contrary to what the People of Walmart site shows, it is not appropriate to be doing those things in pajamas).


maybe to elaborate OP's point; I never feel fully waken up if I haven't taken a shower and put on a clean set of clothes. I'll also just muck around and procrastinate way more, because the line between working and not working hasn't been crossed yet. Hope this makes sense

This so much. During the winter, I've had the option to work from home, and taken it just to wear lined sweatpants and sit by my personal heater in my home office rather than in an open office with a door one row open.

> Men don't have the same issues of unpractical clothing and being judged on their appearance

You missed the incessant satire of Trump's appearance then?


Agreed. Mindset / routine is important here - not just to get you started but also to separate home and work.

I wear office dress code most days (or some comfier version that is "nice-enough-for-video"). I work in a separate room, whose door I can close when the day is over. I've asked my family to text me or call just like they would at an office if they need something or want to talk.

When the day ends, the laptop and door closes, and my commute is short, but those subtle differences make it a change that works, and allows me to relax.


Agreed. When I worked from home I did everything I would do to prepare for a day in a regular office except the clothing selection was fully casual. My one biggest rule was that I had to wear regular street shoes. If I was wearing slippers or just socks, my mindset was that I wasn't "at work."

I agree that having a routine is important. But I think what makes the routine is up to the individual, clothes may be important for some, but not for others.

Sometimes I have unproductive weeks. It can be hard to overcome the miasma by refactoring code or picking favourites.

I have found the easiest way to get out of the funk is to start making Todo lists of my life. Get the things out of the way that are bothering me or need to be done as a priority and then slowly chip away at it.

Productivity isn't something you can hack. There is a maximum that you can do without sacrificing the quality of your work, and your goal should be to maximize quality, not to plan your day out in five minute intervals, that's a great way to burn out.


> plan your day out in five minute intervals, that's a great way to burn out

Oh for sure. I've tried planning the day's development into discrete tasks in 15, 30, etc. -minute blocks, and it's chaos. It's essentially micromanaging yourself onto an obstacle course where every 15, 30, etc. minutes you have the pressure of a hurdle to get over or else you're behind and feel demotivated. And development isn't linear - especially not on the scale of a day where you'll be revisiting and revising things - so making the development tasks discrete and completable in 30 minutes is a model that just doesn't match how reality works.

A more successful approach for me has been to set high-level targets on the scale of 5 or 10 hours that I can pace myself toward.


Achievable goals for the day on a sheet (digital or real) that you can cross off is a great perpetual motivator, especially if you reinforce it -if you need it- with rewarding yourself (peptalk or giving yourself a little slack/something)

It can also can be very satisfying at the end of a project to take at the long laundry list you’ve conquered (and sent the final invoice ;)


You might be interested in the dynamic described here: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200130-the-life-hack-...

I can attest to the efficacy of scheduling life things with respect to mitigating the ambient cognitive load of life. Otherwise, you can fall prey to what feels like boredom, or the next best thing, which is cleaning the house/doing chores as a form of procrastination.

Beware: getting things out of the way first is a common mindset leading to never achieving long-term goals. There are always important tasks in life that aren't the most important at any given moment (and perhaps never are.)


The most important things are long-term, and therefore don't seem urgent. The days may be long, but the years are short, and unless you specifically make time to work on important long-term things, they just won't get the attention they deserve.

That said, people often use less important things as a way to avoid dealing with the big ones. I often get to the end of the day and know I got a lot done, but also know I was avoiding something bigger all day.


I have had months and probably an unproductive year. But 25 years developing one application from conception to sell out is a long time. The payoff for creative work isn’t controllable or predictable.

Chiming in, I've had several low-productive years at my previous jobs, the assignments just weren't for me and I had some over-eager colleagues who I couldn't keep up with.

Switched jobs and I've got a ton of stuff to get on with, mostly self-managed as well. So far (a few months in) it's done wonders for my productivity and I've churned out more code (that I'm actually quite happy with) than I have in the year preceding it.

Not a remote job, but 1-2 days / week are spent working from home and given that my task list is still quite fresh and I'm not bogged down yet with my own poor decisions / tech debt they're usually pretty productive as well.


I have switched from working in bedroom, to working in a dedicated office, to working in a co-working space, to working from home in a dedicated office.

1. Working from the bedroom is hell. It's fun for the first few months but then you are likely to have severe eye strain and become very sleepy.

2. Working from a real office sets boundaries and forces a schedule. You have to wake up at xx:xx time and drive to office. But traffic for a downtown area is hell, so is finding a parking spot, finding a reasonable place to eat, etc... After a while, I got bored of the fact that there is little human communication since I was alone in the office. Also, I thought about all the time I wasted commuting to the office.

3. Working from a co-working space was a boost for the first 2-3 months then downhill. I need multiple monitors, my own whiteboard, where to put stuff, etc... It's not very sustainable. And everyone seeing what you were working on was not really for me.

4. Working from a dedicated office in my apartment was a good change; but after 1.5 years, I feel like I have become super-lazy to do any going outside and more likely to instead go to the bedroom for a quick nap.

I'm thinking now of renting an office but instead in the residential area I live in (think 2-5 minutes drive, 10 max). That should be the best of both worlds; though my only concern is that the residential area is super sleepy and it might affect my mood.


If you can rent an office in walking distance of your home, there’s nothing better. It gets me out and walking around a bustling little one-stoplight town. I get privacy, focus, and quiet, but I also get fresh air and connection to people in my town. Commuting by foot is really pleasant, if you live in a pedestrian-friendly place.

The best for me was working out of co-working space BUT not the one you imagine. It was actually from an office of a company I worked for before. About 5 people, modern, spacious, 15 minutes walking distance from my home. Literally not a single con. I just paid for my old desk space and that was it. I always suggest people to do the same - don't go to dedicated co-working space. I never understood that concept. Try to find a company that would rent you out a desk, in a walking distance from your home. Ideally with 24/7 access ass well. I had my screen there and only carried my notebook. Unfortunately after years, the moved to smaller space and there was no space for me, which sucks. I haven't worked outside home since :(

I tried renting a desk at a co-working space as an alternative to working from home. The space was nice - modern, nicely decorated, quiet. However, the internet connection was managed by monkeys who hard-limited everyone to 5mbps on the Wi-Fi network and blocked everything non-HTTP on the wired one. As an employee of a company who makes heavy use of video conferencing and, well, lots of non-HTTP things, it was completely unworkable. Got a refund and cancelled two days later.

> It was actually from an office of a company I worked for before. About 5 people, modern, spacious, 15 minutes walking distance from my home. Literally not a single con. I just paid for my old desk space and that was it.

I have always felt like there is a market here. I work remotely, but want somewhere to work from consistently for a few days a week. I've tried coffee shops, coworking spaces, etc, but none of them replicate the social aspect of working in an office (which is something I somewhat miss). I'd love to find a local company that has some extra space that would rent me a desk, but I'm not really sure how to approach it short of cold calling a bunch of places.


i made a website for renting and selling real estate - worldwide. visually close to airbnb(ie. big map on the screen) and quite unique filtering mechanism for the ads(i've yet to see anything close to it). essentially the point was to connect buyers and sellers directly because i think real estate agents are just leeches that have no place in 21st century. it was completely free and the goal was to sell ad space. it had not only homes and flats but warehouses, offices and anything else you can think of. one of the things i made point of having was exactly what we are talking about - a rentable desk space. unfortunately, these days, these types of projects live and die with how much money you are willing and able to put into advertising. it is not like in early 2000s or 2010s where a good idea could make it. today, everything has been done and everything has top players(whether service or software). so innovation won't do shit anymore. your success is solely based on ads and getting the name out there(essentially brute-forcing your way to the market). so in the end i killed the project.

though one thing i began working on was my own map tile rendering. i had a free provider(since google and others are insanely expensive for this specific type of project) but i wanted to make my own, for fun. and recently i quit working on a one of my big projects so with a ton of free time on my hands i am thinking of trying again and relaunching the project.


For dedicated co-working spaces I think it depends on the person. For me I really like having different people working on different projects around me, developers, artists, writers, etc. I am a fairly social yet introverted person so I really enjoy the atmosphere of a co-working.

I've been working at a dedicated office at the house of a family member who also works from home, ~2.5 miles away. As long as it's not raining or too cold (below ~25°F/-4°C), I bike there in the morning. Other days I either drive or work from home. Although I prefer on site, this feels ideal for remote:

- Exercise most mornings - Ability to socialize - Comfortable space - Privacy - Work/home boundaries - Fridge to store food in, and ability to leave my laptop there so I don't have to carry anything on my bike ride (I use my desktop at my house).

This would also be workable at the house of a sufficiently close friend, I think.

I also like voice or video conferencing with others, without actually talking to them, just working at the same time. It helps build some of that "coworking space feel" without most of the downsides.


Do you exercise on a regular basis and do you have sufficient in-person social contact?

The trade-offs you describe ring true to me, I'm in a similar situation. I'm not sure changing your office will be a permanent solution for you.


'I'm thinking now of renting an office but instead in the residential area I live in (think 2-5 minutes drive, 10 max)...'

I have been on a similar journey and now rent an office in small town centre (10 minutes drive from home). It gives me the discipline to work set hours and also the freedom to walk around where other people are going about their business so I don't feel isolated. It's also useful for shops, cafes, bars (for after work) and such.

No solution is ever going to be ideal but this is the nearest I have come so far.


It seems like you are just enjoying the change of the scenery and surroundings, which gives you the boost of energy and productivity. After a while you get used to a new location too much and the start finding some issues and inconveniences, explaining in hindsight to yourself why you dislike that particular place.

Perhaps you can just switch your working area every 4-6 months (does not really matter where) and be happy and productive all the time?


I rent an office two minutes from my home and it’s been a huge productivity boost for me since switching from my dedicated office at home.

> 1. Working from the bedroom is hell. It's fun for the first few months but then you are likely to have severe eye strain and become very sleepy.

Do you mean actually working from bed? If not, I don't understand this. I work from a spare bedroom and it's as good as any office. It is an office, in a way.


I think it he means, using your normal bedroom where you sleep as an office.

Spare bedroom that is an office, is basically your office.


I thought so too, but explicitly pointing out eyestrain and sleepiness got me confused.

There is some law that changing environmenteal conditions increases productivity, which then reverts to the mean, regardless of what the change is. I wonder if that's what's happening here.

I also vary my work space, but I don't think one is necessarily the best, I think the mind is just made for variety.


Related (but maybe not exactly on the head of the nail): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect

Thanks for reporting. It feels like web 2.0 made us all wanting to reevaluate the old habits, only to realize that they were good compromises (unless you have a crazy team member, a crazy commute etc)

I went from bedroom > home office > shared office

The shared office space has been by far my best situation. My main drive is preventing loneliness, working from home can be very isolating for me. My shared co-working space is expensive, but gives me a sense of having colleagues. Given this situation/requirement I don't think I would want to 'upgrade' to renting a private office.

My office is about a 20 minute bike ride away from my home. I think I have used my car maybe twice in the past year.


I moved to doing basically what you suggest at the end and would highly recommend it. I rent space in a shared office about 10 minutes walk from my apartment. I still have a desk and monitor at home if I ever feel like working there too.

I think the optimal solution is to be able to alternate between the last 3 ones.

> You would think that the more time you spend working, the more results you produce.

No, if you are a remote worker who sits at a desk and forces yourself to work at specific times solely because you feel you should be working, you are doing it wrong.

Go the other way. Figure out what times naturally work best for you, and work at those times. If you are sluggish in the afternoon, take breaks. Work early mornings, late nights. Go spend time with kids if you have them. Then sit down and work while they spend an hour at a friends house after dinner.

If you are remote, you should not be spending more time working. You should be working less hours, but more effectively.


>Go the other way. Figure out what times naturally work best for you, and work at those times.

As someone with a tendency to procrastinate, this advice would easily turn into an excuse to avoid working at all. The best advice I ever got is that you don't need to feel motivated to do something - waiting to feel motivated is a trap. I think self-discipline is really important for remote work or working on personal projects at home.


I don't know about this to be honest.

I don't feel like I'm being more flexible than when I was working in an office, because I worked in a company with a "get stuff done, butt-in-chair doesn't matter" attitude. Hence I could just go to the dentist in the middle of the day or arrive at 11.30AM if I wanted to.

But now that I work from home, I actually like having a predictable schedule. Plus on top of that, even when you work remotely you still have meetings so that limits the flexibility a bit.

I don't think I'm doing it wrong. But it might not work for everyone.


I would tend to agree with this. I might be working from home but that doesn't mean that I want work to bleed into all of my waking hours.

Nobody at work would mind if I needed to pop out during the day or do something, but equally, I think it's important to have some boundaries where I can turn the computer off after a certain time and not think about work. I certainly wouldn't want to be going back to it at 9pm unless there was a good reason to.


If that works for you, then you are doing it right, even if it is a traditional schedule. The "wrong" part is when you force yourself to a schedule that doesn't work, simply because of expectations of the "proper" hours to be in your seat.

I agree, but my employer runs a scrum meeting each morning. I've talked to them about moving the time later, but they are inflexible. Thus, I typically work starting at that time until quitting time. It's far from my most productive time, but it's forced upon me. They get whatever productivity I can scrounge up. If that's not much because I'm not working at peak hours, and often working at the worst possible hours for productivity, that's their problem. If they were flexible with this inane, pointless, stupid meeting, they would get productivity. Instead, they only get it when I need to do other things during the day, simply by coincidence. It's frankly amazing to me how employers ignore little changes that could impact things in a major way. But they do it on purpose. No one expects peak productivity anyway, and if they do, they really need to provide the incentives towards that goal. Otherwise, they get what they get, whether that be a new feature or bugfix or a few hours of HN. It's a crap-shoot. Whatever, it's literally not my business and therefore, I do not give a fuck about productivity since there are no incentives to do so.

seems like a no-win situation, unless everyone is on the same productivity curve as you. if they moved the meeting, couldn’t that negatively affect your coworkers?

i'm a morning person and am pretty useless later in the day now. it wasn’t like this when i was younger.


I doubt it as the meeting is pointless bullshit for the managers like all scrum meetings I've ever been part of. Also, there is no need to be alert or mentally present for it. The engineering team is ok with moving it, but management isn't. Also, I'm talking about 10:30 or 11 instead of 9:30. It's not exactly a huge move. Starting the day off with the most unproductive task possible, is a terrible idea. I'm not a morning person, but I do get decent work done once I'm awake. I bet it's even worse for morning people to have half an hour to an hour at the start of their day be a pointless, monotonous meeting hearing about other people's projects that one simply does not give a fuck about (every scrum meeting ever).

I agree. That was a rhetorical statement, but looking back in hindsight, maybe I wasn't clear.

I didn't mean that the more time you spend working, the more results you produce. The Parkinson's law states the opposite - if you have more time in your hand, you will most probably be less productive and produce less results compared to the actual time you spent working on it.


This doesn't work if you have a family or involved with anyone that has a regular 9-5.

Most businesses will also have meetings during regular business hours.


Probably echoing something that's already been said here, but my number 1 advice to being high performing from your bedroom is _don't_ work from an actual bedroom. There's a psychological baggage of being in the room that you sleep in that shorts circuits the part of your brain dedicated to being up an active. It's not always possible but if there is another room with a flat surface in your home, do anything to make that your distraction free workstation. Did wonders for my productivity.

I personally hate working from home, and will only do it if there are reasons I can't work somewhere else, such as needing to be home for a plumber or being sick. I'd rather work anywhere else, whether that's an office, a library, or even a cafe.

My house is my sanctuary, it's my safe space where I can retreat back to after a day of work. I put a high priority on keeping my work life and my personal life separate. I won't work on weekends unless it's an emergency (I'm also usually not sober enough to work for those 48 hours anyway, even if the called).


> I personally hate working from home, and will only do it if there are reasons I can't work somewhere else, such as needing to be home for a plumber or being sick.

Why are you working if you're sick?


You mean you actually get sick leave in your country? cries in American

While lots of American companies have utterly shit sick and vacation policies (I have friends who lose vacation days if they use up sick days which is fucked up), the company I work for has been very good at this. If you are sick, stay home. If you feel like working, eh ok, but you are encouraged to rest up. There are better companies out there.

colds are contagious for almost 2 weeks, but the symptoms are really mild and not disruptive.

Why do you hate working from home?

> And most importantly, turn off your WhatsApp and Instagram notifications on your phone.

This one thing will make you high performing software developer working from anywhere in the world.


Jokes on you, I hardly get one Instagram notification a day.

hahaha,They are Great Time Killing Machine. They take time away from you before you even realize it.

> Refactoring usually is not going to be as tasking as working on a new feature

Maybe if you wrote the entire codebase yourself just a week ago so everything is still fresh in your memory.

In most real-world situations that is not the case, and refactoring becomes a careful task that leads to regressions even with testing in place.


I agree with you. Refactoring some one else's code, or even your own code after a few months is definitely not going to be a no-brainer.

For me 2 things helped to overcome the "drag" work:

- I only work from one place in my house, and it's not the bedroom. It's a dedicated desk. I do not work from anywhere else, and I don't do anything other than work at that desk.

- When I need to work on something boring, I set the time on my Apple watch to 1 hour, and get to work. When the timer is done, whether the work is done or not, I take a break.

In rare cases where I need to keep track of a ton of stuff, I haven't found anything better than a spiral bound notebook.


I'm single dad with 3 young kids and I would never change from working from home. After leaving the kids at daycare in the morning, I come home and quickly clean up the house. I do stuff like meal prep and laundry in pauses during the day. I spend quality time with my kids in the evening instead of doing chores. When they go to bed, I can relax, read a book and workout. I don't know how I would do any of this with 1-2 hours of commute.

In term of productivity, I'm more productive at home without the distraction of a workplace. I don't have any special setup. Just a laptop really. Not even headphones. I have a nice office space setup in my basement with a whiteboard and an extra monitor but I rarely use it. I'm more often working from the kitchen or living room.

I still love going to the workplace (or another place) from time to time. There's no substitute to interacting with people in real life.


I've been a remote employee for 10 years now (plus 4 being a freelancer) and I've tried every productivity hack under the sun and the only thing that has worked for me is: do meaningful work.

And be ready to catch that wave of productivity when it hits. Personally I can't work 8 hours straight. I try to make work a part of life, and it's not bad since it's a creative job. Have some structure to fall back on but take advantage of the flexibility when it is useful. Get Excersise in during the day, your mind a body will have more energy. Go to a coffee shop/library and get around other people. Get in your 8 hours in the most comfortable way possible.

> The best thing to do in that situation is to accept the fact that you are not feeling in the zone. But the solution is not to give in into that feeling and start binge watching NetFlix either

Ah I disagree, as a sample side of one.

I tried pushing through for a while and doing a small amount of work / refactoring, but it didn't really click.

Finally decided to try not working on the days I wasn't in a groove, and have found that if I do, I have much better ideas and crank out a massive amount of work over the next couple days until I wake up feeling out of the zone.

Most people would probably benefit from not having a 2 day block weekend, but rather having downtime on say Sunday and Thursday. In the same way athletes have staggered rest days.

I'm lucky enough to have a job where I can do this, but it was also a semi-requirement during my last job search.


What are some good ways to avoid distractions? I often find myself watching YouTube/Netflix or on steam for endless hours before realizing it

I find that reducing the number of decision making events by relying on a routine helps. When and where are you endlessly watching Youtube or Netflix? Is it the first thing in the morning after you grab your phone or is it happening at your desk. Depending on the answer, you want to establish a routine so you don't have to think about what you want to do next.

Let's say it's your phone first thing in the morning that is causing this problem. You could put your phone and charger far away from your bed. Then establish a sequence of actions that take you from bed to desk, without getting anywhere near your phone.

This is not an all-or-nothing method, where you fail even if you miss one step in the sequence in your routine. You start by making one or two adjustments and then build on your success.


I start a timer on my phone and run it up to ~ 8 hours to mark the end of the day. While the timer is running, I don't do anything too leisurely (e.g., playing video games). If I want/need to do something unrelated to work, I stop the timer.

The idea isn't to work exactly 8 hours per day. It's to get a sense of how much of my time is going towards work-related activities.


Check out my app: https://getcoldturkey.com

Recognizing that you cannot produce value while multi-tasking was enough for me.

You're just doing surface-level work if you're able to watch Youtube videos.


The author's spelling of "NetFlix" bothered me a lot more than it should.

More than the lack of padding on mobile?

I work remotely and I agree with everything here except the title: don't work from your bedroom, have a dedicated space for it at home even if it's part of the living room. If you can afford a separate room for it, do that instead.

To those who have invested time in making a "task breakdown table":

Have the benefits of contextualizing your short-term goals outweighed the cost in time it takes to make the table for small tasks?


Yeah I wonder.

Seems optimistic to be able to breakdown a project into 15 minute intervals.

Personally I do keep Todo lists, but it's more like scratch that I append many notes to.

I don't see the advantage in guessing how long each task will take down to the minute and then writing that into a table.


I think it helps more with the issue of you just overcoming laziness and wasting time otherwise - naps, games, phone,...

High-paid developers do not typically do "Finalize the columns of the Users table" kind of tasks. Typically, you have a set of complex products, and spend your days in reviewing designs and defining product requirements. The kind of tasks in this article is for beginner devs, and these rarely work fully unsupervised, hence pajama work is off the table

If finalizing the data scheme for a core concept like "users" is a junior task, I fear for your ops team. At any rate, they're example tasks...

Working from home is my natural mode for the last 20 years. I use basement so privacy/distraction is not a concern. So far works just fine for me. I own/co-own couple of companies but no other employment. I mainly develop and maintain/sell/lease my own products and do the same thing as a consulting gigs for other companies.

For years I have worked remotely. And I think that I was more productive these days than when work regulary. All these advices I saw here, in my opinion are rubbish. Just sit down and do your work, all you need is your PC , pen and notebook. If you have difficulties to work in such manner change your job.

The API example seems a bit weird once you learn about API generators such as API Platform (Symfony), which basically generates the whole thing the author talks about in a couple of commands.

Learning the right tools is an important part of being a high performing dev.


I find "create x entity API" is a lower focus type task. I would argue that high functioning differentiator is the thinking/focus time deciding what and how to build. The implementation details are obviously very important to be able to execute skillfully, but the idea generation and "big picture" vision of how software engineering projects will come together is more valuable than how many loc/apis/whatevers you can crank out in a day.

I'm a college student and do most of my work from my dorm room, which is also where I sleep, eat, and socialize. For me, lighting is the main thing that helps me differentiate "work mode" from not-work mode. I have a video light mounted above my desk and a couple of bright 5600k plant lights in my window, all of which are on a light timer, in addition to my desk lamp. When I do work during the day, my desk is very well-lit. At night all of these get turned off (sometimes I turn the video light back on but set it to a much warmer color temperature and lower brightness for ambiance).

I like the concept of working on your favorite part of the project when you don't feel like it.

Great trick!


Nowadays I find it more important to define what "high performance" means to me and enjoy it when it happen by itself instead of forcing myself into a scheme while destroying my health and happiness.

Sometimes for me the KPI is digging deeper than anybody else can and solve a real root cause issue. Sometimes it means simply not being in zombie mode in the evening (i.e. yes, actually working less). Sometimes it means finding something that may be less efficient but everybody can agree and do together.

In each of these cases having the right kind of tea and tea cup at hand is much more important than training the best scheduling techniques. ;-)


This is very unrealistic. Real life is, I will be constantly disturbed by slack, email, meetings, people petting on my shoulder. Other than all these, I probably can have 1 or 2 hours a day to concentrate on the actual development

but yeah, working remote could avoid some of that, but only some

Everyone is different so this is only a "maybe think about this" tidbit and not advice:

I carved about 100sqft out of the corner of my bedroom for an office. And it worked well for a while. But I eventually found that I needed complete separation between home and work. I found myself always kind of at work and not sleeping as well.

So I moved my office into a basement room. The view isn't as nice but there's a concrete concept of leaving the office, shutting the door, and that's that. And now my bedroom is for sleeping (or sometimes building a fort).


I experienced a dramatic positive impact changing my home work environment from a dark, cramped area to a bright, sunlit room. Similarly I found that my productivity is significantly better standing (queue standing desk.) What’s remarkable in this story is how long it took me to realize how important the environment is to how successful you are.

I have been very lucky in that I’m completely flexible for working at home (in my study) or the office. I can say with certainty that I’m more productive (on average) at home than in the office. However, something I never imagined would be the case became reality:

I enjoy going into the office more. I simply miss the social aspect and the ability to chat about difficult problems in a break out space.

There’s definitely something to be said about the desire or dream of working from home and the reality of what your personality prefers.


Is there a reasonably priced VESA-monoitor-arm attachable whiteboard out there? Something like this[1] that's cheaper, or should I just build my own?

[1] https://www.ergotron.com/en-us/products/product-details/98-4...


No idea, but if you can't think of anything else there's bound to be an iPad mount and a whiteboard around that size you could combo up

My gut reaction is that that's way too niche for a VESA mount adaptor/spacer, normal whiteboard, and glue not to be cheaper.

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