Special Tools | Daily Schedule

About a year and a half ago events (good ones) in my life lead to me becoming an American Expat in Vietnam. When I told my current “stateside” employer that I was leaving we ended up coming to an arrangement. We agreed that we would try the “working remote” thing for three months and then decide if it was working or not. I still work for them as a full time employee so it has been successful.

Working as a remote web developer required that I have a few special tools (on both ends) to make sure the workflow, well, flowed.

Special Tools I Use

1) Skype. I signed up for an unlimited call within the U.S. plan and also signed up for a local phone number to the office. This enables me to easily interact with clients and maintain a presence inside our phone system all without long distance charges. This costs me around $30 dollars every three months for both services.

2) My own Virtual Machine. Locally we have a large file server and our own network that I need to interact with easily. To do this we created my own little VM that I can remote into and perform any functions at the office just as if I had a terminal onsite.

3) DropBox. To interact with my VM easily and move files around from my local machine I use a DropBox account. This also enables staff at the office to move files onto our shared network storage areas so I can pull them down easily to get them on my machine here. You could just as easily use any of the active sync cloud services.

4) Some of the obvious communication pathways are email and IM services (they prefer ICQ). You must be able to write email that can be understood and articulate instructions. You are not at the screen to point at things to SHOW people what you mean. I send a lot of screen shots with red circles on them sometimes.

5) VPN - I pay for a premium VPN.  I use the Diamond bundle from Giganews.com which includes Usenet search tools and unlimited transfer through VyprVPN.  This is really helpful in getting around any blocked sites. With an official “stateside” IP address my package is complete.  It is important to also note that sometimes routing all my data through the VPN is just a lot faster than going through all the crazy filters they have here. There are some weeks were I will go with it on 100% of the time.

My Typical Daily Schedule (my time zone)

  • Wake up 6:30am – 7:30am and roll-over to check my phone for new emails and tag any new items to deal with as “Priority” in Gmail.  Gmail labels are how I keep track of what I have to do. If I don’t get an email there is a good chance it could get missed.
  • If there are no emergency items or “must be done now” correspondence I lay in bed with the Girlfriend until we have to get ready for the day.
  • 8:30 – 9:30 Coffee is made, shower is had, clothes are put on, and some breakfast is had (usually vitamins, Creatine, and protein shake). I’m not one of those “work in your PJs” types.
  • 9:30 – Noon the official work day begins (respond to emails and get cracking on my list of ToDos)
  • Noon – 1pm Lunch time with the Girlfriend and we usually watch some sort of TV show that I’ve downloaded. (Currently watching Psych, Elementary, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory and Once Upon A Time)
  • 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm Sometimes I’ll try to catch a nap here (customary for everywhere but the U.S.) but I still cling to the U.S. way of life so I usually see the Girlfriend off on her nap and then get back to work.
  • 2:30 pm – 5:00 pm Gym GYM GYM! (Yea buddy!) This includes the commute, the workout, the shower after, and the post workout meal.
  • 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm There is a balance between work and family time when you work from home. Depending on the deadlines and workload this fluctuates between time spent with family and work.
  • 10:00 pm – 12:00 am My American co-workers get to work (it is now 8 am of the day I am ending) and I stay around for two hours. This is when most meetings and conversations take place.
  • 12:00 am – 12:30 am Evening bathroom time for showering, teeth, toilet etc.
  • Lastly I check for any messages or missed Skype calls while I was in the bathroom. Sometimes this means I’m up till 2 or 3 fixing things or helping someone (that is a bad day and rare. It guarantees that I will be taking that nap the next day). But usually there isn’t anything so I go to sleep and do it all over the next day.

That is basically the only special considerations required. This whole, “we need you on-site” is hogwash. The tools are here and the world is connected well enough. I’ve done a full days work over a 3G tether from my phone on a moving train through the jungle. I’ve also sat through just as many useless meetings and yammering conversations as I did when I was in the office. I even attended the office Christmas Party via Skype and a Webcam.

The only thing I miss about having a “regular” work day is that there was always a specific block of time where I could say, “Okay, it is 5pm. Work is done and I can relax.” I don’t have that anymore. It is very difficult to create that feeling of “being done” when you work from home and are on different time schedules.

Can’t beat the view some days though.

officeview

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