In my previous article I talked about the basics that you need to work from home. This time I’m going to get into some issues that get a little bit beyond basic and into personal preference. These include music, beverages, file synchronization, time tracking, and invoicing.
“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” and help that beast knock items off their to-do list. I’m not going to tell you what type of music you should listen to but I am going to make a suggestion about how to listen to it. As strange as that may sound there are ways, in my experience, that are better than others. While working, music is most effective as a background noise. It should mainly be used to soften the effects of bumps, creaks, as well as kids and pets around the house.
If you’re working from home there shouldn’t be as much noise as if you are working from a coffee shop. So having the in-your-face sound of headphones is unnecessary. And personally I prefer not to have computer speakers right in front of me because the sound is, once again, in-your-face.
Having the house stereo on a room or two away is a good way to go because the sound is not in-your-face, it’s far enough away that you won’t get up to change it every time there’s a song that doesn’t suit your mood, and you can set the volume so that it’s not too loud at your desk.
Invoicing and Time Tracking
If you work from home the chances are good that you are your own boss. If this is the case you’re the one doing the invoicing and time tracking. The program I use to do both of these is FreshBooks.
FreshBooks is an online app from some great people in Canada. They have automatic billing that can be done via e-mail or snail mail, payment tools such as PayPal, Authorize.Net, and Google Checkout, CRM integration with Salesforce, Highrise, and Capsule. Yes there is a free option to try it.
It’s great because you can have your invoices set to go out once a month, with friendly reminders sent out every 15 or 30 days someone is late. This means you no longer have to worry about it. You simply login and on the home screen you can tell exactly how much you’ve billed for the month, how much has already come in, how much is still due, and how much is overdue. By clicking on any of these amounts you can find which clients in which invoices apply. This is such a simple system for billing and invoicing I will never ever recommend anybody use QuickBooks again.
I previously mentioned that you should have a laptop computer. And if this is your only computer I stand by that but if you can afford the luxury of having two computers, I highly recommend having a desktop as well as a laptop computer. Now the problem with having two computers lies in keeping your data synchronized between the two. I found a great program that solves this problem and you don’t ever have to manually download anything. You don’t have to do anything except set it up to automatically synchronize. This software that I’m talking about is called GoodSync Pro by SiberSystems.
Anybody can register a domain these days and get web hosting extremely cheap. And many of these web hosts give you unlimited or many gigabytes worth of storage. Have you ever wondered what to do with that storage? Here’s your answer. Backup and synchronize your data.
So this is a brief overview of how it works. You install GoodSync on your two computers and select the folders that you would like to have synchronized between them. You then select your backup medium (I use a folder on my web hosting via FTP but it could be a USB drive, internal server, network attached storage…) and select synchronize. Any time a change is made, a new is file created, or an old is file deleted, it replicates the change to your backup medium. The next time your other computer synchronizes it sees the changes that are made and duplicates them. You now have the same data on both computers and you don’t have to worry about which one has the most recent data because you keep everything synchronized automatically.
And now for my most controversial recommendation of the two articles… Avoid caffeine. I know that just about anybody who sits behind a computer all day has a serious caffeine habit. This is not healthy. Maybe you drink caffeine because it gives you focus, maybe keeps you awake, or maybe you think it gives you clarity. But I guarantee you there are better ways of doing all of these without the crash that caffeine brings.
If you want mental clarity, protein does a much better job. Go pick up a bag of protein powder from Costco or Sam’s Club and mix one scoop with about 10 ounces of water. Come back in 30 minutes and tell me how you feel. Protein does a much better job of keeping your mind clear and there isn’t the crash associated with coffee and tea.
If you need to stay awake, use a vitamin B complex. Vitamins B6 and B12 are absolutely amazing for the way they can keep you awake and give you mental clarity. Again vitamins B6 and B12 don’t have the crash that you get from caffeine. A combination of these vitamins approximately once a day and a protein shake twice a day will keep you alert and keep your mind clear without the roller coaster of highs and lows that caffeine provides.
You want to work quickly and effectively. Music that’s too loud, a brain that’s foggy, antiquated billing systems, and working on old and outdated data is all counterproductive.
Keep your music at a reasonable level so that it doesn’t distract you, nor does it encourage you to hear all the noises that go on around you. Keep your invoicing up to date so you always know who has paid, and who you need to follow-up with. Keep your data up to date and you’ll never have to worry about which version you’re working on. And most importantly, keep your brain sharp because if you slip there, everything else will suffer.