James Dowen

Category: Life

How to work remotely as Coronavirus strikes…

So COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is now a super real thing, and looks like it will have detrimental effects to our way of life, the economy, health, and so much more. In light of recent events, a lot of employers are looking at how their employees can work remotely. It’s a big change for a lot of them, but it’s something that should be embraced and comes with numerous benefits. As a remote worker, you:

  • Don’t have to spend time commuting, which could be 2 hours (or even more) for some people every single day
  • This means you save money on travel (fuel, trains, etc)
  • It also means you have more personal time. If you start work at 9am, and your commute doesn’t exist because you’re working from home, then guess what – you have plenty of free time up until 9am. It also means when 5pm arrives (or whenever you finish for the day), you don’t have to spend more time getting home – you’re already there
  • Can generally focus more and not get involved in office politics, and other pointless office tasks

I’ve worked remotely for at least 6+ years as a web designer/developer, and luckily I’ve being busy for every day of that so I’ve had no time to slack off. But below are my tips for working effectively from home, and creating that streamlined environment to get your work done.

Time management

If you’re new to working from home, then this is especially difficult. It’s extremely tempting to do some washing up, watch a film, not get out of bed, and so on. Unfortunately, do enough of that during working hours and your team will soon know about it through the volume of work you’re producing.

Be strict with yourself, and make sure you only do work between your allocated hours. However, you can always make the most of being at home during your lunch break (and any other breaks).

This is partly related to creating a good working environment…

A distraction free working environment

Yes, there are numerous distractions while working at home. Whether it’s the house work that needs doing, or that great new series you’re hooked on. In order to stop these distractions and temptations, it’s ideal to create a working environment to separate you from your private life.

I always stick to working in my home office. It creates separation from my personal life, and only includes work related equipment. This way, I can’t be tempted to switch on the TV or walk over to the dishwasher and empty it. However, not everyone has the luxury of a home office – but it doesn’t mean you can’t create your own separate work environment. Whether that’s a desk in the corner of the living room, or a dining table – as long as you’re not slumped on the sofa or in bed on your laptop, then it’s better than nothing.

This also helps with switching off, you can leave your working environment when the day is complete and spend time with your family.

Reliable technology

There’s nothing worse than working from home with a sub-standard WiFi connection or a really old computer. It slows your down and makes your work process unbearable. You will need the ability to take calls over the internet, upload files, send emails, all without your internet losing connection half way through.

This related to the distraction point above, but it’s always ideal to purchase a pair of noise cancelling headphones. It can block out the surrounding environment if others are at home with you, and also allows you to focus more in your own little bubble. I personally use the AirPods Pro – great piece of kit!

Depending on the type of work you do, a second or external monitor is a great way to make use of screen real estate. With more working space on your screen, you can have multiple windows open at the same time – thus boosting productivity in some cases.

Communication

If your team are used to seeing you face to face, then all of a sudden remote working can be a small shock to the system. Luckily, there are numerous solutions out there to keep you in touch with your team, such as Skype, Slack, Zoom and Google Hangouts.

It’s important that communication is maintained so everyone is aware of progress, and so that help/support can be given to you (or from you) where possible. This keeps all teams engaged.


Overall, to just remember to stay healthy and look after yourself as working remotely can also be a fast tracked way to becoming a couch potato!

On another note, I have a job that allows me to work from anywhere. If you’re looking for a web designer, web developer, or online software developer, then visit my main website to read more about me and get in touch!

My thoughts on the 2019 16 Inch MacBook Pro

Since 2017, pretty much all of my work was produced from the then-new 2016 15 inch MacBook Pro with the touch bar. I never switched right away, as I was a stubborn Windows user at the time and sworn by it, but after some temptation (well, peer pressure), I made the switch and bought the 16GB RAM model off Amazon at a slightly reduced price.

I never looked back, and my Windows tower PC has been locked away in the garage ever since. I’m not even sure it turns on now.

Anyway, fast forward to 2019 and I’m in love with the MacBook experience. So in love that I ploughed nearly £4,000 on a more specced our 16 inch MacBook Pro in November just gone.

The specification I ordered.

I’ve now used the 2019 model for just over a month, and it fulfills every one of my needs and brings some much welcomes improvements on the 2016 model, including;

  • The new scissor switch keyboard, which hopefully means I won’t have to take this laptop to Apple 3 times
  • The return of the escape key, which is so much more developer friendly
  • The 16 inch screen, of course. That extra screen space actually makes a huge difference
  • The extra power with the much higher spec configuration

The MacBook is perfect for me because it allows for portability within seconds, but also allows me to use in “desktop mode” while connected to my ultrawide external monitor (which is 90% of the time).

Blogging from a mile high…

Well technically, it’s 37,000 feet according to the screen above my head right now – with 1190km to go to my destination. But that’s nothing compared to the time I’ll be spending on a plane throughout March with the various planned business trips (and maybe partly leisure) I have coming up – including other parts of Europe, and a trip to India.

My problem is that I hate wasting time, and I find the time in the air to be dead time. There’s still no WiFi option on a lot of flights, and if there is it barely works, or if you’re in economy, then the leg room just doesn’t warrant using a laptop (unless you want neck ache for the remainder of your trip). I sometimes pick up .NET magazine, but I’m not one for reading books or magazines – so I soon get bored of that.

However, with no internet, an iPad Pro and an imagination that I struggle to switch off – I see it as a chance to catch up on some blog posts. I’ve so far written one, with this being the second, and I plan on writing at least one more after this. I can schedule these to publish through the upcoming weeks, so Google can at least think my blog is active when indexing. 

On another note, I’ve taken on some interesting clients recently – and I can’t wait to share the work I produce for them. These new clients include a large London based investment firm, as well as a project for a popular gaming YouTuber with a subscriber count of about 3,000,000. Oh, and there’s also a personal business project I’m working on with a partner – so I’m really looking forward to progressing on that and releasing that to the public.

Web Designer/Developer Office Tour 2019

After moving house in June of 2018, I thought it would be beneficial to turn one of the rooms into a fully functional office. As a web designer/developer, it’s important that my working environment is comfy, well equipped and suitable to my working style. I’ve collated some photos below of certain key areas of the office, including the equipment and tech I use.


My primary working machine is the Space Grey Macbook Pro, operating with 16GB of RAM – mostly linked up to an external curved monitor (also the reason for its closed lid and the plant hiding the adapters).

I used to be a dual screen monitor kind of guy, but since upgrading to this 4K Ultrawide LG curved monitor, I haven’t looked back. The screen quality and resolution allows for a productive workflow.

Originally using the white Apple Magic Keyboard and Mouse, I switched to the Space Grey versions in the New Year.

I often get in the “zone” with the Apple AirPods with music, but they’re also perfect for calls with clients and partners.

I needed some colour in the room, so a few green plants are well suited for this.

As well as some colour, the walls were genuinely plain anyway, so a few art prints don’t go a miss.

Ergonomics is very important when your job requires you to sit down for a lot of the day, so a high quality and sturdy chair is a must have.

Although rarely used, I have a mini “chill out” area in the corner for a sofa and small side table.

Droning in the snow

When I’m not creating websites, I’m usually out there droning. Check out my latest video below, shot in Cofton Park, Birmingham, UK.

Every year, the services we use every day on the web tend to play tricks on us when it comes around to April Fools Day. Whether it be “announcing a new feature”, or “testing something out”, you’ll usually find that Google, YouTube, and Amazon alike have something in-store for us all. So this year, I’ve decided to search the web for the best pranks from the services we use on a daily basis.

Google Maps Pac-Man

google-maps-pac-man

 

If you head on over to Google Maps today, you will notice the new Pac-Man mode at the bottom of the screen (where Earth/Terrain view can be toggled). You can simply navigate to an area of your choice around the world, toggle Pac-Man mode and play for hours. Pretty cool eh?

Amazon’s Dash Button

I’m not too sure how I feel about this one, but I’m pretty sure this is an April Fools joke. Let’s say it’s 11pm and you’re making a cup of tea and realize you’re on the last tea bag (and you can’t be bothered to go out and get any more in the morning), well not a problem at all with Dash. Just click the Dash Button on your pack of teabags to automatically order some more. Welcome to the innovative world of Amazon! Watch the video below…

*note, for Prime members only

Samsung Galaxy BLADE Edge

Samsung have announced that they are extremely proud to introduce the world’s first smart knife, the Galaxy BLADE Edge. It’s safe, waterproof, fireproof, and even has a built in thermometer – quite a sweet innovation. It’s kitted out with Samsung’s Kitchen app, which automatically connects the device to other Samsung kitchen appliances to automate cooking. Custom handles are also available.

blade_spec

Google Reverse

Google are a company who think ahead of our time to create innovative products and services that we should find useful; so they’ve introduced Google Reverse over at com.google.

Windows Phone’s MS-DOS

Back in the day, before a graphical user interface was present on operating systems, Microsoft users had to be familiar with MS-DOS to get things done. Today, it looks like Microsoft are bringing MS-DOS into the mobile market. Download the app here.

 

Quote of the day – 17th October 2014

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks

– Mark Zuckerberg

Why I started blogging…

Often I sit on a train, travelling to various places of work. Whether it be Adventure, GardenSite, or elsewhere – there’s a good chance I’ll be bored during my journey. I spend an average of 1.5 hours on a train on a typical working day (Monday to Friday) – and I feel like I’m wasting every minute of that time. So I wanted to do something productive. So I thought I may as well start blogging.

I could always do some web development work, but writing code from my phone isn’t the easiest of tasks.

A blog also gives me a place to share the things I find interesting and a place to share my thoughts on various topics that interest me.

I plan to publish a post daily, but how possible that is depends on how busy the train is.

Copyright © 2020 James Dowen