OTG and Working From Home: Two Things to Avoid

Bleach Bottle

So this week I’ve made some new discoveries and decisions about scheduling and the OTG concept.

For one thing, I’ve learned that to best benefit from my OTG days I need to remove two things from my activities those days:

  1. Web site updates
  2. Laundry

And that means by extension, any activities that present the same problems, which I’ll outline below.

When I do OTG days, I almost always spend them working at home during work hours. I had moved my laundry day to Mondays so that it would coincide with OTG day #1, which in theory seems like a great idea: I plan to be at home all day, so why not do laundry? And laundry is kind of a big deal for me, because I’m so busy in general, and because the many hours of swing dancing I do lead to a lot of laundering. So it might seem like a trivial detail but it’s really not.

What I discovered is that doing laundry during “work at home”/OTG time is not effective. It’s more disruptive than doing email or using the phone because every 20-40 minutes I have to interrupt my work. So I’m moving that to another day.

As for the web site updates, the deal is that OTG days are largely a time (the only time, really) when I can fully get into geek mode and do things such as web development. So naturally I tried to chunk site updates into that as well. By updates I mean minor things, like adding a class or fixing some small issue. But a lot of those updates are really small, don’t require me to get into “coding” mode, and on the other hand, often require some kind of discussion with other people. So it became a problem for productivity because I couldn’t properly solve my site update issues on OTG days without some kind of communication, and because doing the updates was disruptive and ruined the OTG concept.

In the end, it was a double fail: I couldn’t make the minor site updates effectively, and the act of trying prevented me from doing more important work that truly requires an interruption-free day.

But it’s not just about laundry and web sites. It’s the realization that anything that can’t be done in one uninterrupted, long block of time isn’t a good for for OTG days. Here are some similar things to avoid:

  • Anything that takes you out of the house or office, unless it’s for less than an hour, only once, and sandwiched between at least three hours of uninterrupted work time on either side. The other exception is that if you don’t have a home office or the ability to close your office door and work uninterrupted for hours on end, you might be more productive at a coffee shop. Seriously.
  • Things that might require clarification or communication with other people. So spending the whole day planning out a draft strategy for the next year is good, but actually scheduling things (where you probably discover half way through that you need to check with Bob or Cathy to double-check their availability) may be a bad choice for OTG days.
  • Short, diverse tasks. For example writing up a bunch of similar contracts or work proposals might make a lot of sense, because your mind gets into a groove and you get momentum. Contrast that with a day that starts with writing an update to a help file, then scheduling a few things in your calendar, then reading a technical journal. All of those things are interruptible, and they’re too short to gather momentum. They’re a waste of an OTG day.