A pleasant walk through computing

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Remote Work Tiny Habits - Staying Healthy (Food)

It's relatively easy to get the technology running to work from home. The hard part is the doing. Don't beat yourself up! Try this tiny tip on...

Staying Healthy (Food)

I'm not a nutritionist, so please make sure what I'm suggesting makes sense for you and your body.

Changing to remote work can easily trigger different eating behaviors, healthy and unhealthy. For me, those changes are

  • What food is available?
  • How easily can I get to it?

As I'm writing this, we are of course in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has changed what people can find at grocery stores, let alone when then can buy. It's also changing people's relationship with food.

Take Stock of Your Stock - and Junk

This will only take a minute:

  1. Write down all the healthy snacks and drinks you can think of that are in the house. Got it? Do it first, really. You need all those healthy snacks in your head before moving on.
  2. Next, write down all the junk food. Notice I'm not judging what's healthy and junk. That's up to you.
  3. Finally, get up and find where those foods reside. In the fridge, on a counter, next to your computer, squirreled away under your son's or daughter's (or your) bed. Wherever.

You now have a reasonably accurate picture of how you think about eating. After all, you bought it or allowed it to be bought. You put it there, or allowed it to stay there.

What's Easier? The Banana or the Banana Moon Pie?

Did you find a pattern of where healthy vs junk were located? Was it easier to grab a bag of chips than a bag of wasabi chickpeas?

Whatever's closest is what you'll eat. Your body craves. Overriding that craving take effort. Brain effort. Your body hates brain effort.

Pick one--just one, for now--healthy snack or drink that can stay on your desk for a day. If there's any other snack on your desk, put it in a closet. Now sit at your desk and say to yourself five times:

When I crave a snack, I'll have you, right there! Then I'll smile, take a break, and replace you.

That's it. That's your routine for the next week. Healthy snack on desk, imagine the plan five times, eat, repeat.


We're still making use of behavioral science. In this case:

  1. Make it easy
  2. Imagine the positive outcome before imagining the negative. Always this order.
  3. Celebrate little victories

Be curious. Will you have the healthy snack today or not? If not, what can you do to make it easier, or more attractive?

Don't punish yourself. Coach yourself.


Remote Work Tiny Tips - Staying Healthy (Exercise)

It's relatively easy to get the technology running to work from home. The hard part is the doing. Don't beat yourself up! Try these tiny tips on...

Staying Healthy (Exercise)

If you're a developer or someone who works mostly at a computer, you know that exercise is a) important, and b) hard1.

You might be in pretty good shape. You might be overweight. Regardless, there's an exercise you can do near your desk and make it as easy or difficult as you want.


Starting Easy, Winning Fast

Someone out there immediately thought, "I can't even imagine getting up off the ground. I'll never do a pushup."2

Gotcha. You're not ready for modern pushups that target the pectorals and brachial triceps, along with the anterior abdominals. Fine. Let's make it easy. Do a wall push-up.

  1. Stand in front of the wall
  2. Take one or two steps back
  3. Put your hands on the wall
  4. Do your push-up.

There. Celebrate. You did it! Seriously. You gosh-darn did what you set out to do. That's worth celebrating!

Push-ups are the gateway drug to other exercise.

Want to do more than (whatever your easy number is)? Fine. But don't plan to. They're a bonus.

Push-Up Form Basics - You Look Mahvelous

Most people do push-ups wrong. They spread their arms like albatross wings, splay their elbows out, and pump up and down fast.

That's terrible mechanics. It's not so great for your rotator cuffs, either. Modern trainers focus on safety and stability.

  1. Start in plank, even doing wall push-ups: hands and elbows stacked directly under shoulders like pillars, a flat line from back to feet.
  2. Inhale, go down slowly...three to five seconds. Most important: scrap your elbows against your sides. Don't let them flare out. Don't. Ever.3 Done right, your hands will end up near your floating (bottom) ribs.
  3. Exhale, rise up even slower if you can.


That's simple, and you're not going to like it, but I think researcher BJ Fogg is right. Do your push-up(s) after you pee. You're going to do that at least once a day, right?


I'm suggesting push-ups because they're easy to do right, easy to measure, and you can find a way to do just one. But if you have another exercise that fits the bill, do it.


  1. These are true for everyone.

  2. After The Machinist, Christian Bale couldn't do one pushup. And his next film was Batman Begins.

  3. Unless you're more experienced. Then you can let your elbows come out about twenty degrees. That will work your chest more.

Remote Work Tiny Tips - Focusing

It's relatively easy to get the technology running to work from home. The hard part is the doing. Don't beat yourself up! Try these tiny tips on...


Here are just a couple of effective ways to enter into what researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow."

Time Box

Pomodoro is arguably the most well-known time-boxing technique, made up of 25 minute intensive work and 5 minute breaks. However, from both research and my experience, I don't recommend it for software developers or other professions that require significant ramp-up time before real work can get done. Developers take about twenty minutes to load the full context of a piece of software into working memory. That only leaves five minutes to work!

Instead, I use a 50-10 time box. It neatly aligns to the hour, allows enough focused work time, and the ten minute break isn't onerous. Here are the steps (same as Pomodoro, just different times).

  1. Keep a physical or electronic notebook available.
  2. Write down what you'll work on in the time box.
  3. Start your timer for 50 minutes. Work exclusively on the task during that time.
  4. When you become distracted--you will--quickly write down what distracted you then go back to work.
  5. At break time, take the break. Seriously, walk away for 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat.

Why it works

  • Research shows 40-50 minutes is about optimal for intense focus, especially in problem solving.

  • Research also shows that breaks are critical for maintaining high cognitive performance. They give your neurons time to strengthen the pathways to the information just learned.

    This is why walking away from a problem is so effective in solving it.

  • Writing down your distractions literally removes them from your mind. Otherwise, part of your brain keeps trying to think about them.

Remove All Distractions

Consider that there are two kinds of focus: exclusive and inclusive. Exclusive focus is when you're wholly engaged in the task and forget about the past, present, and your environment (imagine writing a book). Inclusive focus is when you're paying attention to many things in your environment that affect accomplishing the task (think about football quarterbacks).

Most of us working remotely are aiming for exclusive focus. And distractions are the enemy. Such as...

  • Kids, spouses, pets demanding attention
  • Notifications from email, social media, chat, watch, calendar, etc.
  • TVs, video games
  • Music (yes, even my beloved music)

Here's your experiment. Or challenge. Or whatever temporarily motivates you to try it.

  1. Turn off every notification on your computer and phone. The phone's easy: put it in airplane mode and turn on Do Not Disturb.1
  2. Tell your family to leave you alone until a particular time, such as the start of your time box break.
  3. If possible, close the door.
  4. If there are still sounds, put in earphones or a headset.
  5. Don't turn on music. If you still need sound to block out distracting noises, try the excellent myNoise web site and app.
  6. Work without distraction, and afterward quickly write down how you felt.
  7. Do it again.

Why it works

  • Creative and problem-solving work requires juggling lots of information. Any external distractions hamper that effort by taking our attention.
  • Our brains work in modes. One mode, the default mental network, is our wandering mind. We spend about 47% of our time there. When you're distracted by your own thoughts, that's wandering mind. When you set the distraction aside and go back to the task, you're in task mind.

Give yourself the best chance at being in task mind.


Focus is real. But it's not a gift. It's a skill.


  1. Unless of course you need to be notified for medical or other real-life circumstances. I'm just saying that Snapchat can likely wait.