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Automating your remote working setup!

apoclyps profile image Kyle Harrison ・4 min read

Upon reflecting over the past 6 months of daily remote life, I've learned some very important lessons. The abrupt switch to remote working has been an interesting transition and I was completely unprepared for it. These are my insights from my experience thus far and how I employed a little automation to help.

Routine

With no daily commute, the ritual of performing mundane actions whilst preparing yourself for the day ahead was completely gone. Re-establishing this routine took a little bit of time but eventually what worked for me was simple; I grabbed a bowl of cereal, started an Alexa routine to "Wake up" my office, listened to the radio, and browsed some news sites during the time I would be travelling to the office.

I started with an Amazon Echo and eventually upgraded to an Echo Show.

This routine played a sci-fi engine booting up whilst the lights and fan turned on in the office, followed by a quick weather report, and finally a DJ on Planet rock kick-started the morning off with light conversation and rock tracks.

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Natural Light

Through a combination of "lockdown", living in the inner city, and remote working, it's was all too common to go days without --much- - any natural light. It's incredible how much your focus can be affected when the lighting is too bright, too dim, or it just feels completely wrong for that time of the day!

I picked up a Kasa Smart Bulbs by Tp-Link for my office which allows control over the Brightness and Color/White Illuminance via an App or one of many libraries (such as python-kasa. Adjusting the bulb from daylight (9000k) in the morning to a dim incandescent (2500k) in the evening combined with F.lux has made an incredible difference to my focus.

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Tracking Time

It's easy to lose track of time, tasks, and meetings when there are no interruptions and you're focused on a task. I've been guilty of missing a meeting or two until I started setting reminders and TODOs

Using a mix of Todoist, Google Calendar, and Pocket this has helped manage everything from short term tasks (don't forget to review code for x), to work meetings about to happen, and even articles to read whilst waiting for a build/deploy to complete.

  • Todoist integrates perfectly with the Echo Show and is a great way to check off remaining tasks during downtime.

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  • Google Calendar is also great for providing reminders on and checking what's coming up - I even use it for family events.

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  • Pocket is a nice addition for planning some reading for downtime. Simply add links and it will save a preview and how long it takes to read on average for you to pick up later.

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Physical Setup

Finally, the last piece of automation that made a huge difference was improving my desk & monitor setup. The daily struggle of swapping HDMI cables between my personal computer and work laptop became a real struggle. Cables would frequently get tangled, fall behind my desk, and every morning was a pain to get setup.

I picked up some Invision Monitor Arms and UGreen HDMI Switchers to automatically switch screens without needing to remove/attach HDMI cables.

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What's next?

Equipping yourself to work remotely is expensive and although there is a lot you can do on a small budget, there are some items that are always expensive. The following are some ideas I have for future automation when my budget allows it:

  • Add a routine for working in standing/sitting positions with Jarvis Standing Desk
  • Create workflows using the Elgato Stream Deck for deployments & routine tasks that cannot be triggered via Alexa.
  • Automated ring light for meetings - although a much cheaper alternative to Elgato Key Light.

Discussion

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Omar White

Great post! I’ve also been getting irritated with having to swap out my hdmi cables. Your mention of the hdmi splitters night just be the solution I was looking for.