Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home Sweet Home Office

First of all, I would like to say that yes, I know how long it's been since my last post, and yes, I realize how this makes most of you feel. I apologize. I'd say that I had good excuses for my delinquency -- I'd say that because it was true -- but despite everything, I really should budget my time better to leave more time for me. I hope this has saved you some comment posting time.

As a writer, I find that there are two kinds of environments that are helpful for me to produce. If I am working on a short story or the notes for a novel, I do my best work in a public place that is relatively quiet, offers refreshments, and has good people-watching potential. It usually works out to be a coffee shop and yes, I know that is a cliche, and no, I don't care. I sit in comfort and study the habits and mannerisms of the people around me which helps to either create a character in my mind, or spark some completely new idea.

For the actual fiction writing as well as business writing, the best place for me is my home office. I have a place that is only for what should be in an office. It's not a storage spot and I don't share it with anything that would require someone else to come in for any reason. It's my sacrosanct holy ground; peaceful, and full of opportunities. It may seem weird that the same setup would work for business writing as well as fiction -- it seems weird to me -- but I have found that the trick that works for me is the music I play when I do one or the other.

While researching I prefer silence, but when I'm ready to craft a blog entry or a Small Business article (or whatever), classical music seems to work best. For fiction, it all depends on the mood I want for the scene I'm writing. If there is a lot of action and I want to convey urgency or danger, I'll play a lot of Rage Against the Machine. For sad or quiet moments, I'll listen to Enya or similar stuff on an iTunes radio channel. All other times, I just start my Top Picks list on iTunes and just see where MSI, Fatboy Slim, Beastie Boys, Beck, Rob Zombie, Crystal Method, or Disturbed takes me.

My home office is where I do the bulk of my work, whether it be writing or managing ShinyPen. To really be effective while in my home office, I feel that it needs to truly be an office replacement. Thankfully, in these high-tech times this is a simple and inexpensive thing to do. I have the basics like cell phone, home phone, internet, and computer, but those things an office do not make. I have found that there are several websites and companies out there with solutions to the various office needs that I have while at home.

When I need to manage files, especially large ones, I use Usendit. Basically, I upload a file to their server (using a simple web form) and they send an email with a link to whoever I want. They click on the link which takes them to a page on Usendit's website, and all they have to do is right-click save-as.

Often I am not the only person working on a project and for easy file sharing, I use foldershare. This is a great website that sets up a connection with one folder on my computer and a folder on whoever I invite. Then whenever something is changed in either folder, the program automatically downloads the change and updates the other folder. It's like sharing a folder but with the security of having two copies.

Communications are even easier these days. Other than my phones, I have windows live chat, aol chat, yahoo messenger, and googletalk. I can instant message to my heart's content. For higher-level communication -- and more professionalism -- I can setup a conference call with any number of people in minutes. I use AccuConference for all my conference call, web conference, or video conferencing needs. Good price, good quality, and great people. If you've never tried one, do a video conference. They're easy to setup and very cool.

For my phone system, I have a virtual pbx system. This is not a VOIP thing, it's more like my own personal switchboard lady at my beck and call. For a mere $10 a month, I can get any regular or work-related calls sent from whatever number that was called to my cell phone, or my home phone, or any phone I choose. I am able to do this magic with ringcentral.

A final home office solution that works great for me is gotomypc. This is a great program that lets me access my computers from any computer anywhere in the world -- as long as I have internet there. It's not like a basic access thing, or just a list of my files or applications; it's like using my computer with super-long keyboard and mouse wires. Basically, the program takes over the computer in front of me and it's just like mine is there.

These programs and websites work great for me to be able to be at work, even when I'm not at work. My setup is so good, I can't tell between work and home... except for the obvious difference that I'm working in my underwear at the office. You heard me!

The solutions that I have found work for me, but I went through many other "solutions" to get to this setup. I'm accustomed to change and know that time marches on, so I'm always looking for the next best thing.

If you have solutions that work as good or better for you, let me know!

Can't wait for no-pants tuesday...