I love software development and I really enjoy the jobs that I do. It’s really easy for me to let computers, technology and the internet completely consume me and fill up all of my time. It’s almost effortless. The various gigs I pick up always have just one more thing that I can do.
Working from home also throws in another twist. On one hand I have a great deal of freedom. I don’t waste time commuting to an office, people can’t just walk in and interrupt me, and there are other little perks. For instance I drive my daughters to school in the morning with the dogs in the car with me. I can run to the store to pick up stuff for dinner. It rocks.
On the downside: I’m always at work. I can get myself in to cycles where I’m checking email every 10 minutes, then checking web-sites and so on. I start early in the morning usually before 6 and will sometimes still be working on ‘stuff’ as late as midnight. Weekends? I just need to write this unit test and that’s all. Worse, I also have personal projects I want to work on that also involve the computer.
As you can imagine, it is easy for me to end up living in my office. And if you had the setup I have you wouldn’t want to leave either. However, I do have a family, pets that require my affectionate attention and I have hobbies the need some of my time too.
How do you manage it? With effort and choices. However, before trying to solve all the problems I’ll layout to resources I’ve discovered that have helped me better manage my work day.
I found this on life hacker and it just makes too much sense to me. My job is not to run outlook, but it’s really easy to spend too much time in it. In the past the first thing I would do is check email in the morning. Now, I wait until 10a. I have Skype and Lync running, my cell phone is right here so if somebody really needs me I’m easy to reach. I check email 2 more times as suggested, the rest of the time it’s off. I’ve turned off sounds and alerts for email. I don’t care. I already know what I need to do. If there is something urgent I’ll get a call of an IM.
Next is organizing what I’m actually doing for the day. I actually tend to do this as I wrap up the previous day. Depending upon what is going on I might end up with only 1 thing to do (program) , occasionally there are several, but I’m careful about prioritizing the tasks so the most important is what gets done first.
For me to get away with what I do I have to deliver which means this is probably the most important thing. Every day I need to be able to tell people what I got done. Just working on stuff doesn’t cut it. Real tangible progress on the projects I’m running has to be delivered. If that doesn’t happen the gig is up and I’ll wind up back in a cubicle farm.
Finally, start the day at 0800, take an hour lunch somewhere (I tend to wait until 1300) and then shutdown at 1730.
After I’m shutdown we’re done. I might be in my office but I’m not working on work stuff. I’m screwing around, training or working on personal project. I get out and spend time with my family too.
When the weekend rolls around – it’s the same deal. No email, no work related stuff.
Also, my smartphone is hooked up to my personal email. My employer does provide a small allowance for my phone but it does not cover everything. They also have fairly strict security requirements that I do not like, as such: no corporate email on my phone.
The next little jewel came from Seth Godin. I forget the entire background but it’s along the lines of starting your business while still working (read it years ago, but have the notes still hanging on my board). The points he made were (I’ve adjusted them to my purposes):
1. Delete 120 minutes a day of ‘spare time’ from your life. This can include TV, reading, commuting, wasting time on Facebook and meetings.
2. Spend those 120 minutes doing this instead:
a. Exercise for 30 minutes
b. Read relevant non-fiction (business books, blogs about startups, etc)
c. Learn new stuff (spreadsheet macros, photoshop, graphic design, etc)
e. Blog/write about something you’ve learned
3. Spend at least 1 weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with your family and friends
4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.
In my case I watch only 2 or 3 TV shows a week. My time has mostly come from cutting out internet stuff (email, forums, facebook, youtube). It’s amazing how much time you can waste on LOL Cats and watching fail videos on youtube.
I’m investing my time in learning to program against Facebook’s API, learning my way around Microsoft Azure and Windows Phone 8. I have no idea where this will take me but I’m sure it will be fun.
The theme of all of this is to put boundaries around the things you spend your time on. Focus your time so that it is as productive for you as possible. Then focus your leisure time to be as leisurely as possible.
The original post on LifeHacker that the picture came from can be found here: http://lifehacker.com/5161561/simple-guidelines-for-workday-quality-over-quantity
And Seth Godin’s post about Effort is here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/10/is-effort-a-myt.html