Living La Vida Mezclada
Some people have days off. I do not. Don’t weep for me. Days off are a mutation that we mistake for being the norm.
There used to be the six day work week. In the 1990s, I actually worked for a place that asked for six-day weeks: five days at seven hours and Saturday morning for five hours. I did it, but it felt Dickensian. Most people live under a five day work schedule. Some aspire to do four day weeks. I know someone who has a five-day a week government job with nothing to do, but he still shows up five days per week. Good pay, but it feels monotonous. I have gone the other way. I have put together a workflow that includes some work every day. It also includes leisure, living and a dash of opportunism.
Where did we come up with the idea of 5 work days? Imagine if lions took weekends off? What if gazelles didn’t run for their lives on Sundays? I would argue that the strict demarcation of bread winning and leisure is unnatural. I think it’s a side effect of the industrial revolution, wherein we tried to fit people into factories life big squishy cogs. We’re post-industrial revolution, so I try to act like it.
Here are some of the practices I carry out:
Answer the phone with respect. My cellphone does double duty for work and personal. I work as though I am always ‘on.’ As a side effect, call me on a Saturday night and you will like get, “Good evening, Shawn speaking.” as opposed to “Yo Yo Yo! Cujo what’s up my homey?” Much in a similar way, I am always in a position to jump into a meeting if time allows and the situation justifies it. That’s not to say I’m a slave-- I just put all of my week’s tasks into one pot of activities to be worked out and live a blended life where work and home and leisure all stack around each as becomes most convenient.
Always try to have time for friends and family in need. I am the dad who comes to school events. In the middle of the day I book an appointment for my daughter. That’s what it comes down to: book your time and be your final arbiter. When my doctor’s receptionists say, “We have a 1:30 open.” I never feel like asking, “What’s he doing the rest of the time?” Book your work appointments to the point wherein you are effective and efficient. I also book appointments with non-clients (friends, family, educational opportunities, errands) and I hold to those appointments. If clients question my scheduling or ambush me, I will discontinue my work with them as soon as that is detected. The trade off to using day time for non-work, I will use evenings and weekends for work. When a client hears I have a 10 hrs. of work to carry out on a project, that should translate into two to three days later for delivery (3 to 5 billable hrs. per day); but I am realistic about deadlines and urgencies-- sometimes 10 hrs. of work can be delivered in 10 hrs., because I was able to satisfy the other parts of my time and workload.
Apply the traveling salesman algorithm to the routine. The traveling salesman problem (TSP) asks the following question: Given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city exactly once and returns to the origin city? It’s a classic problem of getting the most done in the least amount of time. If I had a job-type-job, I might have to juggle my priorities to suit those constraints. I have a blended life, so those routines can fit in the most efficient way possible.
Walk to meetings instead of driving and working out later. I worked with a guy who used to be fat. His business partner described him as “really fat!” but you would never know it because of his extreme weight loss and extreme weight lifting. Every day, he would take a three hour lunch and go exercise. What if, instead, he just integrated that fitness routine into his life? For example, if a meeting is 10 min. away by car, but 1 hr. on foot, walking there and back would chew through an additional 100 min. of time, but it could considered 100 min. of exercise. I try to do that when possible.
Enjoy the sun when it comes. Be ready to take great photos. Nothing sucks more than doing homework while you classmates are outside playing soccer. This combination of opportunism, errands and work allows me to not be cooped up in an office when the weather is exceptionally awesome. Likewise, when the weather is super crap, I can hunker down and work, even working overly long hours-- banking task completion, if you will, so that my bigger deadlines are all met.
My current routine looks like this:
- Rise at 6:30AM. Work is mingled with breakfast and morning news. A tablet or phone is open while I make various eggs.
- Work to 9:30AM
- Take a brief break (laundry, breakfast clean-up etc.)
- Work to 3:30PM.
- I pick up Cheryl from work.
- Break for dinner, etc.. until 6:30PM
- Work on from 6:30PM to 11PM
I do social media stuff, so I have to occasionally put my head in front of the social media garden hose. That manifests as my Facebook quips in amongst my regular work. Given how many business people use Facebook as their primary means of messaging, I’m stuck going back to that website multiple times per day.
I hope to take this blended life on a test cruise this year. The intended workflow:
- Rise at 6AM. I am a night person and a morning person. If I could get back to a happy 3 hrs. / night of sleep, I would do it.
- Work to 9:30AM. I have some minor health issues that play themselves out after being awake for three hours, so by 9:30, I am good to go! Three and a half hours, in a concentrated burst is enough time to generate about three billable hours of work. I aspire to 30 billable hours per week, but I need 20+ to make things all work out. Seven days at three hours per day would give me 21 hours per week.
- Go out the door with the women folk (Cheryl and Alice). We can have our day on a road trip or similar enjoyment of life. Throughout the day, I will take business phone calls (hello hands-free Bluetooth). During coffee breaks, I will dish out emails as necessary.
- Post dinner, when the family is winding down, I will return to my computer and catch-up. Social stuff, work stuff (maybe an hour or two of billables; or just some business maintenance).
- Call it a night, ca. 11PM or midnight and repeat.
If this is the schedule I could run it into perpetuity. I would have a dedicated 21 hours per week of billable time, plus time for the sundry, “This is Yo-yo, I want to talk about such-n-such,” calls that drive business but are seldom directly billable work. In the evening, I can hammer out another hour per day (ie. bringing my week to 28 hours per week of billable time). Realistically, I want to move away from the billable hours cap and get my products well and truly launched, so this workflow is meant to satisfy a mid-point I have been stuck at for way too long, as products take forever to get fully adopted in the marketplace.
Here’s a one week comparison of the road-trip blended life and its productivity vs. a job-type-job.
Add to this some less tangible elements. If you go shopping at 2PM on a Tuesday, there are fewer fellow shoppers in the mix than, say, at 2PM on Saturday when the rest of the 9-to-5 herd is out there. That hang time in the CostCo line-up is lost time you are never ever getting back. I would actually argue that my 28 hrs. of billable time are much more efficient than what you get out of 35 hrs. of obedient attendance.
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