Monday, May 24, 2004

Balancing your new venture with your day job - Part 3

I need more hours in the day

Quite simply there aren't enough hours in the day to do a full 8 hours on both your day job and your new venture. And unless you're really fortunate (i.e. wealthy) you'll be forced to devote the majority of your attentions towards your day job.

That means that if you're working 8 hours on your day job and sleeping for 8 hours, then there's a maximum of 8 hours available for your new venture. That's a maximum of 8 hours. If you can approach anything near that level you're doing extremely well. All sorts of distractions from the necessary to the frivolous will whittle it away until it seems like you're struggling to get 2 hours a day on your new venture.

The technique that's worked best for me has been to not so much to deliberately cut out those distractions but instead to make sure they don't steal my most productive hours away from me.

I started trying to work on Sydney at night after a full days work. Progress was slow. After I came home, cooked myself some dinner, maybe did some cleaning/shopping, watched the news, and made a call or two I had only an hour or two left before I was too tired to do any significant amount of work on Sydney.

My weekday schedule was something like this.

TimeActivity
06:30 - 08:30Get up, eat breakfast, prepare for day
08:30 - 09:30Catch train to day job
09:30 - 18:30Working (day job)
18:30 - 19:30Catch train home
19:30 - 20:15Nothing much (winding down)
20:15 - 21:00Cooking dinner
21:00 - 22:00Nothing much (digesting dinner)
22:00 - 23:30Working on Sydney
23:30 - 06:30Sleeping

Which in order of time spent on each activity put working on Sydney dead last.

ActivityDuration (hours)
Working at day job9
Sleeping7
Domestic duties2.75
Traveling2
Nothing much1.75
Working on Sydney 1.5

So that's about 1.5 hours at the very end of the day to work on my new venture and that was on a good day. If I was especially motivated I could have made that 2.5 or 3.5 hours by cutting out those 2 idle hours at the end of the day but I was rarely successful in doing that.

I knew I needed to find more time to work on Sydney if I was going to make any progress but I wasn't sure how to accomplish it. During those last few hours of the day I was just too tired to work properly and sleeping less would only make the problem worse.

I stumbled onto the answer when for other reasons I started going to bed much earlier and waking very early in the morning. Suddenly I found that I had several of my best working hours spare before I had to go off to my day job.

I started to work to a new weekday schedule.

TimeActivity
04:00 - 04:45Get up, eat breakfast
04:45 - 08:30Working on Sydney
08:30 - 09:30Catch train to day job
09:30 - 18:30Working (day job)
18:30 - 19:30Catch train home
19:30 - 20:15Cooking dinner
20:15 - 20:45Nothing much (digesting dinner)
20:45 - 21:00Prepare for next day
21:00 - 04:00Sleeping

With this schedule work on Sydney moved up to number 3 in the list.

ActivityDuration (hours)
Working at day job9
Sleeping7
Working on Sydney 3.75
Traveling2
Domestic duties1.75
Nothing much0.5

So in terms of finding more time to work on Sydney this schedule has been much more successful. I've more than doubled the time I spend on Sydney from 1.5 hours to 3.75 hours. Being so much fresher first thing in the morning than at the end of the day I've been able to greatly improve both the quality and the speed of the work I'm doing.

It took a little bit of trial and error to find the optimal time to wake up. I originally tried waking up a bit earlier than 4am but found myself starting to nod off before the end of the day. As it currently stands I can make it through the working day fairly easily (with the occasional energy drink).

By the time I finish dinner though I'm quite tired so I finish up by preparing a few things for the next day such as ironing clothes, packing my bag etc. It saves me wasting my more productive morning time on them the next day. When I do go to bed at the ridiculously early time of 9pm I don't have any trouble getting to sleep.

Working on this schedule there's no need to make an effort to cut out unnecessary distractions simply because there is no time left for them. It's a hard schedule to maintain but a schedule like this is necessary if you want to make any headway on your new venture. If nothing else it will give you the will to want to leave your day job sooner rather than later.

11 Comments:

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Emlyn said...

You've got two extra hours in your day, on the train. If it's a really packed train, it can be bad, but otherwise it's actually a nice break from a desk. I've done it when I had an hour busride (which is much less conducive to work than a train) and it worked excellently.

If you've got a decent laptop, you can use it on public transport and "voila!", extra time, especially in the morning (I used to fall asleep on the trip home).

If you don't have a laptop, consider printing out all the reference materials, email, whatever that you have been putting off reading (because it's not "productive"), and take them along to read. It's a good place to catch up on whitepapers and such!

(just my 2 cents)

Emlyn

 
At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your RSS feed returns a plain text file rather than XML.... needs attention.

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Lachlan said...

I'm using FeedBurner for the feed link and they adjust the feed contents according to the type of client. If you point your aggregator to the feed link it should work despite what you saw in your browser. I've turned off the browser friendly screen regardless though so it should now always show XML.

 
At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... the link is

http://feeds.feedburner.com/LachlanGemmell-SoftwareStartup

This returns non xml data. I don't understand the browser friendly comment. The data is either RXX XML or it isn't in this case it's not. My Feed Reader barf's on it.

How does it know if it's browser or reader using a browser to get the contents.... doesn't make sense.

 
At 4:49 PM, Blogger Lachlan said...

Your aggregator program/service identifies itself when it requests the feed from FeedBurner. FeedBurner then provides a feed your aggregator can understand (e.g. an RSS or Atom format file or maybe an HTML file if you're using a browser). Which aggregator program/service are you using?

Thanks for persisting with this by the way, I'll try and get it sorted for you as soon as I can.

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger Lachlan said...

Emlyn,

I agree, travel time is a good resource though sometimes it can be a bit too disjointed making it hard to get started.

 
At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm using the free FeeedReader product (written in Delphi http://www.feedreader.com/).

I have just tried FeedDeamon and it works fine. I suspose I need to chase this up with the FeedReder developers then.

Hmmmm...

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger Lachlan said...

The FeedBurner folks have contacted me and are looking into it too.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Emlyn said...

Just for reference on the train travel issue, I've recently gotten hold of a hand held (it's a big-arse 3 phone, is it a PDA? is it a phone? is it a video camera? Nobody knows... wooo).

Anyway, I've been using it to read stuff. When I'm working and I come across a long document on something useful (or just interesting), instead of saying to myself "I must read that sometime" then forgetting about it, I download it to the handheld, and forget about it. Then, on public transport, or wherever I find myself idle, I pull up the list of documents and just read stuff. It's brilliant! I wouldn't have believed it, but I'm finding reading on one of these things is better than reading a book.

Enough said. Btw, *excellent* blog, I'm enjoying it, keep it up!

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger Lachlan said...

That's a use of a PDA that I hadn't really considered before. I've never really gone in for the digital organiser/PDA/big phone thing, and I probably won't for a while since I'm on a tight budget. It sounds like they're really going to start becoming the norm though pretty soon. Maybe one day I'll get to graduate from my paper diary and paper notebook.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Joshua said...

Interesting venture. I hope to be in similar shoes one of these days. Love to write my own software one day. Since emlyn is on the train issue, I would suggest just using a paper and pen. Clears up the mind for creative work in the morning. I find it very useful.

 

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