Setting your own hours is great, but not for the reasons you’d think

Now that I’ve moved from my old life to working on Tempest full time, I finally get to set my own hours. I always figured that would be great. No more dragging myself out of bed too early in the morning. No staring bleary-eyed at the clock, watching the second hand drag along until it’s finally 5:30. Work when I want. Sleep when I want. And do whatever I want the rest of the time! Great, right? And it IS. But not like I expected. Getting up when you’re rested is awesome, except that I’m someone who could sleep 10 hours a night if I let myself. And without a boss expecting you to show up at a reasonable hour, it’s surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) easy to do exactly that. Before, I had to get up for work. Now, I have to get up, because… I have some vague understanding that if I don’t, over time, I’ll feel bleh. It’s a bit harder to wrap your head around that when the alarm goes off in the morning. (Fortunately my wife rather likes me to be around during the daylight hours too, so that helps. 🙂 ) So the ‘worst’ part about setting my own hours is that I get to sleep in. The best part? I can work really long hours! That’s right. The best part is if it’s 1am and I’m getting some really great work done, I don’t have to quit because I’m expected to be ‘at work’ the next morning. Or when 5:30 rolls around, I don’t feel compelled to pack it in, since I’ll have to be back at the same time regardless. If things are going well, I can grab a bite then get back to it. When I’ve finally gotten the entirety of a complex problem shoehorned into my brain, or when I’m on a creative roll and the ideas are coming one after another, I don’t have to stop. And that is great. I honestly think there are days now where I do the equivalent of a week’s work in my old 9-5 jobs.
When I’ve finally gotten the entirety of a complex problem shoehorned into my brain, or when I’m on a creative roll and the ideas are coming one after another, I don’t have to stop. And that is great. I honestly think there are days now where I do the equivalent of a week’s work in my old 9-5 jobs.
Of course, you can’t do that forever. And the other benefit is that you don’t have to. I spend periods of days or even weeks working what feels like every waking minute, but follow them with periods of similar length where the extent of my work is replying to emails. I recharge, have fun, and then, start having ideas. Eventually, I can’t wait to get back to work and let that creative energy flow into making something cool. If you’re lucky enough to set your own hours and would like to try something that might boost your productivity and enjoyment of your work, Steve Pavlina suggests one way to get started. That schedule ironically ended up being too rigid for me, but it’s at least a good primer. Paul Graham’s essay on Good vs Bad Procrastination also has some great insights. In fact, while you’re there, check out some of his other stuff. It’s all fantastic. And if you’re an employer, think about the benefits of giving real flex hours to your employees. Not “show up any time between 8 and 9”. More like “as long as you’re here for scheduled meetings, come in most days, and get the work done, do whatever works for you.” Because really, is it more important to make certain everyone’s working exactly 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, or would you rather have happy employees producing higher-quality results, faster? Obviously there are challenges to work around, but it’s worth it. I’ll write more about that side of things in a later post.