Six years ago when I got a job at The University of Scranton, it was a little bittersweet. For 2 years following my Masters Degree, I was self-employed. The thing that lead me to look for a new job was that I was working out of my parents’ house, and honestly, time was running out on staying on their insurance plan. Leaving that world was sad, but I was excited at the notion of working with a team. After 3 years at the university, I felt I was ready to do something different and more challenging.
My wife and I do very different things. I sit in front of a computer all day, get to work pretty much the hours I’d like to work (within reason), and I don’t have to put pants on. Erin is a nurse, who works 12 hour shifts, taking care of the some of the sickest people in the hospital. Her bad day is much worse than my bad day. But when I say that, she tells me I shouldn’t devalue my work, and that I can still talk about my bad days to her; it’s not a competition. I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago, when in the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why.
*This is a community made up mostly of developers and designers.
We are approaching the end of another school year. Students & teachers alike are clamoring for the sweet freedom that summer brings. When I was in middle school and high school I remember looking forward to summer so much that I told my parents I wish I could skip the school year and just have summer vacations. Of course like many kids my age, my short-sightedness got the best of me.
Not long after that final school bell my brothers and I would be out in the front yard when one of us would utter the 2 words that parents dread hearing: “I’m bored.” We were so focused on getting to summer break that we didn’t take much time to think about what we would do once we got there. The same thing could happen when you work remotely: just because you can go anywhere, doesn’t mean you can work anywhere. A little preparation will help.
I’m lucky to have a wonderful view from my downtown Scranton apartment. Across the street is a law office and sometimes I can see people working at their desks or milling around in the office. Last Saturday I was working on a pet project of mine, when I looked out the window from my desk and noticed someone in her office, working. On a Saturday! The horror! Then I thought back and realized that office’s light is on an awful lot – early mornings, late at night, most Saturdays (but rarely Sundays). How could someone work like this? Then I came to another realization: I noticed these things while sitting at my desk, working.
Working remotely/from home is not only something I started doing this year, it’s something that’s becoming more and more popular. Big companies are allowing it, there are books published on it, and it makes a lot of business sense too. I thought in addition to my regular gift guides, I’d put something out there for all the remote workers and their family and friends.
Working remotely is fantastic; you have a lot of freedom to work anywhere you want, create your own daily schedule (more or less) and overall have a better work-life balance. However, it can also have its drawbacks. It means that you are probably working from home most of the time, and that can blur the line between when you work and when you don’t. It can be easy to get sucked in and ‘just do this real quick’, especially if you like the work you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to have a schedule or routine when you work from home.
Recently I started following Everyday Carry, a blog dedicated to showcasing the items that people must have on an everyday basis. I decided that in an effort to blog more, I would do a short, 3 part series on the stuff I use everyday. The series will be broken up into 3 parts: today’s installment is Workflow, then Carry/Misc, then Home Setup. Let’s jump in!
It used to be the case that Sunday truly was a day of rest. Shops closed, people went to church, had an early dinner, and called it a day. Then stores started to stay open on Sundays. The hours got longer. Now some places are open 24 hours, 5 days a week. Some 24/7. It used to be the case that once you left the office for the day, you were done working. How could you work? All your stuff was at the office. How would anyone reach you? Now we have cell phones, IM, email on our phones; we are reachable all the time. â€œOpenâ€ 24/7. And thatâ€™s what people expect now. Our culture is moving towards a 24/7 work mentality to be more productive, and make more money. That needs to change.
Itâ€™s more coincidence than anything that I started to have these thoughts before, but on the same day that, I started reading The Four Hour Work Week. Iâ€™m just into it, and this post is not a book review, but Ferriss does talk early on about some of the stuff that spurred these thoughts. I wrote a while back about not responding to email right away. Itâ€™s not to be rude, but to set a precedent and draw some boundaries. If people think you are always available, they will expect you to be on call all the time. This isnâ€™t healthy for you or them. And itâ€™s not just with email.
Iâ€™ve had clients call me at midnight because they â€˜neededâ€™ to talk to me. I get calls on the weekend, and people who want to schedule meetings on Sundays. And itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m lazy that I donâ€™t want to do that; people canâ€™t work all the time. Itâ€™s not physically or mentally healthy. So how do we solve this problem?
Donâ€™t be afraid to draw those boundaries. Tell your clients or co-workers that youâ€™re only available during business hours. Donâ€™t answer business email on the weekend. Take the weekends for yourself. I took the 4th of July weekend completely off. From Friday to Sunday I did no work- I even put up an email auto-response. It was the first time in a long time I did that because I have the same mentality others do- I work a lot. Usually I take the weekends for side projects or small rush jobs I want to get out of the way. But itâ€™s that mentality that causes a lot of people to burn out hard and fast.
Maybe itâ€™s that we are in front of a computer anyway, or we think, â€œWell Iâ€™m not doing anything now,â€ that we take that call or work on that project. But we donâ€™t have to produce all the time. Itâ€™s ok to do nothing. Having a lazy day is perfectly acceptable, and in some cases, needed. So far I like The Four Hour Work Week because Ferriss talks about how to be more productive in less time, and how to take time for yourself. Iâ€™ll post more about it as I read it, but remember this: Working 24/7 is NOT a good mentality. I think we should remember the days when Sunday really was a day of rest.