Flexible Schedules & Remote Work

I both like and dislike schedules. I like when I can set my schedule, but I hate when it is dictated by others.

My semi-rigid schedule does not allow too much flexibility in the mornings, but it does help me keep on track and reduces the cognitive load of having to think about what to do next.

Mornings

I wake up at 7 each morning. Sometimes a little earlier if I can. I go to the bathroom, put in my contacts, get dressed, and go out for a walk.

I come in after about 10 minutes and I start making coffee and breakfast.

The laptop is turned on and booting up. Once food and coffee are made, I get to work.

At around 10 am, I make more food before I work out at around 10:30 or 11.

Afternoon

I go to the gym for 50 minutes: 20-30 minutes on the elliptical and 20-30 minutes of weight training.

I head home, shower, and do some more work.

At 3-4pm I have another cup of coffee and finish up my work.

Night

After 4 pm my schedule is pretty open. I can hang out with my girlfriend, go outside, read, watch a show on Netflix. I might work on my other project (Mission Marketer).

At around 8-9pm I go for another walk. I try to read right before bed in the living room, then go to bed around 10-11pm.

Why have a set schedule?

I enjoy not having to think about things that shouldn’t require much attention. Now that my schedule is ingrained in my mind, I work on autopilot until about 3-4pm. Everything is already planned out without me even having to think about it.

I leave the rest of the day open in case of errands or something else I need to go do.

On the weekends I let my schedule go. I wake up when my body tells me to and I spend the day in any number of ways from reading to going to the store or just hanging out.

It also helps because my work schedule is up to me. I set up my routine so as to get the major responsibilities out of the way earlier in the day. I used to wait until night time to finish my work, but I found I would make excuses or get tired and leave it for the next day.

This article on Bidsketch.com tries to make a case for fixed schedules and flexible ones. I like the argument for the flexible schedule that says to manage your work around your energy instead of around time. I do find that after a few hours of work in the morning that I need a break, and that’s why I go to the gym after about 3-4 hours.

Flexible Schedules & Remote Work

I have the ability to set a schedule that allows me time to work and time for necessary breaks. I think this is how all jobs should be, because sitting at a desk for 8 hours straight doesn’t do anybody any good. Employees get tired and drained, and employers are paying for less-productive employees. I remember being in the office for just 4 hours a day and hating every minute of it. I would work on whatever was given to me, but when I had nothing to do I would find some distraction to make the time go by.

I think we need a move toward a 5 day flexible workweek. For myself, if a project is time-sensitive, I will do it right away. Otherwise, I work at my own pace and it doesn’t matter if I get something done on Monday at 10am or Wednesday at 10pm. It does nobody any good for me to work on a blog post when I have a headache or feel tired. If I’m awake and refreshed, it’s likely that my work will reflect that and I’ll be more motivated.

The problem is employers putting their trust in employees to do the work. There are some people who will have a hard time staying focused and disciplined enough to get their work done, especially working at home with distractions. But if you can’t trust employees to work from home, how can you trust them to be doing great work at the office?

The problem often isn’t “trust” but rather a fear of not being able to see what they’re working on, or not being able to come up and ask them a question when you want. For me, working from home makes me more productive, not less. I spend more time focused on my work, not having to field questions and constant interruptions that I would get while in an office. I still get the occasional phone call or text from work about something, but it’s a lot less distracting than if I was in an office.

There are tons of communication tools like Slack or Zoom to help keep up with employees working out of the office. You can do stand up meetings to see what everyone is working on each day. Allowing employees even just 1 day of working from home or having a flexible schedule will likely make them happier and more productive.

The Harvard Business Review has an article called “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work From Home“. The author mentions a study in which half of call center employees at Ctrip (a Chinese travel site) who volunteered were allowed to work from home and the other half worked in the office. They found that the at-home workers were “not only happier and less likely to quit but also more productive.”

The telecommuting employees completed 13.5% more calls than those in the office. Also, having these employees at home saved the company $1,900 per employee for the 9 months they did the study.

I love the “cake in the break room” effect that one of the study’s authors, Nicholas Bloom, mentions. The last place many of us want to be is in the office, so every little distraction like a birthday party in the break room means we want to get up and go waste time, or that we hear the noise and feel distracted which makes us less productive.

Working from home, the study notes, helped increase productivity because the home environment tends to be quieter and have less distractions than the office.

The resistance to telecommuting is often from middle management, Bloom mentions.  They’re afraid of poor performance for the business, and likely don’t want to disrupt the status quo of traditional office work.

It will take time, but I see more and more companies going the way of remote work and flexible schedules. The companies that are best at this tend to have strong cultures which motivate employees to stay on task and work hard.

Picking a business idea

Update September 17, 2016

So I think I’ve come up with an idea. It’s fresh, so I’ll give it a few days to think it over. I was going over the communities I’m a part of and realized there are a lot of people looking to get marketing jobs. Marketing is a big field: social media, SEO/SEM, copywriting, managers, “growth hacking”. It can be pretty hard to break into the field with just a college degree. A marketing degree pretty much means nothing when it comes to a marketing job.

I want to create a site that helps answer questions that new grads or even people looking to switch careers. It will be content based, as I haven’t seen any sites (yet) that cover marketing jobs. I’ll also bring up remote marketing as well, because that’s the job I currently have so I think I have a good grasp on the subject.

My validation? I looked on Reddit, the Jobs and Marketing subreddits, to see if people are asking questions about this topic. There are a ton of threads. People are asking how to find a job with no experience, how to get into marketing with another unrelated degree, how to switch careers to marketing. I’ve been through this. I’ll write to some of the OPs on Reddit to see if they have found jobs, how they did so, what they wish they had learned, how the job is going.

Anytime I bring up my job, I get strangers or my girlfriend’s coworkers asking how they can get into marketing. It’s a huge field, and it’s perfect for both creatives and technical people. The amount of skills you need to learn are massive and constantly changing.

I’m working on a few names, and how I plan to start the site. At first I will focus only on the job board and blog and promotion. I will have a way to collect email sign ups, the lead magnet can be something like “Top 50 skills all marketers need to know” or “100 resources for new marketers”. I want to grow the email list, that’s a big priority. I’m figuring out what email client to use, as I don’t want to get sucked into a free one and end up paying a ton once I hit their free limit threshold. Any ideas are welcomed!

The site will focus on teaching skills before, during, and after you get a marketing job. How do you find the right companies to apply to (avoiding scams or sales positions), how to stand out in your application, interview questions, should you freelance, what skills do you need to know, should you be a generalist or niche down to something like SEO. I have tons of content ideas already on Asana so I know I won’t have trouble coming up with things to write about.

Monetization is not my biggest worry at the moment, I want to focus on validation and growing the audience. After that, we can try sponsored job postings, sponsored newsletters, emailing out marketing tool deals (like Appsumo), creating an ebook (if there’s demand), creating a paid FB group or membership site. There are tons of ways to monetize but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse when I don’t even have a domain name yet.

The main goals these next few weeks

  1. Reach out to people on Reddit to ask them questions
  2. Pick a name and buy the domain
  3. Set up the site (only spend 2-3 hours)
  4. Create the job board
  5. Figure out how to automate job board postings
  6. Create the lead magnet
  7. Set up the email opt in form
  8. Pick an email service provider
  9. Set up Twitter

Picking a business idea

I’m having such a hard time with this right now. I feel that writing out this post may help sort my thoughts or help a new idea come to light.

I have a lot of ideas: a productized service to offer content upgrades, marketing consulting, creating a content marketing marketplace. I’ve been listening to a lot of Megamaker podcast episodes and like what Justin Jackson says about finding an audience you want to help. Rather than start with my idea, now I want to try to focus on an audience I actually resonate with and want to work with. Sure, a restaurant content marketing service could be a good idea, but I have worked with restaurants before and don’t want to deal with that audience.

Here are some communities I fit into:

  • Introvert
  • INTJ (Myers-Briggs personality type)
  • Wantrepreneur
  • Marketer
  • Dog owner
  • Traveler
  • Frugal
  • Simplicity/minimalism
  • Mandarin learner
  • Podcast listener
  • Bass fishing
  • Millenial
  • Coffee drinker
  • Designer

I’m leaning more towards marketing, as I feel that is my strongest skill set. Especially because I feel that it can be combined with another community I’m a part of such as marketing for bass fishing companies or marketing for podcasts, even helping millenials land a marketing job.

I have other ideas too, but there’s that fear that I’m not qualified enough to offer advice. This includes ideas like teaching introverts how to start freelancing (I’ve dabbled in this a bit), or helping travel blogs market and monetize themselves (I’ve marketed but never monetized).

Justin from Megamaker talks about starting small. Everyone wants to go out with a huge ebook or course or software, but all it really takes is starting small. Plus, the last thing I want to do is write an ebook and find out that nobody needs it.

So that’s where I’m at, trying to figure out what to focus my energy on.

Some ideas I’m thinking of right now

  • Marketing for travel blogs
  • Marketing for dog brands/businesses
  • How to start freelance marketing
  • Dribbble for marketers
  • A marketing automation crash course
  • A marketing crash course (overview of top skills for entry level marketing, ways to stand out, how to start your own projects)
  • Designing for marketers (how to design simple blog & social media graphics, infographics, and more)

 

Let me know what you think. Is my thinking off? Should I be approaching this process another way?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Are awards scams?

What a great business model when you think about it. People love winning awards and people running businesses love winning awards to show off to their customers. You may not notice them much anymore because it seems like every business you visit has won some kind of “prestigious 5 star platinum diamond service” award.

I thought about this topic because I was writing a blog for a client and referencing a large national newspaper’s poll where the city in which the client is located had been placed #9. I saw it in the local newspaper’s website and thought it was great news! It’s a relatively small town and had seemingly won some recognition.

I go to the contest website and see polls for everything you can think of: Best River for Tubing, Best Boardwalk, Best Bratwurst in Wisconsin, Best Crab Cake Sandwich in Maryland. The list goes on and on.

Each list has a bunch of places chosen by “experts” then readers come in and vote for their favorites.

I look at the contest that this client’s city had just won and scrolled  to the bottom of the article. I notice a little link saying “License the (contest name) Award Logo”. Curious, I clicked it and landed on a new site.

The site is offering “Logo Licensing & Custom Display Products” featuring the contest’s logo. It’s like people who win a Zagat Award, if you want to display your Zagat award in your business (and many people do) you have to pay for a special plaque ($99), certificate ($20) or Premium mounted certificate ($60).

For this particular contest here is what I found:

award payment

 

 

Zagat is well regarded for their ratings. But this contest is pretty new to my knowledge, that or I have just never heard of it. But this contest is charging at least $375 for a display item such as a plaque to put in your business! As for licensing their logo which says that you won one of their contests, I have no idea what that costs but I will update once I contact them.

Hey, I understand business and I totally get the business model. This national newspaper is getting their name out there, especially because all these winners and top 10 finishers are likely linking to their site, and mentioning their name. Plus, charging people to display the award is another nice monetization method. I’m not knocking them, I’m just afraid that awards are becoming too ubiquitous nowadays.

A Michelin star is still a badge of honor and not every restauranteur is going to ever get one. But some of these new contests or awards that don’t have such strict standards can muddy the waters.

Next time you walk into a business and see plaques on the wall for awards, write down the name of the award and look into it. An award is not an automatic sign of an outstanding business anymore.