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.
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.
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.
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.