Life After Salary: Structure and Motivation
Time management has never been my strength. I like working at my own pace, and the certain working structures, like deadlines, tend to annoy me rather than motivate me. It’s no wonder I’m excited about leaving a job with a typical standardized nine-to-five schedule. I allow myself distractions and breaks and often procrastinate.
Despite this, I am motivated to succeed, and that’s probably one of the only aspects of my personality that has helped me thus far. Given the above, I am a bit concerned about how I will work once my only boss is me. When J.D. Roth began working on Get Rich Slowly without the distraction and time-suck of his day job, he found that working outside of the home in a separate office was helpful in keeping him focused — I remember reading this at one point but I don’t know whether it is still the case.
A friend of mine, another business owner, plans to begin renting office and warehouse space in the new year. He offered to set up a place for me to work there, and I might have taken him up on the offer if his office were closer.
My biggest concern at the moment is that I am used to writing at night. I usually begin around 10:00 PM and don’t finish until 2:00 AM, and that’s after answering emails and doing other management activities from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM, with some breaks for dinner and sanity. Once my schedule changes in the middle of next week, I will see for the first time whether I am capable of writing during more convenient hours. I hope I am, because I plan to increase my writing volume for Consumerism Commentary as well as for a number of other websites.
In a perfect world, I would have time every day for eating three healthy meals, exercising, and practicing hobbies — in addition to working — with classes once a week. Of course, all of this will need to be balanced with time spent with my girlfriend, and if I can manage it, more of my other friends. I’m not going to be able to manage a schedule like this without a well-defined structure, even if it is a flexible structure.
One thing I find I have to remind my friends, many of whom are envious of my ability to leave the corporate world behind, is that this is not going to be a vacation. I work hard now, and I’m going to be working even harder soon. The motivation isn’t going to be the problem, but it will be a test for me to see how well I can do on my own.
I’m thirty-four years old, young to some, but old enough that I’ve come to accept some of my weaknesses rather than stressing myself over making improvements to my life that would only have incremental value, if I’m even successful at changing my personality. Time management is one of these weaknesses. It’s a trait that corporations love, so much that they’re willing to pay for training. Skills like these help their assets (employees) produce efficiently (more work for less pay), so I understand the bottom-line implications for encouraging good time management skills.
Another concern is my work environment. As I mentioned above, working outside of my house might be a good idea to save me from distraction, but I don’t like the idea of traveling to an office and back every day. I’d like to reduce my driving for the near future, and there’s nothing in walking distance. I don’t have a proper desk. I’ve been waiting to own a house before upgrading my furniture, so most of my writing is done in my living room, with a notebook computer placed on my coffee table. I shouldn’t even mention that this is in front of a television which, when I’m sitting in the living room, is more on than off.
Working from home every day is going to require some isolation from this distraction, and my health and the long-term stability of my body would benefit from a better sitting position.
These changes to my structure and environment will not be instant next Thursday, the first day I’ll be working solely for myself. Changing my process will be a process unto itself, and I’ll need to set some ground rules to ensure that I’m making the most of my time and producing the best work I can manage as frequently as possible.
After working from home for a couple years, I got a small office near my house, and I much prefer it. With 2 kids (ages 10 and 7), working from home became challenging, and there were lots more distractions (laundry anyone?) at home. With my office, it’s much more conducive to work, and I find that I work at home in the evenings less, which means I’ve got more focused family time.
Even so, I still struggle with maintaining good structure during my work days so that I can be as productive as possible. Scheduling my week in advance has helped though.
Great to know how it started. Is that an article that tells how and why you got started with a finance blog?
Time management is a lot simpler in a structured work environment. I worked as a newspaper reporter for 18 years, but find working as a freelancer a lot tougher. The days can be very amorphous unless you build in structure — and sometimes even that isn’t enough.
I’m still figuring it out as I go.
Good luck on your adventure. Home office needs to be set up so that motivates you/focus you to work at the tasks at hand.
Getting up early, at the crack of dawn and “traveling” to a spare bedroom/office is a good way to make a separate transition that it is real work and less distractions abound when you set a specific time aside. That works for me!
Good for you for accepting a challenge and stepping out of the corporate world! Sounds like you are one step ahead or more than many others who do so. Admitting your weaknesses to yourself and setting guidelines to go by is a great beginning. Isn’t it funny that we get trapped into the box of thinking that in order to be productive we need a desk to work at? You know yourself better than anyone, so who could boss you around better?
I work for myself. Seems like I have to be out of my house t get any work done. I found that the local starbucks does it for me and saves me the office rent.
I used to do all my writing on my laptop in the living room in front of the TV. Last summer, I splurged on a nice desk, really nice chair, and a really nice desktop computer for my home office and my productivity has easily tripled. There’s something about being in an office environment that says “it’s time to work now.” I highly recommend it.
If you’re going to be working at home, get your office set up as soon as possible. You’ll be more comfortable plus I think it puts you in a business frame of mind.
Obviously it is too late but did you think about going part time first?
Good luck with the new, non-job life. I think is fantastic.
If you have managed to run your blog for all these years without a desk or an office, why start now? You are clearly doing something right, sitting on the couch in front of the TV. Don’t screw it up by trying to make it seem like you are going to the office.
I’m always looking for ways to improve — I’m not going to look for ways to work more efficiently for myself just because certain habits have been adequate so far.
I use to teach Time Management at a Fortune 125. I like to break Time Management into three areas. 1) Time Management 2) Prioritization Management and 3) Procrastination Management.
Prioritization needs to come first. If you don’t, you may be efficiently working on the wrong things. Do the Prioritization Management first, and work on the other two together. I include these three items when I coach clients because they have such a big impact on managing their finances.
I wish you the best in the coming year.
Well, it’s awesome that you were able to pull this off (did their jaws drop when you broke the news?). Personally, I’m really bad at time management. Occasionally, I read an article on turning off twitter, even internet and just draft posts in word, etc. But there’s this little devil on my shoulder seeking that instant gratification of checking my latest adsense stats, seeing if that ad deal closed or whether my twitter debate entwined more people. I’d need some serious adjustments to push myself into full-time mode (if I had the income to pull it off to begin with). If you’ve got the discipline, more power to ya! Office might be good. You could always rent the space, use it sometimes during the day but still do plenty at home – while having that option.
When we made the announcement to the team, jaws dropped, people shrieked and yelled, and one of my favorite co-workers threw a plastic canister of Lysol wipes at me from across the conference room table.
Now that’s what I call a reaction. At least you know you were loved. My coworkers will probably have a party when I leave!
Congratulation! It sounds like it’ll be an exciting experience. I’m working on my exit plan, but it’ll be another few years. Good luck! I like the library idea.
I am a natural night owl myself. A couple times when I was young I let my sleep schedule get all out of whack. I found myself staying up till 5AM or 6AM or 7AM and then sleeping all day. I’d stay up later and sleep in later and my schedule creept forward. A regular routine keeps my sleep pattern in a normal schedule.
It’s definitely going to take you some getting used to, but I think it’ll be a great journey! Have you considered looking into any coworking spaces near you? I think that gives you some good freedom and great resources. Look into it; I think it could be a good change
I have worked in my home for over 20 years now. The 3 hardest things about it have already been mentioned; convincing family & friends that you aren’t on vacation, having young children in the home, and deciding when & where to work.
Here’s what I have tried.
Separate personal and business phones with voice mail. Don’t answer personal during business hours or business during personal time. Remember you are working for your client and won’t get until you get the work done! Tell your friends that!
Arrange for good child care when the time arrives. Since you will be paying for this, it motivates you to get your work done without distractions.
Make a room, or even a corner into a work space away from tv, radio & music. Nothing goes on in the work space except work.
And there are self-employment taxes, so remember that the living room sofa in front of the tv is not tax deductible. Nor is a phone used for personal calls. IRS recognizes deductions for things you use strictly for business only. Keep records for things you do share such as mileage records for a car. But that’s a different topic.
This will be an incredibly exciting time for you Flexo, but it will also be challenging as you’ve said. Not sure if you’re a coffee drinker, but you may want to try working at a coffee shop (Starbucks) or something. I’ve made Starbucks pretty much my office. Each day, before and after my day job, I head into the office for a few hours of work and it has served me well. Now, granted, yours will be for longer periods of time, but I think just going somewhere like a Starbucks for 4-5 hours in the morning, and then going home to finish out the day, could add a lot of structure to your schedule and help you stay on top of things.
How incredible exciting!
Perhaps if you have a library close by, it might be good to go there a few days in the week, then maybe a Starbucks like setting for a few hours another day… Sounds like you are free to travel around to any location that has a wireless connection!
Who knows, as you travel you might actually get a flood of cool ideas 🙂
This is what I did for a while and still do once a week or so. But my home eventually became my office simply because it’s so easy to get out of bed and walk down the hall. Path of least resistance. Flexo, you might also check into some type of coworking environment. Cheaper than renting your own space.
Good luck on your new endeavor. I too am planning to leave the corporate world during 2011. What steps have you taken to mitigate your risk? It seems that they would be different mitigating factors for someone with dependents or not.
I have no dependents, so my situation might be different than other people’s, but I mitigated risk by waiting for a long time. During that wait, the “side” income had grown to be several multiples of my day job income. I have built up excessive savings in the unlikely event that income disappears next week so I have freedom to work out a new plan without worrying about affording my expenses.
I’m surprised you didn’t quit sooner if your side income is several multiples of your day job!
I would probably quit once I hit parity for sure!
Depends on what you mean by parity — one-to-one replacement of salary doesn’t take into account the cost of benefits, for example. Additionally, you have to consider the inconsistent nature of self-employment income vs. relative stability of a corporate job. I’ve seen what happens when everything with self-employment income goes all wrong, and I’m sure I don’t want to experience that again.
Better safe than sorry I always say! 🙂
Btw, JD still rents an office. He likes it because it gives him some exercise walking to the office and like you said, an environment more conducive to work.
It will seem odd/weird at first. Don’t beat yourself up when the awkwardness sets in (it will). You’ll feel like you “should” be working all the time.
But that’s hopefully a reason why you decided to go out on your own, to work when you want.
I ended up getting an outside office when my kids were young. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t play with them all the time.
I’ve since gone back to the corporate world. Needless to say, I miss working from home.
Enjoy your new adventure!
In my regular job, I do work for myself, but I’m a consultant who works for the client, so I have an office to go to.
For blogging, it’s not a job, just a hobby.. but I find working at home to be the most productive for me, because I am comfortable, rather than having to go out to a cafe or separate place, dress up, wear pants, etc.
I get my best ideas just sitting on the futon.