My normal workday
As regular readers know I work from home and have a pretty structured workday, partly because of the demands of my job and partly as a coping strategy for a rare form of systemic arthritis that I suffer from. Having recently read a post titled Don’t take orders from your calendar on the Thinking Faster blog and also a whole raft of posts on attention deficit disorder in tech workers I thought it was about time to share how I structure my day to:
- make sure I get plenty of exercise
- make sure I find time to relax and meditate
- make sure I keep up to date and contactable, without falling victim to attention deficit issues
- make sure I achieve something significant each day/week, and don’t just fritter the day away in meetings and email and RSS
- make sure I don’t over commit myself or get too stressed
- make sure I don’t work too long
To get a good understanding of my day you need to get an overview of my week
Friday – I do a weekly review, what have I achieved, what new work has been added, how have priorities changed. I update my work tracking application OnTime to reflect all this.
Saturday and Sunday (when I get an odd minute) – I open up a group (called “to blog”) of tabs in my browser (Maxthon), each tab is a web page or document that I want to blog about, I then work through as many as I can, sometimes I will loose interest in a topic and close the tab, on Sunday night I will save all the open tabs back as a group I will have another go next week.
Sunday – Having reflected on my priorities over the weekend, I scan my project list and select 3 things I really want to achieve next week. I write these at the top of my white board, which is on the Office door, so I see it 20+ times a day.
Each evening – I scan through FeedDemon and open tabs in Maxthon for every feed that I want to read in more detail, I then save these as a group on my Tablet. I also write up on my Whiteboard (below my weeks priorities) the appointments I have the next day and the tasks I want to achieve that day.
Before I go to bed – I fill in my pain diary, this is a simple Excel spreadsheet which takes 2 minutes to fill in but records which joints or muscles have just been aching, which have hurt or have hurt so much that it has stopped me working, I also record how tired I have been, my ability to concentrate, how feverish I have been and how bad my head aches have been. I also record how hard I have worked, how many hours, how stressed and also how good I have been, diet, exercise, meditation, relaxation, meditation. Doing this gives me a graph which helps me to visualise how I am improving and where I need to work harder. It really works, over the last 4 months I have significantly reduced my symptoms through focusing on the stuff that helps and reducing the stuff that makes me worse.
First thing (8:30 – 10:00) – I check my Email, grab my Tablet and my Treo and go for a walk, like all Arthritis sufferers I get morning stiffness and more often than not a lot of pain in the mornings. I have trained myself over the years to walk through the pain, stop limping etc, after half an hour I am feeling much better. Half an hour is my half way point and I will stop at a local fitness trail by a lake and do some upper body exercises and then walk along the beach into town. During this walk I will either be on the phone or listening to podcasts. I generally listen to about 1.5 hours of podcasts a day and these are mainly technical conferences.
Breakfast (10:00 – 11:00) – I breakfast everyday at one of three beach side cafes, as I arrive I switch off the podcast and synch my email and go have a chat and order breakfast. When I come back my Tablet has started up and my Treo has synced up. I check email for new appointments, reschedules, emails I need to respond to or calls to make then I start reading. I read through the group of browser tabs that I saved from my desktop the night before, these contain web pages and documents. After I have read them I either delete them, save then for reference (using NetSnippets) or save them in another Maxthon group (for example “To Blog”). This is quiet time, I have no distractions and it lasts for about an hour. I often don’t read everything in which case the unread stuff gets carried over to the next day.
Walk home (11:00 – 11:15) – It’s a short walk home, I make any less urgent calls or continue to listen to a podcast.
Personal work time (11:30 – 13:00) – After unpacking, and doing a bit of house work, for example putting the washing in the drier) I am ready to spend 1.5 hours doing some serious work on my own. As I generally work with people in the USA or Australia I tend not to be interrupted until 13:00. Typically this work will involve the development of presentations, writing documents or doing analysis. Towards the end of this session RSI Guard (software that sits in the status bar) will kick in and tell me I need to take a break and do some stretching so I do that as I get ready for my first conference call of the day.
Conference calls (13:00 – 16:00) – During this window of 3 hours I tend to be in conference calls for 2 of them every day. These tend to be pretty complex with 4–5 participants and an accompanying web conference where we will work collaboratively, review, check on status or discuss several projects.
Lunch and Meditation (30 Mins) – Sometime between 13:00 and 15:00 I will try and find time to meditate for 20 minutes and to have a snack, usually fruit.
Family time (16:00 – 16:45) – Time for tea with the family and finishing off some household chores like putting the dry washing away
Take the kids somewhere (16:45 – 18:00) – depending on the day I normally take the kids swimming, shopping or for an evening walk to the park. We always walk, if it’s swimming I will sit in the pool side lounge and watch a video of a conference session like Microsoft’s PDC or LotusSphere or do some reviewing on my Tablet.
House work (18:00 – 18:30) – I tend to put the clothes away and listen to a Podcast while I am sorting, folding etc.
Catch up on email and scan RSS feeds (18:30 – 19:30) – I will check emails that have arrived since 16:00 and will then scan through all my RSS feeds and collect articles that I want to read tomorrow as a group in Maxthon.
Read (19:30 – 20:00) – I try to spend a bit of time relaxing before I finish work for the day and normally I read, sometimes a business or technology book, and sometimes a novel that I am working through ready for discussion at the local reading group run by the library at the end of the road.
TV Family time (20:00 – 22:00) – 5 nights a week my wife and I watch TV with our two older daughters, we enjoy the family time and because we have Tivo we can pause the programs and so have lots of discussion which greatly enhances the experience. Two nights a week the girls are out at clubs.
Reading in the bath (22:00 – 22:30) – I complete my pain diary, do a final sync of all of my computers and then I like to soak in a very hot bath and read, its good for my arthritis and helps me sleep, I get further help because I take muscle relaxants and pain killers.