For the last five or so years of my self-employment, a lot has changed. And I’m not talking about the technical landscape. I mean, that’s always changing, right?
But I’m talking about the way that I manage my time and the way that I get work done.
Unfortunately, the Internet has adopted this culture that allows everyone to share how they manage their time and then try to distill it into some type of step-by-step process that can be used by everyone.
That’s not the point of this post. I don’t operate that. I rarely subscribe to that advice, and I’m not going to be that guy.
Furthermore, I tend to ignore (and even reject) posts like that. We have many different personalities and so many variables that contribute to what we’re able to do, when we’re able to do it, and how we’re able to work that I don’t think it’s possible to actually distill something into a formulaic process.
Instead, I think it’s worth simply sharing ideas on what’s worked for ourselves and leaving it at that. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things we can borrow from others – because there is overlap in our personalities – but it also means that some of these posts are nothing more than informational pieces. And that’s fine.
So with that lengthy disclaimer out of the way, I thought I’d share some of the things that I currently do in order to manage by day-to-day tasks to get things done.
Anyway, here’s my first set of what’s to likely be more in posts that deal with confessions of a WordPress developer.
Confessions of a WordPress Developer
Currently, I spend 100% of my time working on contracts for Pressware. This is an LLC that I started when I was in college out of which I was building custom solutions for others (though the name has undergone a few changes since then).
It hasn’t always been this way, though.
During school I was working on some contracts, during internships, I spend evenings working on a couple of small jobs, and then after I left my 9-to-5, I began to spend a lot more time working out of it; however, I was still dividing my time between that and 8BIT (RIP).
Now, as I mentioned, I’m 100% focused on Pressware and I have been for quite a while now. I absolutely love it, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come with it’s fair share of challenges.
1. Time With Your Family
Over the course of self-employment, my wife and I have added two little girls to our family. Love ’em to death.
Sure, we’ve had the usual ups and downs that most families have, as well, but welcoming two brand new people to Earth and then being responsible for their well-being is simultaneously the best thing that’s happened to us, but also the thing that has changed everything for us.
And to be clear, when I say that things have changed, there’s absolutely no negative connotation for that. I can’t imagine them not being present in our lives.
Parenthood is the greatest.
Consequently, this means that I’ve set strict boundaries as to when I work and when I don’t. Just because I have the privilege to work from home doesn’t mean that I spend portions of my day playing with my kids. On the flip side, it doesn’t mean that I’m constantly available for work, either.
When it was just my wife and me, that was a little bit different, but at this point I’m fully committed to making Pressware the most solid business that it can be all the while making sure that I’m the most present and active father than I can possibly be.
If an email or a call comes in after 5pm EST, then the odds of it being answered are slim to none. There’s a time for work to be the priority, there’s a time for my family to be priority, and I try hard to maintain that balance.
2. The Projects That You Love
One of the pieces of conventional wisdom that people often share – especially those who own their own business or who are self-employed – say that they have the ability to work on the projects that they love.
But do you know how hard it is for people to actually get into a job they they love? I mean, really? In some sense, it paints a complete picture for all of us, but for others it’s a pipedream.
But I digress.
Anyway, or all intents and purposes let’s that you are working in a place that you love. If you’re in the product business, then odds that you have to deal with some type of customer service or refunds or recalls or something like that are likely high. Who honestly loves being shouted at by an unhappy customer or having to trace a bug for hours trying to figure out how to recreate it?
So though you may be working on projects that you love, there are aspects to the job that aren’t so glamorous.
And if you’re working on the contract arena, the same is true. After sometime, I hope, we’re all able to begin working on contracts that interest us, but every now and then there are things that are going to come up – be it a ceiling needing to be repaired, a car breaking down, or so – and you’ll need to pick up an extra project to get the funds.
On one hand, it’s not ideal. You’re going to be hours building out and implementing something that is far and away something that you’d prefer to work on. But, on the other hand, you always have the ability to take care of those projects so that you can, in turn, take care of yourself and/or your family.
This isn’t meant to distill the chores of working on less than stellar jobs into some type of poetic version of itself. It’s not. Working on projects that we hate is draining, it’s often a source of a procrastination, and it’s something that we don’t want to do.
But sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. So I think it’s worth sucking it, being grateful that we have work, and then pushing forward.
3. Learning What You Like (And What You Don’t)
Finally, throughout the course of self-employment, I’ve worked with a variety of different languages and platforms. WordPress has been one constant even when I was just using it as a blogging platform to share what I was doing in other programming languages.
The nice thing about working with a variety of technologies early on is that you learn what you like and what you don’t. Sometimes, I think this is subjective. This is why some people love PHP, this is why some hate it. This is why some are Rubyists, this is why some aren’t.
It’s fun to talk about which language is better than the other, and it’s human nature to determine which type of programmer comes out on top, but it’s also a fool’s errand.
If you’re working with a stack of technologies that help you solve problems using tools that you love for clients that you enjoy, then you win (and you’re not competing against anyone but yourself around that).
This is something that took me years to figure out. And I think, as programmers, it’s easy to sit with a language or a set of tools and think “Yeah, this is fine – I’m comfortable working with these utilities,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you dig just a little bit further, then you may find that whatever it is you’re working with (or working on) creates some type of feeling of satisfaction than many of your alternatives. Don’t dismiss that as it may very well be the thing that helps direct you to where you want to head from wherever you are now.
This Isn’t Advice
Nothing that I’ve written above is intended to be advice. If anything, it’s more of an explanation as to how I spend my time and how I’ve been able to work on the projects that I work on doing the work that I do with the family that I have.
This isn’t prescriptive to your situation. This may not work with how your life is organized (but maybe it will).
I don’t know.
But blogs are our attempting at sharing information with the world. Sometimes it comes in the form of advice, sometimes it comes in the form of personal experience. In this case, it’s latter.
Maybe it’ll help, maybe not. If not, that’s cool :).