Monday, October 13, 2014

The Space Between

I expected a lot of things to change when I quit my job. One thing that has happened that I didn't anticipate, though, has been the way in which the entire family seems to have taken a deep breath and stretched into the space my change in work arrangements has created.

Pumpkin comes home from her after school care 30 minutes earlier most days. She is a complete bookworm these days, so she after we walk home, she gets herself a snack and then disappears into her book while I wrap up my work.

Mr. Snarky has started going for a run every weekday morning, except Mondays, when I get up early for a run or other short workout. Monday mornings are the only day of the week I can force myself to get up earlier than I absolutely have to these days.

Petunia is requesting- and getting!- more after dinner games. She is also requesting, but not yet getting, Mommy to pick her up from day care more often. Her day care is close to Mr. Snarky's work, not my home or any other work location I go to right now. She did get one of the periodic "special days" I do with each kid from time to time, though, and we had a blast.

And everyone is just more relaxed in the morning.

This is not a complaint- I don't really begrudge anyone the extra space. I've taken some of the space, too. I go for a run on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, as a mid-afternoon break (this is awesome both for my fitness levels and my ability to think of good and/or creative solutions to problems I'm working on). I can usually stop working early enough on Thursdays that I can go to my favorite spot for a nice long rollerblade while Pumpkin gets her Chinese lesson. I am reading more.

Still, I am keeping an eye on this trend, because it plays into one of my fears about my new, more independent work arrangement. I worry that without the external pressure of a boss and a full time job, it will be too easy to prioritize other things over my work, and this chance I've given myself to try to build something of my own will slip away.

On one hand, part of what I wanted when I quit my job was more freedom to optimize my time use globally, instead of in little local "work" and "home" namespaces.  On the other hand, both those namespaces are notoriously greedy.

I've decided to handle this by just acknowledging my fear, to both myself and Mr. Snarky. The kids are too young to really understand the issue, although I think Pumpkin halfway gets it. At least she can see the benefits of me getting the work stuff sorted out, if only so that she can again have an easy answer when people ask her what her mother does for work.

I'm also using time-tracking to try to keep me honest. I "charge" all of the hours I spend on work and work-related things (including blogging, which I call "work-like," since it has created the platform from which I have been able to launch other things). My goal is to make sure I get in at least 30 solid hours of charged time, which past experience tells me translates to roughly a 35 hour work week. I charge more time sometimes- for instance, in the run up to our vacation, or when I was pushing hard to get Navigating the Path to Industry released. But my past time-tracking experiments tell me that 35 hours per week is peak productivity for me, so that's what aim for.

The other tool I'm starting to use to make sure I don't let "home"  crowd out "work" is Trello. I decided to use Trello to organize my projects, mostly because I wanted to compare it to KanbanFlow and JIRA, both of which I've used and liked. It took me some futzing to figure out how best to use Trello for my current situation, but I eventually settled on a system that includes having a "master" board that I fill up from my various project boards once per month. What I put on the board is what I intend to do that month. It is early days, but this seems to help keep me focused, and to get me past issues I have with asking people for help (for instance). If I put it on my board, I have to do it and I push past my silly hang ups.

The final tool I'm using is a real surprise to me. I decided to write a monthly newsletter that focuses on starting my business. I'm only on my second month, but I'm settling into a format in which each newsletter has three parts: a story about starting/running the business, promos for whatever I've released in the last month, and links to things I've liked (including my favorite Tungsten Hippo recommendation of the month). Due to when I decided to start the newsletter, it comes out on roughly the second Friday of each month. When I sat down to do this month's newsletter, I was annoyed by the fact that I didn't have that much for the promo section. I anticipate that I'll be a bit more focused on getting things done and out there in the world in time for future newsletters- which is a good thing. (If you want to follow along on this part of the experiment, the newsletter is called Founding Chaos, and anyone can subscribe.)

So I think I've got some checks and balances in place to allow me- and everyone else in the family- to relax and enjoy the space I created. And that, frankly, is just awesome.


  1. That's not the worst way for family stuff to creep into that extra time, since you're still managing to be productive, mindfully. I love the idea of Trello but don't seem to be able to keep myself using it, it's weird because it's such a neat organizational tool.

    I've had the same stretch in my days so I lost more of my evenings but do get to spend actual time with PiC, the dog and taking care of home things. It'll be interesting to see what happens once Little Bean is born b/c I've got to become more efficient somewhere to make time for that extra family :)

    I do still really wants to start building out something more of my own, as you're doing, in hopes of creating yet more freedom but while I'm pretty solitary, I'm not prepared to go solo entrepreneur just yet.

  2. Zenmoo11:47 PM

    I'm glad to hear things are working out well. It is good to be able to get more activity in - I am currently being reminded that getting outdoors for a walk or bike ride really does do good things for my overall mood. It helps the weather here is still pretty good and we're planning to head back to NZ for a holiday to escape the heat for a couple of weeks in January.

  3. I like how you are trying not to let family life completely crowd into your personal goals---its really hard, especially when the requests are actually quite pleasant (family games! reading!)
    Oh and your remarks about Pumpkin always give me lots of hope for the future---"gets herself a snack" and reads a book on her own---you mean that day is coming?!!

    1. Anonymous6:25 AM

      We discovered this morning that my two year old is capable of getting herself a snack. Unfortunately what that turns out to mean is that she takes her stool over to the pantry and is now tall enough to use that to get to DC1's candy shelf and have his candy for breakfast. Not ok!

    2. Yes! Pumpkin gets her own snack and even pours her own drink most of the time. And it is getting harder and harder to get her to stop reading and come to the dinner table.

      @Nicoleandmaggie - DC2 is resourceful!

  4. I love Trello! I have been using it for several years, and the interface really seems to match the way I organize my life.

  5. Anonymous10:22 AM

    keep up the good work. I don't comment much anymore on blogs, but I read all your posts and wanted to say you are doing very well I think. - Dr S

  6. This was a good post for me to read this week. I've had an overly full calendar lately (my own fault) and it feels like all the obligations are crowding each other out. Also doesn't help that we're down to one car this week. So I feel like everything is getting short shrift and I'm feeling pretty frazzled.

    I love the idea of Trello but I think I need a paper-based solution. I've just ordered a gorgeous, large planner from S Korea that I think will help with all of my creative business planning stuff. I just wish it would show up already :)

    1. I use a paper daily list, which tends to be much smaller tasks. I actually prefer a physical board, and if (when!) I get my outdoor office built, I think I'll put one up.


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