New Year, New Regime.

Previously I’ve talked about how I’ve not accomplished as much as I’d liked in the first couple of weeks of working on my own, and also that I need to change the structure of my day to allow for “spiking”.

Before Christmas I had finally found what amounts to a daily rhythm, but it wasn’t perfect, and I certainly didn’t follow it perfectly. This is what I wanted to do…

  • 07:30 – Get up, shower, shave, breakfast etc.
  • 08:30 – Review email, forums and feeds. Deal with paper work such as VAT etc.
  • 09:30 – Development.
  • 13:00 – Lunch / Go out for an hour / run errands etc.
  • 14:00 – Review email and forums.
  • 14:15 – Development.
  • 17:30 – Review email, forums and feeds, maybe write a blog post and generally wind-down until it’s time for dinner.

This regime was supposed to give me plenty of time to leisurely wake up, deal with the “urgent” stuff and then get in a good few hours development before lunch. After lunch just a few minutes to check email etc and then back to development until it was time to wind-down ready for the evening.

Well, I generally managed to get up between 07:30 and 08:00, not always, but mostly, without using an alarm clock, which I was pretty happy with.

However, if I’d been up late for whatever reason then I allowed myself a little extra time in bed to compensate. Which occasionally lapsed into a whole lot of extra time, which ain’t so good.

Lesson #1: No matter what, set an alarm and get up at a constant time.

Because I wasn’t always getting up dead on 07:30 sometimes breakfast was a little rushed and not as leisurely as I’d hoped, sometimes I’d have breakfast at my desk while ready email etc. This isn’t what I wanted at all.

I thought the hour I gave myself for reading and responding to email, checking the forums and stats and then scanning the news feeds was quite generous, turns out it wasn’t, I’ve been spending way too much time reading feeds and certain other forums I frequent. This has got to change, my priority is development not reading news feeds.

Lesson #2: Do not check email, forums and feeds or deal with paper work first thing. Development must come first.

This is going to be very hard, I have this in-built need to check for any support email or forum posts often, I hate the thought of not responding as soon as I can. However, I recognise that I’m totally incapable of controlling my click finger, once I’ve checked my email for support emails I naturally check out the mailing lists I subscribe to, even though they filter into separate folders. Similarly when I check my forums I find myself clicking on the bookmarks for a couple of others too, I just can’t help it. So I’m not going to do anything but development in the mornings while at my computer.

A lot of my recent re-thinking on how to structure my day has been influenced by Steve Pavlina’s recent The 50-30-20 Rule post. In it he explains how he’s trying to follow a rule whereby at least half of his day will be taken up with actions that contribute to his long term goals, he calls them Class A actions. So in an 8 hour day he’ll spend 4 hours or more on those Class A actions. He will spend no more than 20% of his day on short term actions, those actions that have no real effect beyond 90 days, things like paper work and email (Class C). This 20% is an upper limit, if he doesn’t get everything done from Class C then so be it, they’ll keep until the next day. The remaining time, approximately 30% of the day, will be spent on Class B actions, actions that contribute to mid-term goals that are typically realized within 2 years. Class B actions use up all the time left after Class A and C.

Steve doesn’t quite make it clear as to how he structures his day, whether he gets the Class C stuff out of the way first and then spends the rest of the day on Class A then B actions, but I know how I’m going to attempt it.

I don’t trust myself to stick to only spending 1:30 on Class C stuff and then moving onto the rest, so I’m going to do at least 4 hours on Class A (primarily development at the moment) before then doing the Class C stuff. Once I’ve done 1:30 on Class C I’ll move onto Class B and maybe back to Class A if I have the time.

Before I detail what my new regime is to look like, there is one more item I need to address, health.

Last year (2005) I was going to lose one pound of weight every week until I reached my goal of 12 stone. I started the year at just over 14 stone, so expected to be fighting fit by the end of July. Suffice it to say that didn’t happen, I’m now a good 5 pounds heavier than I was this time last year, and not feeling the better for it! I didn’t have any real plan on how to lose the weight, certainly no exercise plan.

Lesson #3: Plan exercise into the week.

So, it’s back on the bike. I love cycling and am determined to be in good shape for the summer so that I can take advantage of all these free weekends I now have to take nice long rides out into the Scottish countryside.

I’ve ordered a set of cheap rollers, a cheap heart rate monitor and a couple of extra pairs of cheap cycling shorts (anyone getting the idea I’m looking after the pennies just now? :-) ). The rollers are so that I can get a good start now, while the roads are as dangerous as hell with darkness, frost and usual half asleep or drunk drivers. I’m going to start off with a daily 30 minute spin and then ramp up from there.

So, with no further ado, here’s the new daily regime:

  • 07:30 – Alarm goes off, get up, pee, get on bike.
  • 08:00 – Shower, shave, breakfast etc.
  • 09:00 – Development – super fueled by oxygen from exercise and breakfast.
  • 13:00 – Lunch.
  • 14:00 – Email, forums, paper work, feeds etc.
  • 15:30 – Class B items such as planning, marketing and organisational stuff, blogging and spiking.
  • 17:30 – Wind-down with reading and listening to podcasts etc (or more development if in the mood).

The 08:00 timing isn’t going to be hit, ever, as it’ll be a few minutes after 08:00 before I finish my 30 min session in the bike, it’s just a rough placeholder. But the 09:00 start should be easily achievable, that’s the most important timing of the whole day.

Everything after 13:00 is approximate, I may find I’m right in the middle of some development that I don’t want to stop so lunch may be delayed, which will have the effect of reducing the time spent on Class B stuff, but so be it.

OK, I realise I’m no robot, so those timings may be flexed a little, but it’ll be interesting to see how much more I can accomplish by trying to follow this regime.

When the lighter evenings come in I intend to use the 17:30 wind-down slot to go out on my bike for an hour or two. I may even just start my day a little earlier so that I can get out on the bike even earlier, we’ll see, that’s a couple of months away yet.

I’ll be sure to report back on how the new regime is holding up in due course, and whether I needed to alter it at all.

No comments.

  1. I think you may have a tough time with the schedule. I tried something like that when I left the day job about 9 months ago. The problem is that while you want that schedule the rest of the world is pretty intent on messing it up!

    I found it useful to be a bit more analytic. I look at when I get the most support emails, meaning days and times of day. Then use those days for support plus paperwork, etc. Then do development on days/times when there’s normally less support needs. At least that’s what’s worked for me.

    Good job figuring out the exercise thing early. I didn’t bother with it until I got HelpSpot out the door and by then I was a total wreck. It’s taken me 2 months just to get back to where I can breathe well and I expect a few more months to actually get into shape.

  2. Hi Ian L,

    I have spent a bit of time thinking about the time I spend doing support, and when is the best time to do it. Prompted by your post on the subject a little while ago.

    The thing is, because I’m in the UK and the majority of my customers are in the USA I tend not to get any support requests until the early afternoon.

    So doing my support stuff after lunch makes sense for me, to catch any EU/UK stuff and any early or over-night USA stuff.

    What I haven’t mentioned is that I tend to also check my email etc just before going to bed, this tends to be a good time to respond to most of the USA stuff from the East coast just as they wind up for the day, with only the West coast likely to have to wait a little for a response, which they should get on their next morning.

    If it doesn’t work out well and I find that I’m not responding to support requests as promptly as I’d like then I’ll have to reconsider, but I’m hoping I’ve got a good balance between dedicated development time and “bitty” stuff.

    I’ll definitely keep an eye on it.

  3. I went solo with my ISV 4 months ago and I still haven’t clicked into a balance. My problem is that I work in bursts. So I may program for 12 hours straight and create some great code. Then I’ll spend the next 2 days just surfing the Internet. It’s good reading that others need plans to. I’m hoping to be more disciplined this year.