Friday, December 14, 2007

Consulting and working at home: when does the work day end?

Slashdot has a discussion this morning on this topic, and it is very relevant to my lifestyle. Most of my customers, since they use me in a telecommuting mode, also use knowledge workers in Vietnam, India, Russia, South America, and Eastern Europe. Because of the timezone differences it can be very productive to do some work right before I go to bed and if, for example, I wake up very early in the morning.

I balance this "always on" mode by taking frequent long breaks during the day for hiking with friends, seeing movies with my wife, playing with my pet Meyers Parrot, turning off my computer and reading, cooking, working on CookingSpace.com, etc.

Besides taking these frequent long breaks, I have three tricks that I use to feel good about my "always on" mode:
  • Feel good about providing service: always equate the loss of personal time with feeling good about helping someone
  • Bill for all time spent, even small increments: if I am interrupted by the need to handle something ASAP then I also bill for time spent getting back into my previous task
  • Limit total work time: unless there is a drop-dead emergency, I limit the number of hours total that I work each day and week. I just started doing this in the last year, and it makes consulting even more fun
It all really comes down to having a good sense for balancing one's own personality and needs with working lifestyles. Some of my friends simply prefer working hard in an office and then having their evenings and weekends free.

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