What I Actually Do All Day

One of the primary goals of this blog is to give people a peek into the life of someone who decided to work for themselves instead of pursuing a corporate career.  Back in college I wish I knew that running my own business was a career option.  And if I did know it was an option, I would have had a million questions for someone who was 25 and ran their own online business.  For most people, their entire life is structured for them – school, college, and work dictate what time they wake up and what they spend the majority of your days doing.

It’s both invigorating and scary at the same time to have to create your own schedule. A lot of the work I do doesn’t generate revenue today, tomorrow, or maybe even this month or year – we’re putting systems in place that will make it easier for our company to succeed as we scale in the coming years.  With that it’s very possible to be complacent, and even the best of us struggle with that.  Being that it’s been nearly 2 years since I left my job, I’ve tried every different type of schedule to try to maximize my productivity and my health, happiness and longevity.

Finally I feel like I’ve settled into a “schedule” that I am very happy with.  One of the best aspects of working for yourself is the flexibility to do whatever you want whenever you want, but here’s what a typical weekday looks like for me (note – the night before I make a list of 3-5 “goals” for the day):

8 AM – Wake up, grab an energy bar and head off to the gym
8:30 – 9:30 AM – Workout
9:30 – 10:30 AM – Post-workout shake + answer email
10:30 AM – 12 PM –  Start hammering away at my goals.  Some days it’s programming, others it’s marketing.  Each day is different and exciting and this time of day is when I’m at my most productive.  I’m 100% awake and refreshed from a good nights sleep and a productive workout.
12 – 12:45 PM – eat, shower, read the paper, read ESPN.com
12:45 – 3 PM – keep working at my goals.  On the best of days I get through everything before 3 and the rest of the day is “bonus time”, but usually by this time something has gone wrong with something and I’ve gotten sidetracked (programming error, customer complaint, payroll issue…you name it, it happens – you get used to it).  I do my best to not let these things ruin my day – I take care of them and move on.  If you don’t have a short memory about that kind of stuff you’ll let it cripple your productivity.
3 – 3:30 PM – snack + read tech news via my news feeds in Google Reader
3:30 – 5 PM – back at the goals.  If I’m ahead for the day, I’ll rip through email to get a head start for the following day.  If not, I let most emails sit until the next morning (I am a firm believer that email that is not important – which is most email – can distract away your day, so I answer email at most twice per day).
*about half of the days I spend this 12-5 period with my partners, usually at a local coffee shop so we can collaborate on projects.  The rest of the days I stay home.
5 – 5:30 PM – dinner + Around the Horn.  This ritual is set in stone.
5:30 – Whenever I finish my goals (usually 7:30 to 9, but no later than 11) – this really depends on what projects I’m on.  If I’m programming I’m working until 11.  If I’m doing other stuff, I can usually wrap up by 8.  The very last thing I do is plan my goals for the next day, which I write out on an index card.
The rest of the night – 12:30 AM – eat, read, watch sports, play video games, give friends a call, see what my family is up to, etc.  One of my favorite things to do is read my business magazines – Entrepreneur, Inc., Fast Company, or Business 2.0 (which just got canned) – while watching sports.  I’m a huge sports fan, but I can’t solely focus on any game unless it’s extremely important.  So I multitask and read magazines.   I wouldn’t keep reading business magazines and write blog posts after my day was over if I wasn’t passionate about what I do.  To me, passion for something cures all other ills – you’re always motivated and you’re never burnt out because there’s nothing in the world you’d rather be doing.  You’re doing what makes you happy all day long.
12:30 AM – Sleep.  Once I decide I’m ready to go to bed, I shut the TV off and usually read a non-business book until I pass out.

There you have it.  Nothing earth shattering.  That’s my day-to-day for you.  Weekends are obviously much more lax and flexible, and if need be I’ll adjust my weekdays to accommodate other areas of my life.  The ability to do so absolutely rocks. Each of my partners has a distinctly different schedule and we’ve all adapted to what works best for us.  I’m sure we’ll continue to adapt as each of us enters different phases of our life – home ownership, marriage, kids, etc.

Oh, and I’d be remised if I  didn’t mention what I miss the least about the corporate world: commuting.  Yes, waking up at the exact same time and working the exact same time can be confining, but nothing is worse than being stifled by traffic on a daily basis to the point where it turns a 10 minute commute into a 40 minute one.  Commuting truly makes you feel like you are wasting away your life…probably because you are.  An hour a day commuting is roughly a full 24 hour day each month!