Routines for a routineless life

Or how to make it work in a remote job with flexible hours

All along my working career I have never been able to make it to work twice at the same hour. Ever. In 20 years. That's a lot. Luckily I hadn't had to clock in or out in any of my jobs. I didn't like taking the bus to work either, cause of the fixed schedule.

Yeah, you've guessed it. I don't like fixed schedules. My brain (as in a separate entity from my own self that I can blame) doesn't like to deal with that.

Then, about two and a half years ago I quit my big group job. Bootcamp, holidays, everything was ok.

And then January arrived. No fixed schedule and all the time in my hands to start my own business. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Everything was going to be birds chirping and flower smelling.

But you won't guess what happened.

I was lost. My little brain didn't know what to do. I felt unproductive all the time, while feeling that I was working all the time.

I also felt guilty for doing things like going grocery shopping on a Tuesday at noon when there's basically no one (cause everyone is at their 9 to 5 jobs). My little brain thought that at that time I should be working... like I'd been doing for the last 20 years!

How is that possible? How come I am feeling this way if this is exactly what I wanted?

I was blocked and felt I needed help. So after a friend's recommendation I worked with a coach. It only took one session to address the issue.

"This is a common problem with people who change from a fixed schedule job to a flexible job", he said. "The problem is, you have removed the frame that your brain was used to follow for the last 20 years and now it doesn't know what to do. You need to set a schedule."

I'm sorry, did you just say a schedule? No, no, no, ain't gonna happen. I hate schedules!

But I figured, since I was paying him (a lot) to give me advice I should at least give it a try.

Fast forward a couple of years.

Now I am working at Codegram. Remote job with flexibility. Perfect!

In parallel, I am working part time on my own business that I've created during the last 2 years. That, my friend, requires organization... and schedule.

The good part is, it is you who sets the schedule. It is you who decides your working hours. You organize your job around your life and not the other way around.

But still, you need to be very careful to not end up working on the couch in your pj's with your TV on (true story). Cause if you do that, chances are, you are not going to be productive. And you want to be productive, right?

So here are a few things I've put in place since I started my full time job at Codegram that have worked for me. I usually work from home, though sometimes I'll go with a friend to a mall where there's good wifi, or go to a coworking, depending on my mood and needs.

These tips are taken from podcasts, articles on productivity, etc. I did a mix and match, tried and found (so far) what works for me. Hopefully this will help you as well.

👉Enter "Routines for a routineless life".

  • I go to bed and wake up at a regular time everyday. I am not a morning person, and I like to stay up late, but if you do that, you go somehow against the world. So, a little arrangement here and there helped with that. To my surprise, by keeping the schedule regular, I even wake up somedays before my alarm goes off.
  • I hit the gym 3 times a week first thing in the morning. Another thing I had a hard time sticking to. I read somewhere that you should get the most complicated task over with first thing in the morning, that way, you've won your day. I don't know about the wining your day thing, but for sure this has helped me keep up with my exercise routine... which is a lot to say. The trick? No discussion with my brain. I go to the gym. Period. There's no room for negotiation there.
  • I work for 2 hours on my own business. On days I don't hit the gym, I work on my business first thing in the morning.
  • After that, and only then, I take my shower and get ready for my Codegram job. This might seem stupid, but I get dressed as if I would go to the office. I even put on my earrings (I never go out without earrings, I feel naked without them when I'm not at home... don't ask why, 🤷🏻‍♀️everyone has their weirdnesses...). My business and my job at Codegram have absolutely nothing to do one with the other, so my brain needs sometime to switch between activities and allow full concentration in both of them at their own turn.

The simple fact of taking a shower at this time and getting dressed to go to work tells my brain that I am switching activities.

  • When it comes to lunch, I usually cook on the weekends, normally a couple of simple lunches with several portions, so I don't have to think about it day in and day out. Then I have lunch watching something easy on tv or just looking at the ceiling... basically not thinking about anything... (or that's what I want to make myself believe...).
  • When my workday ends, I "go home". Meaning, I change my clothes into my cozy, warm stay-at-home-wear... (and take off my earrings!). That tells my brain that my working day is finished.
  • I keep track of my worked time. Not that it is a requirement at Codegram, but I want to make sure I don't go way overtime, which is very easy when working at home. I use toggl.com for that.
  • I have different working spaces for my two different activities. For my own business I work on the island counter in my kitchen (don't worry, it is comfortable). For Codegram I work in my office (which is set up in my guests room).

This is also valid if you have only one activity. Having a distinct, separate workspace helps your brain separate between work and personal life.

This is all in all what has worked for me so far.

Surprisingly, and much to my little brains regret, I feel much calmer having a schedule and sticking to it.

Still, I allow myself for some flexibility when needed (grocery shopping, doctors appointment, lunch with friends...), that's the beauty of a remote, flexible job, isn't it?

What works for you? Tell us on twitter. And follow us, while your at it!