If you've never worked for yourself, I'm not sure it's possible to imagine what it's really like.
You probably overestimate some parts of it and underestimate others. It's not quite the same as when you're vacationing and your only prerogative is relax and see sights. You have responsibilities that need to get done, but no one's going to tell you when or how to do them.
Today I wanted to talk about my favorite and least favorite parts of this equation.
My favorite part, by far, is that I get to control the amount of craziness in my environment.
If I want people and noise and craziness, I can go shopping on a Saturday or out to a bar on a Friday night. If I want quiet time, I can go out when places are empty.
I love going to a cafe or restaurant at not normal times. Between 10AM and 11:30AM, and between 2PM and 4:30PM... I get the place all to myself.
For instance, here's a historic restaurant here in Kuala Lumpur:
Notice how it's completely empty? Yes, I had an entire room in this beautiful restaurant to myself. Light classical music is playing, I had a pot of strong black melaka coffee, and later some rice and spiced chicken. They let me do my thing and work for a few hours in a notebook, because the place is empty and I'm friendly. Beautiful work environment.
Compare this to what normal people have to go through twice a day during rush hour in Saigon -
I mean, that's just inhumane. That's awful. That's terrible. Once or twice a month I forget to pay attention to the time, and wind up in rush hour somehow. Afterwards, I count my blessings that I get to make my own schedule.
I think that's the most underrated benefit - I go shopping mid-day on the weekdays if I want to get groceries, and I don't have to wait in line. No traffic. Things like that. How much life energy do people usually burn stuck in traffic and lines? Far too much, I reckon.
Probably the most challenging thing about making your own schedule is that it's very easy to get off track.
There's no one with a whip to crack to make sure you stay on track. Lately, I've been working on a large deal with people back in the USA, so I've had a number of calls around 2AM and 3AM, throwing my sleep schedule out of whack. I'm now basically in nocturnal mode - up in the late afternoon, evening, and night, sleeping in the early morning, waking up in the afternoon.
That sucks. I prefer early to bed, early to rise. I can handle late to bed, late to rise. But right now I have neither - my schedule is basically the complete opposite of anything sane.
Nothing's going to force me to get back onto a normal schedule. I can work and function like this, even though it's weird to have breakfast a little before normal people are having dinner, and have dinner in the middle of the early morning. If I want to get off this schedule, I'll have to artificially force it by scheduling appointments in a way where I have to be awake/asleep at different times, or willpower my way through a very low sleep day before going to bed early.
And no one's going to give me a hard time if I don't. If I work on junk for a week instead of anything important, there's no short term consequences or alarms.
I love it and I wouldn't trade it for the world, but those are the two biggest ones to look for if you're going to start making your own schedule. After you make your own schedule for a while, I reckon it'd be difficult to shift back into normal-schedule-mode and be forced into two hours of rush hour per day, shopping for groceries in the evening when there's long lines, and doing errands on the weekend when everyone else is out. I love being able to choose how crazy I want the environment, and go out at those times.
The flipside is you really do have to apply a lot more discipline and willpower to keeping something resembling a sane schedule. That's actually one of the main reasons I started developing my time/habit/life tracking - having a start-of-day routine and an end-of-day routine helps keep me grounded, and the tracking lets me see where things got screwy if my schedule gets out of whack.
I'd recommend this sort of life to anyone who can handle it - the benefits are immense - but be prepared to apply a little more willpower and energy towards keeping your schedule on a track you want.
After Day Two was off the rails entirely, I wanted to rest and recuperate a little, so I set my benchmarks low. Okay, I'd rather gear down and be Conan the Barbarian with a big ol' sword, but it didn't work out like that.
Here was my plan, emphasis added --
Wake 5:30PM (7 hours sleep… hmm). GGW call scheduled for 6PM.
GGW call concludes… 7PM?
The way we make decisions is pretty interesting. Making decisions that are bad for us is easy and effortless. Think about how easy it is to decide to watch TV, eat some junk food, take a nap, and then play some video games. On the other hand, let's say that today you wanted to have a really positive day. To actually decide and convince yourself to prepare and eat healthy food, avoid watching any TV, power through your work even when you're feeling tired, and avoid wasting time on facebook is hard. Not impossible, of course, but just by thinking through these two scenarios, you can imagine how much more mentally taxing the latter is.
The trick to overcoming this is to make decisions once that will have an effect for a long period of time-- in other words, having a standard routine that allows for no variance. For example, I want to have a good sleep schedule. I can do what I tried to do for about 30 years, which is will myself to make a good decision on when to go to bed every night, which didn't work at all, or just say that computer is off at midnight no matter what, and I'm asleep by two no matter what. Now I don't get to make a decision every night-- I just turn of the computer, read, and go to sleep. All I had to do was make this decision once, and then train myself on it for a couple weeks before it became second nature.
Another huge benefit of rigid scheduling is that the schedules can be tweaked. I wanted to eat more Omega 3 fats. How do I do that? Well, if I just know that's a goal, maybe I'll go grocery shopping and figure out which foods are better, figure out how to prepare them, and make them. Or maybe I'll just dial it in by eating a couple more walnuts here and there and order salmon on the rare occasion I go to a restaurant. In my case, switching to eat more Omega 3 was simple-- I eat the same thing for lunch every day, so I just substituted a sardine sandwich and tuna sandwich for my nut/fruit sandwiches. One decision and my whole diet is improved.
Studies have shown that willpower is like a muscle. On one hand it needs to be exercised regularly to be effective, but on the other hand it's strength can become depleted through short-term overuse. If you're trying to eat healthy, exercise, work effectively, write, be financially responsible, and sleep well through micro-management, you probably won't be able to continue indefinitely. Instead you'll have a burst of a week or two where you crush it, and then you'll deplete your willpower and regress back to old habits.