John Rainsford

Work/Life Imbalance

January 25th, 2010

A few days away from the launch of a possible new Apple product (Canvas, iBook, iSlate?), and I’ve finally finished a five year loan for my current two computers. Yes, yes, I have been running my business on a five year old G5 PowerMac.

I bought my machine when I was in college (back when banks were giving loans to people for sport) and it always served as my home machine. It served me faithfully through college (I worked in the evenings creating websites) and when I eventually began working for myself in January 2008 (after a short spell working for The Man), I, of course, used my trusty G5 in my home office.

After a lot of early morning commutes, I took advantage of self-employment by sleeping and working late. It was in this first year that I started doing, on average, 10 hour days. I’d start about 10.00am, work until six, cook and eat dinner and usually head back to my office for a few more hours. I never had any problems with working like this, simply because I liked the work I was doing, and by getting it done faster, I was getting paid faster.

At the end of 2008, I had an opportunity to move into some office space, and for numerous reasons (mostly more space and better heating) I moved my office out of my home and into my new space. I convinced myself that by having a separate office that my work/life balance would be better, I wouldn’t feel obliged to work in the evenings, I could keep office hours, get my work done without the distractions of a home office (long lunches, short naps) and generally be as productive or even more productive in a separate office space.

After a gruelling year I realised a number of things-

  • Even though I was more productive in the development side of my work, the more creative design side was suffering (who’d have thought that creativity doesn’t kick in after morning coffee).
  • As Jon Hicks noted recently, when self employed, the amount of work hours actually done is a lot less than eight, due to paperwork, more paperwork, phone calls, emails, meetings and a little bit more paperwork.
  • Having an office outside of your home is really, really convenient and beneficial for client meetings- a lot more professional.
  • Even though I increased the amount of work done in the year, I probably could have done more.

I thought I could solve my work/life imbalance by working in a separate office space, but the imbalance swung the other way. I now spend a lot of free time in the evening twiddling my thumbs, thinking I could be doing something more productive than trying to ignore the crap on the box.

I was always planning on upgrading my machine this year and I was considering a shiny new iMac, but I think it’ll have to be a MacBook Pro instead. Even though I’ll probably repeatedly curse the decision, as I pack the machine up every morning and evening, I think in the long run, it’ll allow me to be more productive all round.

I plan on doing a lot of side projects this year, and I don’t plan on spending warm summer evenings in a stuffy office.

Post by John Rainsford

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I'm a web designer and developer for Pixelcode, based in Athy, Co.Kildare, Ireland.

Aside from creating stuff for the web, I screenprint, post short videos and read books.

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