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Doug Nebeker ("Doug")
It's that time of year again ("Sumer Is Icumen In") and thinking about some of the lifestyle related issues to the mISV / lone programmer life.
When those of you who wrote your own software by yourself, from scratch were in the initial writing stages (and/or these days when you are adding features or fixing bugs), what is your programming environment like? Do you have a home office? Quiet hours? Do you have any significant environmental distractions/noise, etc. to hinder you, or have you found a way to have the silence and isolation that concentrated work requires?
And what's your equipment and schedule like?
Did the whole home-based business thing for 4+ years (Team Coherence), but you do eventually get into a rut and productivity plummets (speaking about myself here. May work better for others).
I'm now doing a mixture of home and office based projects and would have to say that isolation (not isolation in technical terms, Skype is OK, but isolation in terms of not being able to interact directly with colleagues in a natural way) is not a good thing.
If it is possible, and you have others working with you, try and set up regular on-line meetings. Either way: just keep talking...
Kids? No quiet time :-)
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Addendum: "Sumer Is Icumen In" (I thought it was a German phrase but, being ancient English, it probably is :-)
Anyway... I, for one, wouldn't recommend it without peer support. It's a lonely path and you will definitely miss the interaction of colleagues. If you can, get someone local to get involved.
If you have kids, and they are interested, maybe get them involved? Could end up in a happy 'office' ?
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
I struggle with this. First, I do custom programming for existing clients and the software I'm developing to sell is driven by their requests. If I did not have clients requesting (demanding) things, I would not make any progress.
I am working on incorporating a better schedule myself because things have gotten out of hand. But in the past, my schedule on days w/ no client meetings was: get up about 7:30 - 8:00 AM. Go to my computer, work 'till about 10:00 PM with a couple hours break in there for food, relaxing. Watch one hour tv at 10:00 or 11:00, go to bed.
While working, freak out about how much I have to do and whine about how hard I work. Feel I must stay tied to computer because not everything is done, but compulsively surf the internet instead of working half the time, then feel guilty that I didn't accomplish much but my day was gone, lie in bed with insomnia because of how much I have to do that I didn't do yet. Start over the next day. 7 days a week. Feel resentful of all my friends on their endless vacations.
Some people have a lot more self discipline but I think it is very hard for most people to be productive if they don't have someone else (a boss, a client, a business partner) driving them forward. It's so easy to "do it tomorrow..." My clients are my saving grace.
Now I am trying to be more reasonable and take more breaks and I find I am more productive. I've started doing some yoga too because I was getting so stiff. I noticed I'm least productive in the morning so I use that time for stuff that requires less concentration or let myself goof off guilt free for a couple hours.
I still don't have a set schedule but I'm trying to develop one. I have a friend who is not a programmer but is self employed and she has a set schedule like this:
6:30 or so: Get up, spend time with her kid, have breakfast, send kid off to school.
8:30 - 9:00 - start work. Work very hard all day. Take little breaks to go get water. I assume she takes a lunch break (as she explained this to me over lunch)
4:30 - stop. She's done for the day. Make dinner, spend time with family.
That sounded like so few hours to me but if shes working hard that whole time she's probably more productive.
I agree with Evan, you need some kind of interaction. Not only does it get lonely, your social skills literally start to atrophy. I'm very social but I started having trouble having conversations with people. Trouble finding words.
I haven't mastered it yet but I think if you have a schedule and stick to it you will be more productive and happy. If it really is just you developing software in a vacuum, wow, that's hard. Maybe set milestones. Find groups or something to get involved in so you're not alone all the time. Even if you're an introvert I think you need to interact with people some.
Also, note if you concentrate best during a certain time of day and try to build your schedule around that.
The absolute hardest thing for me is psychological - because there is always something that needs to be done still, I feel very guilty when I am NOT working. People glibly suggest I take some time off and it irritates me. Don't they understand? Relaxing stresses me out!
My environment used to be our tiny spare bedroom. I could almost touch all the walls from my chair. You can see a picture of it here (it was smaller than it looks in the image):
When my son was born it got a lot noiser. It wasn't ideal.
We have now moved to a bigger house (thanks PerfectTablePlan!) and I have a brick built office in the garden. It is lovely and quiet.
I usually work from about 8 to 6. Then I will surf a bit in the evening and sometimes work late when the rest of the family is asleep. But I also mix in personal stuff and chores, reading forums, excersizing etc. And I take quite a lot of holiday.
>there is always something that needs to be done
That never goes away. You just have to get used to it.
>I've started doing some yoga too because I was getting so stiff.
I think it is really important to exercise. Especially if you are feeling stressed. Ideally you want something that raises your heart rate and doesn't allow you to think about work. Also it gets you out of the house.
Im 22. I have an uncompleted Bachelor's Degree.I was busy coding my software when i was in college :)
Teachers Respect me for what im :P(when they came to know) even though i lagged in some subjects they eventually came across my venture and they appertaieted me.
I have a succesfull software product( provided that success !=thousands of dollars every month).
I have completed college now but i have unpassed exams.Back home now.This is what i do daily
Get up in the morning feeling kind of low,since i dont have nothing interesting to do expect studyng and writing exams.
I feel the urge to study but in the way it get boring... you know.
So watch a movie,play a PC Game... time goes on.I also try to be with friends when i can.
I had got a job,during a recrutement conducted from college(even though i had lots of failed exams).Many of my friends doing good in academics,failed the interview.
I quit the job as i found it stresfull and not paying enough and the attitude of the employer was not nice.
The CEO was kind of stressed out and you know jumping all the time.He considered me an asset and did not want me to leave.Now that Company is closed. :(
Since i was living at a different place during studies,i have lost many of my friends back home,now i feel kind of lonely here.I get out on my MotorBike- it helps a lot.
Im planning to write the failed exams and somehow pass them.But things are getting boring and lonely.
Kind of losing my motivatuon to do stuff.
When I first left my job to do this full time I really missed interaction with others - it was really getting me down. My first attempt at fixing was to just get out of the house and go for walks - great health, no interaction. I also found myself hitting the local pub for lunches - great interaction, very unhealthy.
3 things I stumbled upon that really helped me (physically & mentally).
1. After hearing so many greats discuss the Mastermind groups ... I got involved with a Mastermind. The interaction is great, the accountability is a must for me to get anything done. The support of others is great as well. I'm actually in multiple Masterminds now and help others find them, probably could charge for the service but just do it for free as it keeps me sane. PM if you are interested.
2. The amount of little things I needed to get done were producing major guilt and choking my important projects. I shuffled my schedule until I found something that worked. I now block out 3-4 hours each morning for solid project work. All emails, texts, surfing, small tasks, meetings, are delayed till the afternoon. I finally make good progress on my projects now, still have time to tackle the endless amount of little things in the afternoon and it let's me "shut off" at the end of the day. I hope this helps you a bit @Emily ...
3. I really needed face to face interaction. Each Thursday I organize a small group of friends and we do something. Sometimes only 1 attends, sometimes I can gather up to 14 when we hit comedy. I try to keep it away from hitting the bar, but we do often simply go for wings.
I hope this helps - don't be shy to give a shout.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Thanks, everyone! This is very interesting and I'd like to read more if other people would like to share.
Thanks. I've been trying 100% solo forever, from what started as a hobby project, then was considered maybe to go open source, and for some time now I thought commercial was right for me, but life and whatnot got in the way and there was major "failure to launch". No kids in the equation, for better or worse. Lots o' social isolation, though.
Wow that's quite an image--all day in from of The Monitor. I am not in your shoes but it seems to me that is not an ideal way to work. Everything I've read and heard suggests strongly that one is fresher, more creative, sharper, smarter, etc. when you work in briefer bouts and then go do something else so your brain can reset. (Like your friend apparently does). I find going to the gym often jars something that I was struggling to figure out (which is weird that we can hold computer code structures in our mind when we are "away from terminal", but we can), or sleep does it. Working in one long marathon, 7 days a week, also makes one's life melt into one big mess of melted crayons, so emails from friends, online time wasting, actual work, etc., all turns into one big g'mish. Anyway, thanks for sharing!
Love that photo of your former home office! I am comforted that a successful software writer/businessman can have worked in such a cramped and somewhat cluttered office. That was a great idea to show the various workstations on your blog--really enjoyable. Fun to peer into an office an ocean away, too.
My main issue for years now (5 years, 4 months, 20 days...roughly speaking) has been neighbor noise. Loud vehicles owned by neighboring "people". I'm either moving soon or in a year, as things are not so simple to find a quiet place in this area. Just looked at several and it was barking dogs instead, or busy roads or nearby businesses.
Oh sorry to leave you out, Mike. I hadn't heard of Mastermind groups. I will look into it. Thanks for the detailed list of stuff that helped you. This is helpful. Organizing time and being disciplined is an issue for me for sure. I think once I live in a robustly quiet home--if I can ever find one!--this will be significantly easier.
For me my greatest issue has been family and friends wrongly thinking that because I'm at home I'm not at work...
Friday, May 23, 2014
@Racky, I'm not sure if it will work for you, but have you tried working evening / early morning shift. It is quiet. When I first started out, I used to start work at 5pm and work into the early hours (4-5am). Great for productivity especially getting a new product done. Bad socially. You can still deal with support and "real life" when you wake up or before bed.
Obviously not for everyone, but I was forced to do it because I kept being interrupted and had a deadline that could not be moved (contract).
I cannot do it these days because my company has grown to 14 people and I spend most of my time reviewing others work and designing and documenting rather than coding.
BTW, I spend most time at home, and goto the office maybe once a week for face to face meetings. Otherwise we use email, Skype and our own custom software to manage things.
@skyhigh, Hang in there. You are only 22. When I was that age I had similar experiences. I pulled out of a PhD I was doing to start my business. The bachelor degree is important though, so finish it if you can. It is a good marketing tool as clients like to see qualifications.
I personally suggest to
-try to find any entrepreneurship-minded friends and colleagues to discuss your work related questions. Somehow I found out I spent way more time with my friends who are entrepreneurs in compare with ones who work for somebody.
-visit conferences and meet your colleagues there
-rent an office to see people working.
-hire employee(s) if your income allows that
Friday, May 23, 2014
My most productive time was a period of about six months, this was about a year before I had a viable product. I had quit my job, was living off savings in a tiny apartment in an boring area I moved to. I had no internet, no cable TV, and didn't know anyone in the area. So I was totally focused and spewed out code 16 hrs a day.
I did start to do social stuff after a while, a few hours a week, and that probably helped.
Out of all this, the lack of internet access was the most important part.
"Feel I must stay tied to computer because not everything is done, but compulsively surf the internet instead of working half the time, then feel guilty that I didn't accomplish much but my day was gone, lie in bed with insomnia because of how much I have to do that I didn't do yet. Start over the next day. 7 days a week."
Been through this a lot too.
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