A Normal Day
Morning comes early for me. I’m usually in front of my desk by 4:30, protein smoothie and hot coffee in hand. A few years ago, when I was still married and the only alone time I could find was in the morning, I slowly moved from a night owl to an early bird. The wee hours of the morning were the only time I had to work on personal projects, whether it was writing code or fiction. The early morning routine has stayed with me; there really isn’t anything like watching the sun come up with the knowledge that I’ve already put in 1 or 2 hours of focused, steady work. And since I’m the type of person that can just bound out of bed and feel awake, ready for antyhing, the morning is also my most productive.
There are days when I find myself waking at 3 or 3:30 naturally but those days are rare. Or I’ll sleep in until the ungodly hour of 6 or 6:30; those days I feel a general malaise of apathy and laziness (I know, I know…it’s a bit odd). 4 to 4:30 is what I’m happy with now. It gives me a solid 3.5 hours to myself to work on my own things, meditate, and take my time to get ready for work. To be honest though, if I didn’t have a job I had to be at for the greater part of my day, I think I’d slowly start waking later.
I’m usually out the door by 9-ish and at work by 10. My commute is either filled with various kinds of music (I like just about anything from EDM to Country to Folk) or a selection of podcasts about financial, entrepreneurship, or tech topics. It really depends on the day and I often find myself going for days on end listening to one type of music or one podcast series. Listening to those things usually make the commute bearable yet I find the drive into work and the drive home to be the most odious, difficult parts of my day.
And then I’m at work until at least 5:30. We have a dog friendly office so the Pugger comes with me most days. Work is work and I’m often doing any number of things (from building a program from scratch or fighting with the beast that is WordPress). Pugger and I go for a walk around 2, he gets fed at 4, and I drink just a bit too many cups of coffee.
The two of us get home anytime between 6:30 and 7. I’ll start making dinner, crack a beer or pour myself a glass of wine, and pop on the news. I try to stay away from doing any sort of code or responding to emails once I’m home for the evening. I’ll either write (like tonight) or watch whatever series I’m in the middle of on Netflix for an hour or two. Honestly, it depends on how mentally spent I am after my day. Some days, it’s non-stop coding, working on a particular sticky problem and all I want to do is lose myself in the story arc of some fictional character and the low buzz of alcohol when I’m home. Other days, I want to be a little more productive before I lose myself to the boob tube.
Then, about 10, I hop into bed with a book and read until I can longer keep my eyes open. Sometimes it’s a half hour but, most often, it’s only 5 or 10 minutes before I’m fighting to turn the lights off. For the longest time, I tried to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night but I found when I forced myself to bed around 9, I’d wake up periodically throughout the night. Now, with 6-6.5 hours of sleep, I almost never wake up (once I’m up, it’s very hard for me to not be up).
Part of my reason for this schedule, which may seem really monotonous and boring, is to focus on habits and a system. Rather than working toward a goal, which is nebulous and not a great motivator, I’m focusing on doing something every day. Mostly, the habit is to write code every day as I work on my latest project. It’s also about keeping my programming skills up-to-date and learning new technologies that I find interesting (by day, I work primarily in PHP, which just isn’t that fun for me anymore). James Clear has a nice post on why this system works.
My weekends are a little different but I’m still at my desk by 4:30, writing code and drinking coffee. I usually knock off by 10 or 10:30 and then have the days to myself. But every day, every single day, I write code. When I do have freelance work, I usually work on it on the weekends because I feel my weekday mornings are mine; they are sacred, they are my holy time. My desk is my church. My code is my scripture. And, eventually, I have faith it will lead me to salvation.