I won’t write my whole life story here, but here’s the thing. I’m over 30, married, have 2 sons and 24 hours in a day. Meanwhile, work is a part of daily life; of course, there are exceptions among us who don’t have to work, but I belong to the group who exchange their time for cash.
I have one incredible advantage and that is that my work (as a UI/Product Designer at Emplifi) is amazing. On the other hand, I have a lovely family, which is what I cherish most in life. Today, I’d like to share with you how I found a balance between these 2 worlds. A balance that works.
To give you a bit more background, I work from my home office the Czech Republic. At one point earlier this year, I went through a certain slump. I was working 8+ hours and seeing my kids for just a couple of hours each day. That was the most frustrating thing of all: sitting at home while they’re playing in the next room, and having to focus on work. I wore headphones all day just so I couldn’t hear what they were doing beside me. On top of that, I started working on a project with a teammate based in Canada and the time zone difference, along with suddenly having to working in the evenings, was like a bolt from the blue. At the same time, it was a brilliant catalyst for solving the problem with how I was managing my daily schedule.
The day divided into 3 blocks
Here’s the solution I came up with: I set it up so that I work in time blocks. When I have a break between blocks, I spend time with my family. I realized that I never work every second of the 8 hours I sit at the computer. The focus on solving the problem decreases with time and it is easy to fall prey to apples, not manipulated by a sinister snake, but by the internet itself. Splitting my work day into “cycles” imposes time pressure where I have noticed that I am more productive and less prone to procrastination. Win-win.
So how does it work exactly?
I divide my work day into 3 cycles.
Morning cycle (9 am to 11 am)
My family and I wake up before 7 am. I help my wife feed the kids and send them off to kindergarten and at 9 am, fully prepared for the challenges of the day, I sit down at my computer. During this morning block, I try to do as much “administrative work” as possible or send problems I need help with to our design feedback channel on Slack (Thank you Peter Rod for the feedback template, it’s a huge help). My colleagues are fresh and full of ideas in the morning.
At 11 am, I finish the morning cycle and have 3 hours of free time ahead of me when I pick up the kids from kindergarten, cook lunch or go for a run.
Afternoon cycle (2 pm to 5 pm)
The second work block starts at 2 pm and ends at 5 pm. At this point, I’m reset, full of strength and I can start to reach my full potential again because I was able give my time to my children, which makes me happy. If I’m happy with how things are going at home, things are going much better at work (nothing new there).
Evening cycle (online) 9 pm to 12 am
The last block of my day starts at 9 pm and ends at midnight. This is my favourite block of all. With the rest of the family asleep, I have a quiet place to work and focus, and there are only a few workaholics on Slack who never sleep and colleagues in other time zones.
What I like most about this configuration is that I have found a way to make perfect use of my time so that everyone is happy. Of course, I don’t keep it 100% strict, because there are days when I just need to do something else in the afternoon, so I make up the time in another block. But overall, the system works.
Setting up Slack and Calendar
Of course, since I collaborate with many people on a daily basis, I’ve had to find a way to communicate when I’m available or not. Luckily, there’s a really easy way to keep colleagues updated: in Google Calendar, you can set up blocks of time when you are offline and when you are online. When you are offline, you set the event that you are Out of Office. This is important, as it helps you automatically reject all meetings in this block. My calendar then looks like this:
I also connect my Google Calendar to my Slack so that my status is automatically changed there, too. To do this, you need to have connect Google calendar plugin via Slack Connect in your workspace’s left-hand panel. I have it set up this way (see image below) so that Slack can automatically derive statuses from my calendar.
All of this could not happen if the company I work for did not allow it. I’m incredibly grateful for this and take it as a huge benefit.
Do you have any tips for dividing your time? I will be glad to hear any feedback and experiences with your own work setup. Until then, see you in the next article.