Irregularly Scheduled Programming

Apr 17, 2017

It has been a busy few weeks around here since completing my last assessment to move on from Bloc’s Frontend course to begin on its Backend foundations with Ruby and, subsequently, Ruby on Rails. Part of the ‘busy’ time was spent really doing nothing as I had to transition from one mentor to the next. Unfortunately, my mentor who guided me through the back-half of the frontend segments does not teach the backend portion. I ended up choosing a new mentor whose schedule was slightly different than what I was used to, so the waiting game began for the new sessions to start, and my new courses unlocked (note: my new mentor has been great thus far after the initial administrative shift). In the meantime, however, I had plenty of free space.

One of the main things I have learned to cope with is the aforementioned ‘nothing’ above. There isn’t really a time of ‘nothing’. As a person who decided to quit his former career in order to start on this new one, my ‘nothing’ time would have been filled with working at my 8-5 office role had I been the classical target market for Bloc, whereby I could work full-time, take courses part-time (20 hours a week) and continue to fill my headspace with a structured environment all around. My goal, however, was not only to shift into a new career by joining Bloc’s curriculum, but to also provide myself with a revitalized perspective and shift my brain from coping with work to re-expand itself by indulging in old hobbies and discover some new ones. The balance of freedom from choosing the online coursework path has been incredibly helpful during this time period of transition.

For one, I no longer have a routine to stick closely to. This may frighten some at worst, or bring an anxious prospect of boredom from others. For me, this was a boon. If someone were to ask me what my daily schedule is like now that I am taking this course and not working at an office, I’d probably give a vague answer. Something along the lines of, “I wake up, make my coffee and breakfast, relax a bit, do some work, work-out, and then do whatever I want after.” No times allotted within that schedule. Some days, I’ll wake up at 5:30am and begin my daily routine at 6am, feeling invigorated and creative. Other days, I’ll get to sleep in for a couple more hours and start a little later. Beyond my mentor meetings and weekly goals for keeping up with the coursework, there are no schedules. No meetings to make, no calls to attend, no trains to catch, no lunch hour to take. It is my time. This simple idea that time is now mine and how I make of it may seem inconsequential to some, but it has changed my outlook on how I spend my days, and how I want to in the future.

I have never been a morning person. Sure, some days I’ll wake up before the crack of dawn and revel in the first bird’s song, but that is certainly not the norm. Since our time as youths, we’ve been structured to ensure our day revolves around an arbitrary 8-hour block of time. Be it from the time you get to school and get to leave, or the time you get to the office and ‘check-out’, you’re on a clock. For many, this might work out fine. A bit tiresome and mundane at times, but fine. If you are like me, you probably find this arbitrary training of time to be of little consequence. Why should a particular block of hours tell me when I should be productive, and when I should be ‘off’? A 40-hour workweek may have been beneficial during the height of industrialization and hard labor as a way to ensure worker’s right to time off, but as we modernize our workplaces, bring about efficiencies that we all desire, automate mundane tasks, become more productive in ways unseen just 5 years ago, its benefits become a holdover from another age. Tradition for the sake of it, perhaps. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all, but I can imagine most of us have been there. You arrive at the office at 8am (or whatever your start time is). Your next meeting isn’t for a couple more hours. There is nothing pressing at the moment. So you fake some work. Open your email client up, answer the few that are in there, and 30 minutes later stare at the company portal, or the Excel sheet you just updated easily with your macro, or the dashboard you spent weeks setting up only to make your allotted work time even shorter. Some take care of their daily tasks and surf the web. Blocks of unproductive time at the workplace are common. So why stick to the same hourly routine?

Breaking from that norm has allowed me personal and creative freedom that I have craved for years. I can read a book when I want, not just after dinner or on weekends. Streaming lets me catch up on a show when I want. I can take a walk at the arboretum while others fight the morning rush-hour. And I can still adhere to my personal development, work on pet projects, update my blog – be productive – when I want. In essence, this is what I look forward to as our society shifts to a far more digital and automated age. Why has it taken me almost 3 weeks to write a new post? When work began on my new Bloc module, I dove in headfirst and wanted to make the most of learning the basics. After which, I had no desire to work on my PC and wanted to let the new teachings be absorbed. I also took a small road trip (without having to request vacation time!) with my girlfriend for a few days. Upon my return, I was tired for one, then reabsorbed into catch-up mode to ensure myself that I was back on track at the pace that I was accustomed to. All accountability is on me, the personal promise I made to myself that I would undertake this transition is much greater to me than the salary and routine I gave up.

Do not get me wrong, there are days where coping with free time also arises. I am human after all, and laziness or motivation issues rear their heads once in a while. I also suffer from migraines, so some days looking at a monitor and tiny coding text isn’t in my best interests. But the program allows you to create space for these times. It asks for 20-hour work weeks. How you get that done is your prerogative. I have certainly taken 10+ hours on a supposedly 5-hour block of work to ensure I have grasped the material completely. I have also flown through 20-hour weekly blocks in a couple sessions of determined coding. The choice has become mine, and understanding this point helps overcome the motivational awareness I sometimes seek. In a sense, this is entrepreneurial learning.

As I continue with my journey into web development, heading back into an office environment is likely a given. Working on a product I am passionate about, learning from people more experienced than me will have its own value at this stage of my coding aspirations. The takeaway I’ll have is ensuring my time is spent with those who value it as much as their own, and not just take a robotic stance regarding their 8-hour block of time. Value is a component many companies preach about in their products, but few truly practice in the workplace and share with their employee’s time. My ultimate goal will remain the same – getting to a point where my work is flexible and rewarding, accommodating my basic desired, ‘live well’ lifestyle while at the same time rewarding my ambitions to make a however-small-it-may-be difference in our world. All while challenging my creativity and providing an outlet for expression.

If you have taken on a similar journey of structure to free-time, or are thinking about it, drop me a line. I’d love to hear your take and/or experience with it.