Daily Routine, Life as an Independant Developer

It’s been just over 6 months since we moved from the Bay Area to Denver and I switched from a 8-5 (ok, 10-7) job working for a software company to striking out on my own as an independent software developer. In those six months, I’ve gotten my first experience selling software with three major software releases (one of Tasks and two of Tasks Pro™) and launched my new Use Tasks service. It’s been busy!

Daily Routine

This is the schedule I’m currently on, which is a lot better than the one I was on a few months ago (sleep, work, eat, work, eat, work, sleep, work, eat, work, eat, work, sleep, etc.).

I usually get up between 7:00 and 8:30. I wasn’t setting my alarm for a few months, but recently I had some late nights getting Use Tasks ready to go so I’ve started setting the alarm again. After waking up, I check e-mail. I’ll process any orders and set up any free trial requests that may have come in overnight, then respond to any support e-mails and forum posts. When those are all taken care of, I skim mail from mailing lists, and read whatever other random stuff has come in. Going through e-mail takes between 20-75 minutes, usually more like 35.

If it isn’t too late when I finish going through my e-mail, I’ll head down to the driving range to hit a bucket of golf balls, or maybe head out and play a quick 9 (I usually get through 9 holes in about an hour). I probably get to do this about 3 days a week, my golf game is definitely improving. :)

When I get back, I’m back in the office to do the e-mail routine again, then get started on whatever I have on my plate for that day. I use Tasks (of course) to keep myself organized and my task list prioritized. Like most people, how well I stay on track is directly related to how interesting/boring what I’m working on is. Some days (writing documentation), I’ll check e-mail every 10 minutes to interrupt myself. Other days (coding new features) I’ll keep my nose down for hours at a stretch.

I’ll break for lunch sometime between 11:30 and 3:00, depending on how busy I’ve been and how hungry I am. Most days I just go to the kitchen and make something. If there is a day baseball game or golf on, I’ll watch some of that while I eat. Sometimes I’ll eat at the clubhouse after golfing, or run out for something. When I worked for a BigCo, I’d eat out for lunch every day, now I only do it once every two weeks or so. Eating in is a good way to cut some expenses too.

After lunch, I normally power through for a few hours. Right after lunch is also when I’m most likely to take and make phone calls if I’m working on a contract gig. I’ll work steadily until the evening baseball games come on, then I’ll often turn on one of the games in my office and work in a more relaxed atmosphere until dinner (normally 8-ish).

If I didn’t hit balls in the morning and I’ve gotten a lot done during the day, I might go out and enjoy the sunshine around 4pm or so. I try to take a couple hours away from the computer in the evenings, but I always go through the e-mail routine again before I turn in.

During the day, I’ll also take care of random household stuff: laundry, mail, paying bills, etc.

I probably work more than I did when I was working for other people, but the work is a little more varied and I get to do it on my own schedule. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Work Hours

When I started in January, I was working ridiculous hours to get Tasks Pro™ finished, documentation written (190 plus pages now), the web site written/designed/built, getting the web store and related infrastructure set up, releasing betas and adding last minute mini-features. I was working minimum 14 hour days. I told myself that I’d take a break when I finished all that, but I didn’t. The week of the release was crazy lots of e-mails, setting up free trials and even processing a few orders. After that I dove right into getting Tasks 2.0 ready to go. After Tasks 2.0, it was a push to get Use Tasks up and running. Now I’m trying to get into more of a comfortable schedule (as described above).

One of the problems I’ve had is the way one thing can run into the next, into the next, etc. Sometimes I’ll just keep going on a feature I’m coding, or responding to support or pre-sales e-mails. I can forget to eat until mid-afternoon when I’m really quite hungry. When I work like this, I eventually hit a wall. Being willing to let things sit for a half hour or an hour while I attend to whatever is something I’m working on.

Traffic/Commute

It’s amazing how fast you can get used to not spending an hour or more in the car every day. :)

In theory, I should feel like I have gotten some free extra time in my day, but it still feels like the days are way too short and there is too much to do.

Direction

One of the things I love about working on my own is the chance to set my own priorities and make my own decisions. I worked at with some very smart people and successful companies in the Bay Area, but there were plenty of times that I was frustrated with what I was asked to work on.

At some times, I would be working on a feature that had to be in the product so we could check a box on a marketing handout, but it was only going to be a small part of a full implementation of that feature. Half-done features really bug me; they do not make the software a ‘joy to use’.

Other times, I’d think we needed to make various changes but couldn’t get time in the schedule to make them. Many times, the release schedule was so short we’d drop about half of the originally planned features for the release.

Now I don’t find myself arguing with management nearly as much. I’m also getting a chance to execute on my ‘how it should be done’ theories and finding that they are working out quite well for me.

Things I Miss

I worked with some very bright, good people back in the Bay Area. Working on my own, the thing I miss most is definitely that day-to-day interaction. While meetings and such could be very frustrating, they also exposed me to a wide variety of different ideas and development methodologies. I still get in touch with those folks when I need help working through something, but it isn’t the same as being in the trenches together.

Conclusion

I’m definitely enjoying being self-employed and working to build my business. I plan to keep doing this for the next few years at least. Now I’m off to hit a bucket of balls. :)