Zero to Sixty In My Work Schedule
September 17, 2014 3:35 PM   Subscribe

What are some strategies to keep my energy up, my motivation and my sanity when I start working two separate jobs next week?

For the past five months I've been mostly unemployed except for some relatively simple projects here and there. Loosely defined, I'm a digital developer, primarily for the web, both front and back end. This means virtually all my work consists of coding, designing and meetings with either clients, contractors or coworkers. I sit in front of a computer constantly.

One of the jobs is full-time, on-site, 8-5 for a high-profile organization. Luckily, there should be little off-hours work, freeing me up for other things. I will work the other job from my home office at my own schedule. I can spend as much time as I'm willing and able to devote to it, but will need to work, minimally, twenty-five hours a week.

Some details:
- Job #1 requires a commute of 30-45 minutes each way.
- I am middle-aged, and my endurance for long coding sessions ain't what it used to be. I start to get sloppy when I get tired.
- I have a wife and kids that need and deserve love and attention.
- I have all the standard middle-class responsibilities. Home maintenance, chores, etc.
- I don't do well with less than 8 hours of sleep.
- I could be in better shape, physically.
- I find high protein snacks and meals seem to keep me from having extremes of high and low energy levels.

So, any suggestions? This will be a fast ramp-up, and the last thing I want to do is burn out.
posted by nedpwolf to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Something has to give, and you and your wife will need to decide what. If you're just talking about work, commute, and sleep, you have about 30 or so hours left a week. Just over 4 a day, including weekends. That will have to include self-care (like waking up and showering in the morning), cooking & eating (breakfast & dinner daily plus lunch on the weekends), any house work, any grocery shopping, any time spent on love and attention for your family, any sex, any exercising, any of those "little" off-work hours, and any on-your-own leisure time. Time how long it takes you to do each of those things and start adding it up. You do not have time to do everything, so make decisions about what gets left behind, while still leaving time for whatever it is that helps you recharge (alone time in front of the TV? artwork with the kids? what is it that is restful for you and how much of it do you need to be happy?). And then figure out which parts get cut.

Basically, though, this is not sustainable long-term, not if you're still going to be pulling your weight on housework and spending time with your family. There's a reason that there's the cliche of people working 80-hour weeks (which is what you're talking about) not knowing their children very well.
posted by brainmouse at 4:08 PM on September 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

So it sounds to me like 65 hour weeks, minimum. Ouch.

First of all, I'd say decide if you want a one-day or two-day weekend. Doing a full day on the second job on Saturday means less work on weeknights, but you lose a day of your weekend. Absolutely DO NOT try to work seven days a week, You need a day off or you won't make it.

Is there any way to shift the FT job to 10-7 instead of 8-5? If so, you could try to work the other job before not after. I personally find morning work infinitely preferable to coming home from work, suffering the commute, and then having to go back to work.

I have all the standard middle-class responsibilities. Home maintenance, chores, etc.
As above, you need to have less of these. Pay someone to clean, or do anything else you can realistically pay someone to do. Either time or money has to give and you don't have time.

There's no way this won't be incredibly challenging, but above all you need to take care of yourself and your mental health: Have a non-negotiable day off, sleep enough, and eat and drink things that make you feel good (even if you put on a little weight you can always lose it later.)

Basically, though, this is not sustainable long-term
I agree with this too. Above all, you need an exit strategy, for the sake of yourself and your family.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:31 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only thing I can think of that has clearly and quantitatively made my life more awesome in the past few years in terms of work/time/etc is: lay out clothing the night before. It is so worth it. When time gets tight and even an extra 15 minutes in bed is a glorious thing, laying out clothing while you're awake and functional the night before makes the groggy blurry-eyed morning that much faster.

Set up your bills to autopay.
Use your calendar.

If high protein snacks keep you happy - find good portable high protein snacks. If this is in the form of a Cliff bar or something like that, get a case at your local warehouse store and keep it in your desk at work. If it is almonds, or a case of Greek yogurt in the fridge, or protein shakes, make it happen.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:12 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thought of a few other things:

1) Amazon Prime: If you don't have it, get it. I order literally everything but food online. When I'm working multiple projects the very very last thing I want to do is spend three hours of my rare day off in a freaking Target. Since you have a family, Amazon Fresh might be worthwhile too, if they have it in your area.

2) If you're anything like me, overwork and zig-zagging from project to project will make you anxious and irritable. It's hard, but try to compensate by "adjusting" things more towards the positive. If something seems like it's "definitely" bad or turning into a disaster, or if a person seems like a total jerk, stop and consider you might just be tired and stressed out.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:34 PM on September 17, 2014

I have to disagree with the doom and gloom answers above. 65 hours per week might be more time than what our society has arbitrary defined as a "full time" job, but many, many people work 65 hour weeks (or more). Attitude helps a lot in these situations and approaching this with a, "Of course I can handle this," attitude will help you be more successful and happier.

Now, for the practical stuff:
I strongly second Amazon Prime. The vast majority of stuff I would normally go to the store to buy I can order on Amazon Prime and be perfectly satisfied when it arrives in two days or less.

Schedule sacrosanct time with your wife and kids. Don't be overly ambitious or schedule wishful thinking time -- schedule no compromises time where no matter what they will always come first. You can and will get other jobs in your life, but you want your wife and kids to always be in your life.

Never do tomorrow what you can do today. Picking out clothes, packing your lunch, and grinding coffee are things I do at night instead of in the morning.

Definitely outsource some household work. If working longer hours leaves you without enough time to do household chores but with too little money to reasonably hire someone else to do it, then you are probably making some bad decisions.

Experiment a lot. I never thought I was a morning person until I started grad school and discovered that I am far more productive in the wee morning hours. I'm not recommending working in the early morning because I do believe some people suck at it, but you'll never know unless you try.

It sounds trite, but check in with your partner after the first week and often thereafter. Always make clear that family is your top priority. Keep an open dialogue about how your work life affects your family's lifestyle. It should be an evolving thing, not a rigid, sudden change imposed upon everyone in your household.

If you're getting paid time off, use it.

Find ways to keep yourself sharp throughout the day. I am capable of plowing through a long task for a few hours at a stretch, but then I'm pretty burnt out for the rest of the day. I can get more done in total over the course of a day by using something like Pomodoro to enforce breaks, by making sure I eat healthily and regularly, and by getting up and being mildly physically active every so often. If at all possible, go outside and get some fresh air and sun once or twice during the workday. Pretend to be a smoker if you have to.
posted by telegraph at 5:52 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The biggest problem with two demanding jobs is that context switching between the two is expensive and exhausting. You will need big blocks of time for job 2.

I agree with timeshifting job 1 from 10-7 if you can. If you can squash the day to 8.5 hours, even better. Then you will lower commute time and give you more flexibility in the schedule to have dedicated 3 hour blocks for job 2.

When I worked a 65 hour+ week I did the night owl schedule. Wake at 8 AM, breakfast/dress kid and self, drop off at day care and leave for work 9:30 AM, arrive 10 AM, leave for home 6:30 PM, home at 7, dinner and kid bedtime 7-9, work 9-midnight Monday thru Thursday. I took Friday nights off. I worked the 9-midnight shift Sunday, and randomly made up times on the weekend for the rest.

With a 10-7 start time and an early bird schedule, you are up at 5:30 AM M-F to get in 3 hours work. After your FT job, it is dinner and bed by 9:30 PM. Weekends require 10 hours, your choice on how to get them in to accommodate your family obligations.

This was exhausting. I did spend my Sunday "free time" shopping and batch cooking to achieve the 30 minute time to table for dinner on weekdays. I only did food and bills, I did not clean or maintain anything. I had zero social life. We would have some small family outings, I think we had "family day" about every other Saturday and go out for brunch on Sundays. Sex on Saturday mornings after breakfast, if you're lucky every week. The schedule was absolutely key because all I had to do is show up and do work, I didn't have to think about when.

You can do this maybe 2-3 months before you go bonkers.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:54 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

schedule sleep
posted by j_curiouser at 5:58 PM on September 17, 2014

Scheduling in exercise will be really helpful--the more you can ramp up working out, the more energy you'll have to tackle everything else.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:19 PM on September 17, 2014

I think you have to be willing to give up the idea that everything you do now is still going to happen. I assume you're doing this because you need the money, but still if you have money to throw at the problem it really, really helps. A cleaning person to come in once a week, grocery delivery, and if you are used to cooking elaborate meals, you minimize things. You don't stress about eating pizza more often, or having a pre-made meal, or using a crockpot a lot. I think dinner prep is a major way people spend less time with their families.
posted by Aranquis at 7:44 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Sparingly, wisely) use amphetamines.

As an alternative, you can try to get a prescription for modafinil or order adrafinil (available without a prescription). Modafinil and adrafinil are eugeroics, or wakefulness-promoting drugs.

There's a lot of stigma attached to the use of amphetamines, but Erdős wouldn't have been as effective a mathematician without them, and he didn't die in a meth den or anything like that.
posted by jingzuo at 12:57 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay look. You can do this, as long as you're ludicrously strict with yourself.

So taking your commute into account, let's say you get home at 5:30. You immediately get to work on your second job, work till 8pm, and have dinner with the family at 8.

This relies on your wife and kids cooking the dinner, but that's really not too much to ask in the present circumstances. I do think a family dinner is key.

If your children are too small for dinner at 8pm, try dinner at 6pm and then working from 7pm until 10:30. Or even have dinner at 5:30pm, which is not that early if the children are very small, then you can work from 6:30 till 9pm.

Supposing you have to leave at 7:30 in the morning, that means getting up at 6, doing a half hour of good intensity exercise, then an hour to get ready and out the door. This means you have to get to bed by 10pm, which means the 8pm dinner is a better fit.

On Saturdays, you also get up at 6am, but you are ready to start working by 7:30am and you can finish at 4:30 or 5.

On Sundays you must do NO WORK WHATSOEVER and you must spend your time with the family, being cohesive and nuclear and all that. There is a reason why there's a commandment to work only 6 days a week and rest the 7th. Take this seriously. Order in and don't cook, that sort of thing.

As for household chores, you're just going to have to focus on keeping things clean rather than doing any major cleaning in this situation. Here is what I do every day: change the dishcloths and teatowels, keep the dishwasher loaded, hand wash any non dishwasher safe things first thing in the morning as part of getting ready. Keep the sinks clean and the hand towels fresh: switch hand towels, bath towels and shower towels on Tuesdays and Fridays. Vacuum or sweep the kitchen floor, throw in a load of laundry. If I am wearing something that has to be hand washed, I wash it as soon as I take it off as part of the undressing process. Same goes for mending. I try not to wear things that need ironing and therefore I prefer silks, which can be steamed in the shower or better still, shaken out while still wet after washing, hung up to dry, and turn out smooth on their own. If this isn't doable for you, then have an ironing board permanently set up and ready to go. I use bathroom wipes to keep the bathroom sink clean at all times. Every day I wipe down the loo seat with these bathroom wipes, and put some bleach in the toilet bowl.

On Saturdays I clean the loo properly, using all wipes but obviously no bleach (chlorine nein danke), give the bathroom what deep cleaning it needs (lime scale removal etc), change the beds, vacuum the worst of the floors, and test the fire alarms. This takes me about an hour, which means your working schedule would be pushed back to start at 8:30 till 5:30 or 6.

Nothing amazon prime, there are no stores near where I work. Nthing pick up your clothes the night before.

Obviously the details of that schedule may not fit your life, but I hope you see what I'm getting at. If you want enough energy to get through, I really recommend that you exercise as it really makes all the difference between a horrible heavy day, and a less horrible heavy day.

If your answer is "but I have to do more stuff and more stuff and more stuff" like take the kids to and from soccer practice, this that or the other... Well if it's the kind of thing that takes up big blocks of time you might have to ask your wife to do stuff like that. You won't likely be able to do tasks that take up a lot of time at once but you will be able to do maintenance tasks in the interstices of your day, like I describe above.

If you have to work this many hours, well then you have to, and hopefully your family will be understanding about that.

I am not suggesting it's easy or it's always going to work like clockwork, but if you face the fact that you do have to be strict and methodical, things will still go wrong but the overall pattern is likely to be more right than it is wrong.

Good luck.
posted by tel3path at 1:15 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

And don't use amphetamines, for fuck's sake. You need careful planning, good health habits and flossing and washing behind the ears, not drugs.
posted by tel3path at 1:16 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Polish up on stress management.

Have someone else do the housework. There's nothing more frustrating that working working working and coming home to more work. Home needs to be an escape from work when your working that much. IF your house is a little less clean, so be it.

I highly reccommend having one day off a week. having no days off runs you ragged pretty fast.

Hobbies? Friends? Accept that you won't have time for these.

Increase your food budget to order out more or see if your wife can prepack all your lunches for you.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:05 AM on September 18, 2014

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