Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Making time

Posted by Andrew Cooper on August 6, 2008

One of the best things, to my mind, about being self employed is that it enables you to make time.

This isn’t about time management, it’s about having control over your day.  For as long as I can remember I’ve only needed about 5 hours sleep.  I sleep very deeply, drop off almost the moment I go to bed and, roughly five hours later, I wake up and start my commute to work.  This involves going downstairs, making a cup of coffee, having a brief conversation with Sheba (see below) who has spent the night in the kitchen and she is invariably only interested in talking about food  so it’s not much of a converation) walking through the door from the hall into the rear of the garage which is my ‘office’, nodding to Negative Bastard (see below), firing up the Dell (very fast, on my Tesco Dell) and getting to work. It’s now 5.08 and the scene before me looks like this, although I’d only got to the word ‘downstairs’ when I took the photo.  Negative is glaring at me from the other side of the desk, no doubt wondering when I’m going to stop blogging and get on with some revenue generating work.

As you can see, I’ve already consumed more than half a cup of coffee.  This, to my mind – and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years – is the only way to work.  Blogging has been part of my getting-up ritual since early July when I started the current run of posts.  I’ve found that it’s a good way to get my brain in gear.  I’ll write for 20-30 minutes, often about something that I’m going to start work on after I’ve finished dumping my thoughts onto the blog, get some exercise for 10 minutes (that involves finding my way to the ‘gym’ which is behind a bank of bookshelves that partition this off bit of the garage from the rest) and then come back to the office again.

Then I’m properly at work.  I once read some advice on working from home.  The author said that the thing to do was to get up, have breakfast etc, put on your suit and pick up your briefcase, walk around the block and then come back to the house – presumably imagining to yourself that you were arriving at the office – and sit down to work.  Well, whatever worked for him I suppose.  I’m sitting here in shorts and a T-shirt and the very idea of putting on a suit, walking around in the drizzle at 5.15 and then sitting here in front of the Dell is faintly ludicrous.   More than faintly, actually.

The working ‘from’ home is important here.  I don’t always work at home.  Yesterday I drove (I would have cycled, but iit was raining and I’m a wimp) to Thatcham to discuss the work I’m doing there (see below) with my client, went to Waitrose in Newbury for another meeting in the cafe to discuss Explore China and various other things, came home to do some work, had another meeting in pub in Newbury at 7.30 to discuss some websites and then Jacquie and I met some friends in yet another pub (during which we also discussed Explore China) went to bed at 11.30 and now I’m back at work again.

There’s more to say on the joys of working from home, but I strongly recommend that the Whitehall Innovation Hub investigate the possibility that as many civil servants as possible are given the opportunity to work like this.  It’s perfectly doable for those who can make some space to do so (with current technology, even many of those in front-office jobs could do it) and I guarantee that the civil service will become more innovative if they can get it right.  There are some obvious barriers, but many of these could be overcome fairly easily.  And there there are lots of strong bridges which can be exploited (to use the terms from my very own 9 step process, copies of which together with various other interesting things, including online support will be on sale online very soon).

Incidentally, re. revenue generation, I’ve been in touch with the local newspaper to find out whether they’d like a column/series of articles about thinking and working together in groups (ie innvoation, management etc.) based around some of the material I’ve been discussing here, but obviously without the personal elements. I.e. I was trying to get paid for blogging.  Seems they aren’t interested, and I really can’t blame them.  It would fit into their business supplement about as well as my nuclear powered tea pot invention (also, see below) would fit into the real world.

On with some work, then in a couple of hours I might stand in the front garden watching people heading off to do real jobs and thinking about how more productive their lives would be (and how much less congestion there would be on the roads and trains) if they could only do this, at least for a couple of days a week.

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