Vincent Ritter

A calmer new way forward

Happy New Year to everyone reading this, it’s 2019 and I’m approaching 33 years young in 6 months. Most people make New Years resolutions, so I guess what follows will be mine. However, this is a long term resolution from now until I’m no longer able to work and well into my older self. I must admit, it’s a pretty big goal to set for a resolution.

It’s one I have been thinking about for a while now and re-confirmed by reading the book It doesn’t have to be crazy at work (https://basecamp.com/books/calm), from Basecamp.

The book touches on many points about working, and a way of working at Basecamp. However, I think all aspects of this book can also touch everyone at any level. Even as a solo freelancer. It certainly brought out what I'm longing for!

Given I had a 11 day break from touching code and projects, I had some time to reflect and turn this into something more concrete.

2018

2018 was a roller coaster for sure, with a bleak outlook, but my luck has changed for the better. Which I’m thankful for. During my most depressed start of the year I shipped Simple Schedule, which ultimately was worth it (even though it turned out to be a free product)… no matter how hard it was to keep going when I knew there might be no food on the table in a few weeks time. I only know how to do few things good enough to provide a living. Coding is one of those, flying aeroplanes is another.

After shipping, and after another few weeks of arms up in the air on what is happening, I started work on freelance work with one company (thanks to a very good old friend of mine). This was great and a fresh breath of air… finally! It was hard as I had to learn new frameworks and also try and fit in with their way of doing things. After a successful first assignment I was handed another one, and another, and another! This carried me until now and I will continue to do so, hopefully, for the next few years.

However, shortly after I started the first project I was offered more work from another company… this I blindly accepted. It was great to have the extra work to pad up our financial life. I took on 5 extra projects from this company. It wasn’t great pay, but I knew it was important to have a back up if anything went sour.

This ultimately led to many days and nights of working. Too much work. Not much sleep and not quality sleep at all when I had it. There is nothing worse than dreaming about coding a particular problem when you spent all day on it. Your mind doesn’t rest.

This was my fault… I pulled every single card I had on my deck to get work, I was desperate!

It doesn’t stop there as I also had a long time personal client come back to me saying they wanted a refreshed website. I hired my friend to do it and take away the pressure. I’m thankful I did that, otherwise I think I would have ended up in a hospital bed.

By the end of 2018 I had two smaller projects to finish which were confirmed projects in Summer. However I was completely out of energy, totally burned out. I tried a big push just before the holiday to make it. I got to 99%, 4 days later than I wanted. That meant 4 days of even more stress to finish everything in time for the holidays. In hindsight, it wasn't worth it.

Enough is enough!

The above pretty much sums up my life until this point. Working countless hours with little sleep, year after year. Enough is enough. It can’t continue this way. It will kill me if I keep going like this.

Bring on calm

It’s now time to become calmer and more resourceful on how I work. I have a great opportunity to make changes as I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home and don’t have a boss to ask (except my wife!).

So here are my steps that I’d like to stick to from now on, no exceptions unless where totally needed in short bursts (if the world is on fire). I should group these but they are universal to everything I do…

  • No more than 8 hours of work per day. 5 hours coding is long enough in my opinion and you can achieve a few days work in 5 hours working for yourself than being stuck to a chair in a company full of distractions and bosses.
  • One big thoughtful client project at a time. Thoughtful is important!
  • 70/30 split between client work and personal work which I’d like to shift to 60/40 and then 50/50 by end of this year. This split is allowed to fluctuate to more personal time if client work is somewhat slow or I feel the need to hold off a little.
  • If a client project is too big to fit into 5 - 8 hours a day (or the 70/30 split) to hit the deadline I will go ahead and hire outside help. I don’t want to go above my hour budget. This also means accepting the fact that the take home money is less.
  • No more tiny task management - I always longed for getting into OmniFocus or Things, but the less I have to manage the better. Bugs I’ll keep around in Trello for anything I work on (or probably something else), but I don’t want to micro manage anything anymore. The less the better. I see people all around making themselves busy with managing huge task lists - why?
  • No more statistics or tracking of things - I don’t track anything on my website or services already, so this particular point means no time tracking for personal stuff (and client things when not needed). No more activity tracking of workouts or steps or calories. I don’t use Screen Time for iOS… nor am I interested. I don’t have a need to track everything and anything I do. Just another distraction. I want to go to the gym, have a great workout, not be distracted and feel great afterwards - I don’t need a computer to tell me how well I’m doing - the feeling is more important.
  • No working on weekends. Zip. Done. Family time!
  • Take on engaging client work - nothing like flexing the brain muscles. I’m in a unique position to do this to most extend so I’d like to shape my future this way if I can. I love building things from ground up. I don’t want to get too comfortable with doing not so engaging work… I have a few things lined up already here, so I’m happy with that.
  • Letting go of FOMW - This is what I call the fear of missing work… it’s a problem and one that is hard for me to get to grips with. Just sitting here and writing this post I’m thinking about what I should be working on… getting a little stressed about it, thinking too much about it, worrying. I need to handle myself better. I need to keep an overview of the bigger picture and not so much the immediate. I need to get to grips with walking away and feeling OK to do just that.
  • More passive income. Something I'll blog about soon. You can get a taste of that here.

There is so much more I want to say here, but I want to keep the list simple and clear. I have a tendency to overcomplicate things, something I want to work on too.

I want to simplify. Be calmer. Be alive.

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