Freelancers’ Show

The Freelancers' Show discusses the challenges that freelancers face. The panel includes technology freelancers and entrepreneurs with many years of experience.

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005

The Ruby Freelancers Show 005 – Work/Life Balance


Panel

Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Summer Camp)
Eric Davis (twitter github blog)
Evan Light (twitter github blog)
Jeff Schoolcraft (twitter github blog)

Discussion

Separate things out by day
Set a fixed schedule
The downside of being hourly
Flexibility
Ebb and Flow with balance
Get help
Hire a VA
Subcontractors
Contracting out Design Work
Cut back
Batch up the work
Food delivery services (frozen pre-cooked/pre-made meals)
Cleaning services
Batch dinners
Every Sunday pay bills/expenses
Balance the checkbooks
Build systems
Earth Class Mail
Concentrate
FitBit
Exercise & Sleep
Recumbent bike
Build it into your routine

Picks

Happiness Tracker iPhone App (Eric)
TED talk on maintaining air quality (Eric)
Concentrate App (Jeff)
Treadmill Desk (Jeff)
Standing Desk (Jeff)
Geek Desk (Evan)
Finding Outside Help (Evan)
Theme Forest (Chuck)
Keep a Water Bottle at your Desk (Chuck)
Camelbak Water Bottle (Eric)
Ruby on Ales (Evan)
Mountain West Ruby Conf (Evan)

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TRANSCRIPT

JEFF: I’m not in for a week-long brand study to figure out what colors my customers like or any of that shit. [Laughter] JEFF: Just make them look freakin’ pretty, and I’m good. [This podcast is sponsored by Harvest. I use them for tracking work and invoicing clients. You  can get a 30-day trial at getharvest.com. Use the offer code ‘RR’ after your 30-day trial, to get your 50% off your first month.] CHUCK: Hey everybody, and welcome to Episode 5 of the Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. EVAN: Hello. CHUCK: We also have Evan Light. EVAN: Hi! CHUCK: And Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What’s up. CHUCK: And I’m Charles Max Wood from teachmetocode.com. And this week we are going to be talking about Work-Life Balance. Now, Evan pointed out a little earlier that this isn’t something that we’ve really discussed with each other, so it should be kind of interesting to see how bad at it we all are. So I’ll go ahead and start off, and just kind of get the ball rolling. One thing that I’ve noticed in my life is that is seems like there is always something else. There’s always more stuff. So I mean, I’ve got a family. I’m married, I have four kids, I’ve got church stuff, I’ve got scout stuff, I’ve got the users group, I wanna speak at conferences, I do the podcast. I mean, there’s so much stuff that’s going on. And then work, and you have to work so many hours, in order to get to where you can make ends meet. So it’s really tricky to cover everything. So, what do you guys do to kind of find that balance? I mean, do you set a list of priorities or do you do other things that kind of give you that time? I’m not sure what approach you guys take. ERIC: I mean, balance is hard, especially when you work solo. Because you are always going to have some projects that are like they need like 12 hour days, then you’ll have to rush ahead of external deadline. And then some days it’s just like, “okay, I work four hours a day. I guess that’s all I have to do.” So I guess probably a year or two years ago, I kind of realized that it’s really hard to try to have one specific, “This is my schedule,” and kind of adapted it to be more flowy, and like, “I’m going to start working on this and when I’m done with it, even if it’s like one o’clock or two o’clock, I’ll stop and give my body a break and give my mind a rest.” And maybe today I’ll take a two hour lunch and then other days, it’s like I start at 8, I take lunch at 2pm after an hour conference call, and I finish up work around like 7pm at night. So I don’t think it’s so much like a work life balance I had, it’s more of like work-life flexibility. CHUCK: Right. And that’s one of the things that I think we all like about being free is that we have that flexibility. We can choose when to work, and how hard to work and stuff like that. So it’s a nice thing. It seems like there’s a lot though that… I mean, you are always sacrificing one thing to spend time on another, right? ERIC: For me, because I’m right now kind of balancing client work and then my own products, and so, I really have that distinction between like I’m working on client stuff, I’m working on product stuff, and then I have personal life, family life. And so I actually found it’s really good for me to actually separate things out. So if I’m going to work on client work, that’s all I do in one day. If I’m going to work on product work, it’s the only thing I do for that day. And if it’s kind of be like a family day, like my wife, she got sick last week, and so she’s sick, she’s staying home, I’m going to take a day off. CHUCK: So basically, you kind of split things off by day, as opposed to so many hours for this, so many hours for that? ERIC: Yeah. CHUCK: I know other people that I’ve talked to, they basically have like a fixed time that they work. So they basically have 9 to 5, it’s just that they are their own boss. So for example, they go to work in their home office or whatever they go to work at 8, they comeback at 4 or 5, and they are done with work for the rest of the day. And I think generally, if you are disciplined enough for that, you can do that, but I tend to get sucked into a project and then I look up and it’s past dinner time. JEFF: That’s the problem with most of us, and I think it’s a problem with probably most freelancers. But I mean as a generalization to some way, you can prove me right or wrong, but I think we’re workaholics. I mean, you don’t do this. I mean, you get a government job and work 9 till 5, if you are completely crazy and don’t wanna work at all. But I mean, I work ridiculous amounts, but I think that just comes with sort of what I am, and what I do. And I think that’s a condition that is it easy for a freelancer to fall into. And the other side of that is even if you are not workaholic, and your revenue comes just from selling your time, then you’ve always had this nagging feeling at the back of your head, “Well, if I’m not working, I’m not making money. If I’m not making money, then maybe I’m taking away from my family or whatever vacation or whatever your goals are.” I mean that’s another downside to being pure hourly. But I think that’s always something at the back of your mind. EVAN: I’ve got an entirely different point of looking at it. My situation is a bit different. I went on to freelancing for two reasons. One because, well, I was going to do Ruby and no one was going to tell me I couldn’t. But the other one that’s near and dear to me is that my wife is terribly ill; she has [unintelligible] disease and she’s essentially home bound. And we wanted to live closer to her family, so we moved out to kind of remote part of Maryland. So freelancing was pretty much the only way to go. I mean, I brought a start up job with me out here. But the start up imploded. But I have to work a fairly fixed schedule, because I had people who come into the house, I pay caregivers to look after my wife during the day so I can work. Because if it’s not for them, then I would have frequent distractions throughout the day and that will make it difficult for me to concentrate and get my job done. So I work from basically when they show up, until 6:30 pm, And that’s my cut off. My wife is a little bit independent around the house, so I can still be at the computer after the caregivers are gone, but I can’t get into the zone. I can’t get my life get into the zone, because I have to have one ear open, just in case my wife drops something or in case she falls, or she has problems with something, or I need to go get something for her. So I’m kind of the exact opposite; I wish I had more flexibility but a lot of flexibility goes into a schedule that really revolves around my wife. And I guess I’ll turn it back to your guys, because I’m not sure how to go with that. I have some other things I was going to say. CHUCK: I think there are two interesting things that come out of that. One is first off, your wife is kind of the top priority. EVAN: Work-life balance. You got it. CHUCK: And so you have these things that are important. I think also, one other thing is that sometimes, in your case, your wife, in my case, my kids or my wife, or whatever is going to take more time than others. And I think there’s a certain ebb and flow to the balance. And so sometimes, in order to keep your business going, and doing things that you need to do, you are going to be working those 12 hour days, and that’s just life. That’s just the way it goes. And that doesn’t mean that your life is terribly out of balance; it just means that for right now, the balance has to swing that way. And then other times, when your family needs a vacation or there is some emergency or something like that, then it swings the other way, and so  you wind up taking care of the kids or taking care of your wife, because she’s not feeling well or whatever it is. And so, I think we have this illusion that we kind of create that, “My balance means that I’m spending exactly the right amount of time on this, and exactly the right amount of time on that.” And in reality, I think we do really need to realize that it’s going to go one way or the other. And we need to kind of be able to swing with that, as long as were willing to again, make those top priority things the top priorities when they need to be. ERIC: Yeah, and that comes back to the flexibility. I mean, it’s nice not having to like call in sick and say, “Hey, I’m sick. I can’t come to work today.” If I’m sick, I just stay in bed. I might have my phone or whatever to watch for special alert or stuff, but if I don’t feel good or I don’t feel like working a full day, I can take a day off and either make it up just realize I’m just not going to be as productive this week. And it kind of goes even longer term like, if you need to take a vacation, you can schedule a week, two week, three week vacation. There’s a guy up here in Portland, he says he works freelance like 9 months out of the year, so that he can take a three month vacation. I think he said like he’s to Mexico during winter or something like that. So it’s like, he’s leaving the country for three months. EVAN: I knew a guy who did that too. Not in Mexico, but that same kind of schedule. Yeah, the other thing I was thinking about sort of similar to the things that Jeff and Eric was saying too, is there are days were If I’m sick, I’m just going to sleep, because I’m a total wimp about being sick, I’ll be completely honest. When I feel bad, I just sleep. I just sleep more. So I have a few days, some days every now and then where I  just sleep an awful lot, so that way, I can get up and work. CHUCK: We need a caption now that says, “Evan, he just sounds tough.” EVAN: [Chuckles] Yeah, thanks. I’m a big wimp. Yeah, but one thing that Jeff said that resonated with me, when I first started contracting years and years ago, I’ve decontracted and went full time, but I used to thing that in that model of, “My god, I’m not working. I’m not making money. That stinks.” At some point, I just made peace with, “I’m going to try to work about this much, so that I earn about that much.” And then just make peace with that. And there’ll be some variability, because well this career being a freelancer has ups and downs to it. It was sort of what you said Chuck, there is no real equilibrium. I don’t myself into believing that. I kind of doubt that Eric and Jeff do too. Maybe that’s something that we all need to come out and say that, but I don’t believe that there is an equilibrium. When we swing back and forth sometimes, we are closer to center than others. EVAN: Yeah, and it’s the equilibrium. I mean, it might be balanced right now, but something might happen, like your car might break down and your equilibrium shifts to be more personal as you deal with your car issues. And then tomorrow, it’s going to shift back to work, because you have a deadline coming up next week. It’s ever shifting. So you may find the balance for a little while, but it’s like you are on a tethering thing, you are going to fall off if you just hope to get perfect and stay there for months to years. CHUCK: Yeah. EVAN: I just tend to come at it I guess with… I’m used to that now. I’m used to that variability. But I think because of my wife’s condition, she gets a little bit worse every couple of months. So after about seven years, I’ve gotten… I can’t say I’ve gotten use to her getting a little bit worse all the time, but I’ve gotten more used to change and ambiguity in my life. I feel like you have to have a certain comfort with the ambiguity and the change to be a freelancer, more than perhaps a fulltime employee. CHUCK: Right. So one other thing that I kind of wanted to get into is that in order to maintain my work-life balance, I’ve actually had to get help. And so, I’ve hired a virtual assistant, and I pass a ton of stuff off to him. Not nearly what I need to, but it’s enough to kind of bring down that burden, so that I can actually get everything done, or have him get what I need him to get done, so that we can get everything and not drop the ball in certain areas. Have you guys done anything like that to kind of offset some of these? JEFF: Hire a VA? CHUCK: Yeah, or something like that. Maybe get your wife or somebody to help you out, or just anything like that. JEFF: I’ve tried a VA a couple of times. I use subcontractors on a somewhat regular basis. The VA stuff has never really worked out for me. I don’t know if that’s just because I don’t have the right stuff to give to a VA. I can sub contract technical work, and that’s not an issue for me. Sub contract design work, or contract design work. I can get that done. But when it comes to sort of the more administrative tests or anything else that sounds like it should be passed out to a VA, I just have a problem with it. I don’t know if its I can’t let go, or I have unreasonable expectations or what. So currently, I’m not doing anything with the VA right now.  I don’t know when or if I will. CHUCK: Okay. ERIC: So I hired a VA a little while ago. Maybe a year or two years ago. Used her for a little while, and end up just stopping, mostly because I just couldn’t find enough for her to do. I’ve had instead of doing a VA, instead of having someone else do the kind of task I don’t wanna do, I actually try to find ways to just not do those tasks. So like, some like the block commenting or administration type stuff like, I just set up a high end spam filter on my blogs, so that I don’t have to go through spam. Or if it’s like paperwork issues, I just stock it in paperwork, or I cut it down, or I batch it up. So that’s kind of been what I’ve been doing, and I that’s mostly because I’m not good at hiring, not good at managing. And it’s a skill a probably should pick up a few things here and there, but I haven’t had the time or real desire or need to do it yet. CHUCK: Right. So one thing that you mentioned is that batching up some of your work, how exactly do you approach that, and how do you keep it from getting to a point where it’s too late or where you are falling behind? Because I think if it stacks up, then I forget about it. EVAN: Before we go off in a tangent, I really wanted to get my part in talking about getting help, because again, mine is very different from you guys, if only because the help that I’ve gotten is actually for my non-work life, not for my work life. I mentioned having care givers. They are not employees with my business, but they really ought to be because I could not be in business if not for them. I mentioned earlier. I would have to make distractions and have to pay a lot of attention to my wife during the day. During my working hours, they look after her completely. They take her out and about in a wheelchair or a walker as she needs. So she gets out of the house that way. My wife has a better quality of life. But this allows me to do my work. Because if not for that, I couldn’t work. So this goes out to any people who are need caregivers or stay at home parents. I kind of hate the idea of day care  personally, but maybe that’s just me, but day care is good for some people that way. Clearly, lot of full time people take advantage of. But the point is that we don’t necessarily, as a freelancer, need help on the professional side or maybe you do, but we can maybe get help on the non-work side, to enable you to do your job, or to make it easier for you to do your job. CHUCK: Right. Absolutely. And I’ve done that before when my wife’s gone out of time, and I found other people to help watch the kids and things like that. So that definitely makes sense too. ERIC: Yeah, and there’s a couple other things I don’t wanna get too deep into, but if you have like a heavy work schedule coming up, there are sources out there now that will cook and freeze and developer meals to you, so you can have a bunch of meals in the freezer, that you can just reheat, instead of spending half an hour, to an hour to like cook every night. And then there’s other that you can have maids coming to clean your house, or handy man coming to fix things up in your house or, if you are in your home office, actually I think it’s business experience and all that. But I mean you can kind of ship some of that. Instead of having to hire just business professionals, you can hire people to help your life side of the work life balance, and actually give yourself more time and energy to do other things EVAN: So I wanna elaborate a little bit because you hit on a few things I forgot to mention. One of the caregivers, because we have two; one morning, one after noon, she actually cooks dinner for us, which since she started doing that has been huge, because my ability to cook dinner has declined over time. Because I don’t know about you guys, but at the end of the day, I’m wiped out. Cleaning for example, you mentioned as well Eric, the caregivers also helps there too, because these are things that my wife might try to help with if she could, but she can’t. CHUCK: So I wanna shift back over to batching work. So, Eric how do you approach that? ERIC: Yeah, so there’s actually a good segue here. One thing I … because I eat lunch here at home, so some days like Monday or Tuesday at lunch, I’ll take a long lunch and cook a big old batch of rice, or beans or whatever, stuff that you basically can put on the stove and just let it go for 30-40 minutes and it’s done. And I ended up making that and I make like huge family sized casserole dish, and end up having that for lunch for the rest of the week, instead of having to cook every day for it. So that’s actually one way I batch work, and you can do that with dinners and stuff too like I was talking about. Another thing, I got into  a couple months ago, I guess longer than that now.  Every Sunday, I do bills and finances. So that means, all the bills we have, I pay them no matter when the due date is, I just pay them so I don’t have to think about and worry about hitting the late time. And then I also go through the balance our checkbook, balance my business accounts, transfer money that I need. Do all that stuff. And I do it every Sunday. It takes about half an hour. But because I do it every week, I know I’m not going to have a late payment, and that I can put the bill off and say, “I’d get to it next week.” And I’m not going to come back and have, “I have six months of accounting and bookkeeping data I now need to enter.” CHUCK: Right. So get the stuff that you have to do regularly done. JEFF: Yeah, that falls into like not just paying bills, but I try to go paperless. So to take all the statements and scan them and shred the originals and whatever. Clear out the inbox so to speak, where all the mails gets dumped on a daily basis and stuff like that. EVAN: Wait, how do you guys cope with that? Because seriously, that’s one thing I completely suck at and I just… Avdi Grimm and I talked about this a bit. He’s another freelancer. I think some or all of you guys know him. We both have these angst about dealing with mail, because there’s almost never good news in the mail. And when running your own business, there’s like monthly or every other month, there’s some piece of mail form some intimidating sounding government organization, that more often than not, is completely innocuous, but occasionally, it will say, “Holy crap! You forgot to do x or y. Your business is going to shut down if you don’t do it right now.” How do you deal with these stuff? Because it drives me nuts. JEFF: Most of the time, my wife deals with mail. The business stuff, every once in a while, she’ll remind me, “Look at this, look at this, look at this.” But I don’t answer the phone, I don’t check mail, and my wife does most of that. And so I don’t deal with it if I’m not dealing with it, I guess. CHUCK: Yeah, I’m kind go in the same boat. ERIC: I actually do all the mail processing. And like we have a dog, we walk the dog every day. And so in the afternoon, when we walk him, that’s when I pick up the mail. And we have a two story house, so what I do is as we’re walking back the dog, I do like a quick sort, and it’s typically three piles. It’s a pile for my wife, which just pretty much just sits on the counter and throws it away later when it gets too old. [Laughter] ERIC: And I got four piles. I have a pile that goes right into the recycle bin, it’s like those fliers and stuff. No personal information, I could just recycle it. I have a pile that’s usually credit card offers, and we’d like to register your domain name for $200/year from USA registers or something whatever. That stuff goes to a shred pile, which I shred every week or so. And then  by that time, it’s maybe one extra pieces a week of like actual mail, and that goes in my inbox, which I then process on a week and during a weekly to review. So I mean it kind of fits in right with my bill stuff. Just batch work it and you know, anything from the government is not going to be so urgent you have to reply that week, and so you can kind of let it sit for a little bit. EVAN: If you process your mail regularly, then that’s true. CHUCK: [Chuckles] You know, I’ve actually heard of services that you can have your mail sent to, and they will actually get it, scan it, and send it to you. And if it’s some kind of package or something, then they’ll actually mail it along. And that’s always been interesting to me, just in the sense that you just get all your bills in an email, and you just manage it all that way. JEFF: Sounds interesting to me, but not for that reason. I know Eric has a newsletter, Chuck probably does, but this whole spam stuff, you have to have an address for newsletters, but I’d be damn if I put my home address where my kids live on the internet for all these CANN spam. So I needed an address, I end up putting on, I got a PO Box, but I was looking into Earth Class Mail, and there’s another one, I forget what it is, but  it’s one of those things you look like your company suite whatever, at some big bucks company, and they’ll scan it and they’ll FedEx your stuff if you need it right away or whatever. But I looked at it for not the efficiency to deal with sorting the mail, but giving me a private address or an address I could share, I guess. CHUCK: Yeah, I found about that too. And as my audience grows, I think I’m probably going to move toward the po box myself. ERIC: Yeah, Earth Class Mails, when I looked up for that, they are cool. I think there is another one. But also, if you get a check in the mail, they can actually… they open it up for you, and they can actually deposit into your checking account for you, so you don’t even have to handle checks. The cool thing for me is earth class mails is actually in the same… So they are not down the street, but they are a little bit of a drive away to their actual main office. And so, I can have an Oregon address, and it’s not actually my address. EVAN: If only I had that, and then someone who would take those pdfs like [unintelligible] you get mailed to, and pay the bills, I will be such a happy person. JEFF: You can probably do that. I don’t know. You wouldn’t obviously trust somebody to not go in Amazon Shopping spree, but I mean, I’ve looked into… see, my big thing is not just paying the bills. It’s getting my account and all these stuff she needs on a monthly basis. So my credit card statements, my bank statements, receipts if I have any, stuff like that. I’m not sure if my current bank lets me do it, but it’s something I’ve tried to find at all my banks is a way to delegate account view access to my accountant, so that she can go in and pull that stuff whenever she needed it, and I didn’t have to remember to drop it to her. But it’s certainly something that.. you can even set up a prepaid debit card or something, or a reloadable debit card, and have somebody pay your bills for you. CHUCK: Huh, interesting. So I’m a little curious to how you guys deal with distractions. EVAN: I’m sorry, what? CHUCK: Oh! Shiny object. EVAN: Yeah, what? Were we talking about something? JEFF: This perhaps would be a work from home episode. I think we might have to do that at some point. And I wanna be the freelancer that works nine months a year and goes on vacation for three, because my wife teaches at a high school, and my daughters are in school, so Christmas break, summer vacation, are basically dead times for me. And when kids are at school, it’s not a big deal, but when I shut my office door, it’s like an alarm goes off for my youngest daughter, and she has to be at that door figuring out what I’m doing. CHUCK: [Chuckles] JEFF: She’s four, but it’s insane. She’ll be at the basement playing, I’ll shut my office door and she’ll be up peeking in, asking if she can come in, asking if she can talk to whoever is on the computer. But I deal with distractions fairly poorly. Like I said, I don’t answer the phone, but when my kids are at home, I mean, I do this partially, so I can hang out with my kids and more, so when they are at home from school in the evenings, I mean that’s family time not work time. And so when they are home a lot of time, then it’s work really suffers but my dealing with distractions is not very well. CHUCK: Right. My wife tends to run interference for me, and when they come in to my office when I am working, I usually give them a minute or two, and then I tell them that they can’t come back in for a while. EVAN: So we are talking real world distractions or virtual world distractions, because they kind of come in two varieties, right? CHUCK: That’s true. EVAN: I’ll put this out there for some intrepid entrepreneur. Write an application that lets me manage all the other apps that I have on my computer, that won’t interrupt me in various ways that when a pop up window or make sounds… JEFF: It’s called Concentrate. EVAN: Does it? JEFF: Concentrateapp.com EVAN: no kidding. JEFF: Yup. CHUCK: We are all googling this right now. EVAN: I’m not yet, but can you link it so we can put that on the show notes? Because I totally want that – whatever it is. CHUCK: So what does it do? JEFF: Basically, you can set up these modes, but the idea is so say you are in dev mode, and what it does will shut down or hide every application that’s not involved in whatever dev mode is. So if you are a Textmate browser and whatever, PHP MyAdmin, then those three apps will… and terminal, those four apps will be up, and everything else will be hidden or quit, or minimized. And then when you leave that mode, it can optionally restore all that stuff. But the idea is you define working modes with some apps that you wanna use in those modes, and then it shuts down everything else. And then it can like block like internet access. So if you are in work mode, you can use a browser but you can’t go to reedit and hacker news and YouTube, but you can still use stack overflow and google or whatever. EVAN: I’m totally getting that. That’s not everything I want, but that’s a lot of it. The other thing I’d really like would be something like a black and/or white list for iChat, Skype, depending on my work mode, or maybe even a gray list… what I want is something like an automated, a very simple automated secretary, where people who aren’t on the white list for example, or when they try to  im me will get a response back saying, “Evan is working right now. Is this really important?” And if they give the right answer, then fine, it goes to me. And if they don’t, then I’ll get it later somehow. CHUCK: Does that go back to your cave full of robots? EVAN: I want a cave full of robots, right. JEFF: You can do some of that with Google Voice. Not all your IM stuff, but certainly text messages and phone calls, you can set different list. CHUCK: Yeah, you can get people different access. EVAN: I have been using time on the phone, than I do… well, I guess I take it back. I don’t get that many phone calls or texts. I get lots of IM interruptions from various directions, and I push back on clients who do that to me too much, because all the context switching is bad for my client work for any client. In fact, that was one of the reasons I have to get rid of the client, because I simply was getting too many interruptions from the client. And they just wouldn’t stop. So if I had tools that help me manage those interruptions more, but again, these are IM-specific, that I need some way to titrate or block temporarily people. CHUCK: So there’s one other area that I wanted touch on. And this one was something that kind of came up. I think it was on episode three. I’m not hundred percent sure on that, but we mentioned exercise and sleep. And basically, I think a lot of times, we get focused on, “Okay, I’m going to spend time with my family. I’m going to spend time on my business. Spend the time that I need to do working for my clients.” But we ignore ourselves in a lot of ways. So we don’t take leisure times, and we don’t take the time to go work out, we don’t take the time to get adequate sleep. And you know, this kind of ties back into what Jeff said earlier, where if you are not working, you are not getting paid. And if you are not taking care of yourself, you can find yourself in a place where you are sick more frequently, or where you are taking time you would have spent with your kids, lying in bed because you don’t feel well. And I think it’s an important thing that I think  a lot of people miss. ERIC: Yeah, I don’t know when I got it, I got it earlier this year. I got a little fit bit, so it’s a little itty bitty device. I keep it in my pocket, but I don’t know how big it is, about a size of two AA batteries. And it kind of tracks like, it has an accelerometer, so it tracks the way you move and all that stuff, and activity and so, I got that, I wear it every day. And it also lets you track when you sleep, and right now, I’m just tracking everything it can. I’m not really worried about analyzing it, but I just pulled open the dashboard for it. And it basically like looking at my sleep levels, I’m getting like less than 6 hours of sleep at most days – except for one day I got 14 hours – I don’t not know how that happened. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: So this week I’ve been like, exhausted tired and just not feeling all that great. While looking at this, I’ve got 4 hours one day, 6 hours another day, 9 hours another day, and 7 another day. So I’m all over the board sleep, and the days when I have the least amounts of sleeps are the days I feel the shittiest. And the days I end up having more caffeine and that makes me sleep worse. And so yeah, sleep and exercise are weird things in that, they’ll affect you, but it’s not like an immediate effect, so you might not be able to point to like, “Oh, I slept bad on Monday; therefore on Wednesday, I’m tired.” So I don’t know. I don’t have anything to drop in and try to exercise and try to sleep more, but we can’t have 26 hour yet. CHUCK: Right. Well, I have type 2 diabetes and so, I’m always fighting that fight. You know, the exercise and everything else really helps with that, but it also makes it hard at times, because I wind up getting low blood sugar, which a lot of people aren’t aware, if your blood sugar is under control, then you have the tendency to be hyperglycemic, as opposed to having high blood sugar. It’s just not regulated well with your system. And so, that’s something that I fight, and that’s something that if have to be aware of. And you know, taking care of it just really makes a lot of sense. I wasn’t taking care of it for a long time, and you know, if was tired all the time. If didn’t feel terrific all the time. And those definitely affect the way that you are able to make the time that you need for your life, and for your work. And so if mean, if you have some kind of condition, or even if you don’t, if mean just be aware of how these things affect you and make sure that you are doing the right thing for it. ERIC: Yeah, and if mean I’ll add it in my picks but if have a little app I’ve been playing with. I thought it can be very, very, you know, this is like an app I play with when I have nothing else to do, but it’s actually been like extremely informative, but I’ll talk about it in the picks. EVAN: I’m awful about the exercise thing, and yet when I do it I feel much better. I’ve got a bike in the garage that I set a small table above using cinder blocks, I just slap a laptop on it, and I go on the bike and I work at the same time. And that can be reasonably effective. The problem is it’s a positive habit so I end up falling out of it. For me, for whatever reason, it’s hard to retain as a habit. Like Jeff was talking about, being workaholic, when I’m doing my work, I get so in to my work. Next thing I know, the day is done. JEFF: Bolt your laptop to that table on your bike, so you can work anywhere else. EVAN: Yeah, but then I have an iMac in my office. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: And that’s what it gets for, you know? JEFF: Yeah. CHUCK: So I think we can go ahead and do the picks now. We got about 15 minutes before I have to go grab lunch. So Eric, you were talking about you picks, why don’t you go ahead and share them. ERIC: sure. So I got two. One it’s an iPhone iOS app. I don’t know exactly what it’s called, but it’s a Happiness Tracker. Seems really weird, the design is kind of odd, I guess. Modern is probably the proper term for it. But I have it set up so that every few hours, it will randomly do a push notification, and ask me how I’m feeling. And basically, the user interface, you unlock your phone, you say, “I’m happy or I’m not happy.” You give it a ranking from 1-5 on either side, and then you can kind of tag it and say reasons why like, “I dint get enough sleep,” or “clients are hustling me” or “I got a check in the mail,” or whatever. It’s all free form. And you hit that and done. And basically you just logged how you felt that moment. And basically, I’ve been doing it for the past month or so, and it has a cool little reporting thing, and I can see like, “Oh, this week, I was actually really pissed off at a  lot of things. Let’s see what was going on.” And I can actually go back in my life and see why I felt so bad, and I can actually see what’s causing me to feel bad. So like family stuff was really making me feel good, so I have a lot of family things that I have good high happiness, and then some work stuff has actually been making me feel good, so work also has a high happiness and all these and that stuff. So it’s pretty cool. It takes like 2 seconds for me to log it, and my wife actually uses it like a funny little voice whenever she hears the push notification asking me how I’m feeling. So that’s one pick. The other one is kind of related to work-life balance. In that most of us is probably working at home or maybe in a coffee shop or somewhere indoors. And most of us probably are not going outside that much, so one thing I did a while ago was there’s a TED talk that talks about different plants, like indoor plants and  like how they can improve your air quality. He goes over three of them. There’s a fern and then two other ones. And I actually got all of those and have been having them and trying them out. And I don’t know if they improve the actual air quality, but they do make my office look a lot better. And the cool thing is that the fern is kind of hard to maintain, but the other two are like, you water them every other week. And it’s like you just put like half a glass of water in them, and they are done. And they are green, they are growing. One is a vine that is like taking over my bookshelf. And it’s nice because it kind of gives me something to like focus on, instead of the computer monitor and kind of get out of the whole hard lines of technical metal wire type stuff. So my pick is watch the TED talk video I’m going to link to, and get a plant for your office and try to take care of a plant. It’s not really that hard if you get the right ones. CHUCK: Alright, Jeff what are your picks? JEFF: I guess the Concentrate app, since Evan hadn’t heard about it. Since you and I heard about it Chuck, I just assumed everybody knew what it was. So that’s one of my picks. And it goes along with a while ago, when I still use Firefox, there was another version of that,  that was just for the browser that would basically blacklist sites so you could save your save time limits. You can only spend like five minutes on reddit every hour during some working time, whatever. So if you don’t have self-discipline, you can impose some sort of artificial discipline in your world. There’s one that’s even… it’s different, I forget what it is, the name of it but it messes with your connection on the Mac, and you can disable it once it starts, unless you reboot your computer. So it’s like one more level. I guess you can get around the other ones. But type in the admin password and shutting it down, or whatever. So that’s pick one. Pick two is sort of the treadmill desk. I mean, we talked a little bit about exercise. I know Eric has a standing desk. I don’t have one yet, but I mean that’s a big thing going around. Standing desks. And then there’s other approach, if you sit, are going to kill yourself. If all you do is sit, your are going to kill yourself quicker than I guess normal people would. And then the next step, in that sort of what Evan was talking about and what Chad fowler talked about, when he lost a bunch of weight a year or two ago, I mean he basically wrote a game. He like games so he played games… EVAN: And that’s where I got the idea. JEFF: Yeah, and this is a similar idea. I have heard  bunch of people that do it – bloggers and other people. I mean, just if you are going to do a standing desk anyways, you can mod or spend $2,500 on  a real treadmill desk, but you walk a mile or two an hour, and so it’s casual movement, keeps you moving and you get a little bit benefit out of it at the same time. So it’s not something I’ve done yet, but it’s on my list of things to do. I’ve watched craigslist every once in a while to find a cheap treadmill. I sort of have Evans’ problem that I’ve got to define it as such or build it into my routine in such a way that I can’t give up the laptop for the iMac. In my case, it’s the MacBook Air or the Mac Pro, but I need to make that the best environment. So if going to wanna do work, I’m going to wanna do on a treadmill desk, and not deal with 13-inch MacBook Air screen and whatever. So those are my two picks. CHUCK: Alright, makes sense. Evan, what are your picks? EVAN: Darn it, I was about to type this on the chat, so I’ll just say it. Maybe another topic for another show will be designing your office – designing your workspace. Because Jeff kind of hit it for me there that you need to make your work environment you wanna work in, or else you are going to try and avoid. And that’s true with the exercise environment too. So in terms of standing desk, I have a Geek desk, which I just linked. I’ll say… is sitting standing desk also  when I say sitting and standing, it’s… I mean, so I can raise or lower it. To that extent, it’s awesome, however the problem I have with it is the same problem I’ve heard the other friend of mine have, is that, well if you can control if you are sitting or standing, your are probably going to end up sitting. That said, I’m going to also link, this isn’t necessarily a pick but it’s related to standing desks. There was an article, I think it was based on a study from Cornell, and it’s linked in this article, that standing desk or standing all the time isn’t necessarily better than sitting  — it’s different. The important  part isn’t the standing or the sitting. The important part is the moving that we don’t necessarily move enough. Yeah, sitting is good, but sitting is bad even in some ways, standing is bad for you in other ways. The ideal is keep moving. So maybe that’s why Jeff has a treadmill desk. And I was going to mention it as a pick, but it came out earlier, but that’s finding outside help with your life. But we already talked all about that, so I guess I can’t use that as a pick now. CHUCK: Sure you can. EVAN: Okay, fine. So if you have a sick immediate family member, get caregivers or baby sitters, or day care… I don’t like that idea so much again, but if you have kids maybe. But getting help outside of your work might be as good as solution as getting help with your work. JEFF: And house cleaners and landscapers, handy men — all those stuff. EVAN: I get handy man too, so yes, I just keep forgetting. CHUCK: So Eric, did you have something you wanted to add? ERIC: Yeah, so Evan you were talking about like standing desks and always standing, and then that study about it’s not standing, it’s the change. What I actually do, right now, I’m at my standing desk but I’m sitting. I try to make it flexible, so like if I sit in the morning, I stand in the afternoon. Or if I stand in the morning, I sit in the afternoon.  And so that way, I atleast get four hours of something other than the normal. And that way I don’t get too tired or anything. Because one big problem a lot of people have when they start standing desks is they can’t stand that long. Their legs aren’t that strong enough. And I mean, I’m past that stage, but it’s more along the lines of I just feel like sitting or just depending on the type of work. The other nice thing, my standing desk goes really, really high, so I can actually put it all the way up and put my kindle on it an at angle and actually read. And it’s like right in front of my eyes. EVAN: The other recommendation for standing desks, because one of the reasons I don’t use mine as much, is you need to remember to vacuum your workspace frequently y — especially if you have cats like we do. I generally like to work barefoot at home. Go figure. I’m at home, it’s comfortable. But when my floor is disgusting – which is entirely too often – I don’t wanna be barefoot, or I don’t wanna be standing. JEFF: Get a Roomba. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: Get a cleaner office first. [Chuckles] CHUCK: Yeah, with the standing desk, when you are sitting on it, Eric, is it adjustable in some way? EVAN: Yeah, so I’m six foot tall, really lanky, my standing desk when I pop it all the way down, it will actually push on my kneecaps. It can go that low. When it’s all the way up… my wife is 5’2”, and I have a picture of her. It’s like, about as tall as her. And it takes 20-30 seconds to go all the way up, all the way down. So like right now, I have it like a medium high, because I’m just sitting here not doing anything. CHUCK: Nice, that makes sense. Alright, I guess it’s down to my picks. One pick that I have that you guys actually pointed me to, and I’ve actually purchased two themes off of it is Theme Forest. And yeah, James Edward Gray, he actually picked it before I could on Ruby Rogues. ERIC: So this is a left over pick? CHUCK: [Chuckles] I so wanted to pick it, and then he picked it, and I was like “Don’t!” but it’s been really nice. I’ve been using it. One is actually to update the website for this show. I bought a theme and I’m working on working that in, along with the other membership goodies that I’m building into it. And then the other one that I picked that I got another one for was for my business website and that’s intentionalexcellence.net. And it’s not up yet, but it will be. So anyway, that’s been really, really nice. Other than that, one other pick that I want to put out there is just get a water bottle, and just have it at your desk. Just one of the ones that you can just… I don’t like the ones that have the caps that you can screw on and off and then drink out of. I want something that’s more or less sealed. And so I have a Gatorade one that you just squeeze it and you drink it that way. And those are nice. Something with the straw or something in it, so that if I tip it over with my audio equipment or my keyboard or whatever, I’m not going to ruin anything. And if you keep a water bottle at your desk, that’s a good way not only to stay hydrated, it’s really good for you, but it’s just really convenient for me, because I’m drinking water all the time. ERIC: Yeah, I just took a drink out of mine. Camelback makes a really good one. It has a built in water filter, that cleans out like chlorine in the flavor. I’ve gotten airport water from the little water faucets, and you can’t taste anything from it. It’s amazing. I fill this thing up like 4-5 times a day now. CHUCK: I’m going to have to check that out, because when I’m traveling, I can never find water that I can actually stand to drink. So I mean, even bottled water just isn’t great all the time. EVAN: I got two more picks I’m going to be shamelessly self-promoting. I’m speaking at the Ruby on Ales conference next week in Oregon. And a few weeks after, I’m speaking at Mountain West Ruby Conf in Salt Lake City. So you should come, and I will hopefully be awesome – maybe. CHUCK: yeah, I will be at Mountain West Ruby Conference as well. I’m an alternate speaker, so you might hear me. One things that’s interesting though is that it seems like every year, they have called on an alternate speaker — every year that I’ve gone anyway. Somebody’s backed out, so if it holds true to form, then you will hear me speak. [Chuckles] So anyway, that being said, there are a few other things that I want to let you in on. The first one is that I’ve set up a mailing list on rubyfreelancers.com, so if you go and you sign up, I’m sending out an email every week, basically with the seven secrets of successful freelancing. And I’ll also be keeping you up to date on the membership site, where I’m at, and what we’ve got going on there. So by all means, go sign up there. And were also on iTunes, so leave us a review. It helps us get the word out and hopefully we can help a few people make the transition, find a little more freedom in their life. And other than that, we’ll catch you all next week! Thanks guys.

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