Doing the early shift

Much like most people, I have a certain number of hours in a day and an increasingly large number of demands on those hours. Spending time working, developing my skills is challenging enough, add friends and family time on top of that and it becomes difficult not to make compromises. It’s almost as if I need to find a few extra hours a day.

Last week and going forward I am experimenting with shifting my working hours. My wife leaves for work to start at 6am and sometimes 5am. I decided to start working similar hours for my work, taking a lift to/from work with her. Gaining me now only the time that would have been spent walking, but a couple of extra hours in the morning, too. This has proved to be easier than I thought, though not without its problems.

I end up working on a different time-zone to my colleagues (which I call “TST – Toby Standard Time”), and my body clock is out of kilter with the rest of the world. This basically means I eat lunch while everyone else is working and I leave earlier. But it also means I’m closer to the preceding American day (Pacific).

In reality, this has worked out better than I thought. It really does give me extra time in a day. Now I can both find and allocate time for social media activities and also spend time with family.

It gives me 45 minutes or so in the morning to get up to date with the latest from America and the early news for the UK. I can catch up on blogs, Facebook and Twitter for all our social media outlets and use Hootsuite to schedule tweets throughout the day. I can then switch to “real” work without having the same level of distraction. I can keep on top of latest news by adding Chrome Extensions for news services to my Chrome browser.

I then get a good stretch of 3 hours or so peace and quiet on my own, in a dark room. And there is no better environment for me to make serious inroads to projects. By the time my colleagues get in, I’m ready for a break anyway and can have a chat with them about the day’s work and plans.

Obviously, I get hungry for lunch earlier, which is not a problem. Also, while my finishing time is brought forward to 2.30pm, I wouldn’t necessarily leave at this time. I think it’s important for me to be accessible to others as much as possible if this time shift is to work. If I have had a particularly intensive day, I can choose to “work through”, or step down a gear and find some lower-intensity task to while away the time, without abandoning the office prematurely. I’ll typically add an extra 1-2 hours to every day – but at very little cost.

Overall, it’s worked out really well. I don’t have my 50 minute walks to/from work anymore (which I do miss, as it now means I have to find time to listen to podcasts) and I get tired earlier meaning I have to crack open the Diet Coke at 7am. But, I can get home, wind down on the XBox, have tea earlier (with associated cleaning up) and chill my head out so I can actually get to sleep.

Obviously, this sort of day is subject to whether your employer is keen. Luckily, I have a very understanding employer. So long as I am available for meetings as required, am accessible and the work gets done – that’s all that matters, right?

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