Category Archives: Productivity

Scrum Masters: What Makes a Good One?

Yes, that’s right. I am writing a blog post today about Scrum and Scrum Masters.

No, I haven’t lost my mind.

I just realized that out of everything I’ve written about Agile and Scrum, I never talked about what makes a good Scrum Master.

I’ve both been a Scrum Master and I’ve worked on a team with Scrum Masters and from both of those experiences I can tell you that there is much confusion about this particular role on a Scrum or Agile team.

Even the name Scrum Master has confusion around it, is it ScrumMaster or Scrum Master—you can tell, I prefer the latter.

So, let’s talk about why Scrum Masters exist in a Scrum team and what they actually should be doing.

scrummaster thumb Scrum Masters: What Makes a Good One?

Scrum Masters! What are they good for?

On some teams, unfortunately, it is absolutely nothing.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. A Scrum Master actually serves a really important role on a properly functioning Scrum Team. (They bring the donuts or bagels in every morning, so the team can get actual work done.)

Ok, I am just kidding about that last part, but in reality it isn’t all that far from the truth. Let me explain.

A Scrum Master really is supposed to be the person who clears the path for the team so they can run as close to full speed as possible. The Scrum Master is sort of like the pit crew for a race car driver.

Without a Scrum Master, a Scrum team is slowed down by impediments which inevitably come up in any development project. It takes time and distracts the team to deal with these impediments, so the whole cadence of the team slows down unless someone external to the development process is moving the boulders out of the way.

So, really, the most important job of the Scrum Master is to remove impediments which may hamper a Scrum team from progressing on backlogs and getting their work done.

This isn’t the same thing as managing a project, because the Scrum Master isn’t deciding how and when things should be done. Instead, the Scrum Master is part of the team and the team as a whole is taking accountability for managing the project.

The Scrum Master also has the role of being the master of the Scrum process—hence the name. This is a tough spot to be in, but is a very important role that many teams neglect. The rules of Scrum are important to a successful Scrum team. One of the reasons why I started to write off Scrum as a process was simply because it was so difficult to get anyone to actually enforce the rules.

This is the job of the Scrum Master; he carries the big Scrum stick and he beats people over the head with it when they step out of line. He doesn’t do this because he is a big power-hungry bully. No, instead, he does this because he knows that the only way the team is going to produce their best work and not waste time arguing over process is if they all follow the process that was agreed upon from the start.

big stick scrum master thumb Scrum Masters: What Makes a Good One?

Scrum is intended to be more than just a way to develop software or organize teams, it is also a process that clearly defines what will happen, when it will happen and who will do what.

The Scrum Master is one of the most important roles on the team

It may seem, based on my previous description, that the role of a Scrum Master isn’t all that important to the overall performance of the team, but that is far from the truth.

In reality, the velocity of a team is more influenced by the Scrum Master than any other member of the team—with the exception of that lazy developer that breaks the build all the time and constantly falls asleep at meetings.

Even though the Scrum Master does not have direct control over the management of the team, the Scrum Master’s ability to both remove impediments and enforce the Scrum framework directly affects the team’s ability to get s!@# done.

A poor Scrum Master will let the team flounder and let outside influence distract the team from their work.

A poor Scrum Master will either be too timid or not care enough to force the team to obey the rules of Scrum, causing the whole platoon to go scampering off whatever direction they choose, rifles firing randomly in all directions.

I like to think of the Scrum Master as a guide who takes the team over rough terrain and shows them how to get water from tree leaves on their journey. Sure, the team could manage to bushwhack their way through the jungle without a guide, but it would take them a whole hell of a lot longer to do so—and they’d be much more likely to get eaten by a lion.

So, what should Scrum Masters actually do?

The answer is whatever needs to be done.

You know those gangster movies where some mob boss has a guy they call “the cleaner?” The guy that comes into a sticky situation and can hide a dead body, bribe the right cops, or just make someone disappear? If mobsters were following Scrum, that guy would be the Scrum Master.

The Scrum Master should be part of the team, but not part of the team. The Scrum Master should attend the standup meetings actively trying to spot impediments—especially the ones that aren’t mentioned by the team members, but exist beneath the surface of a problem.scrummaster taking a bullet thumb Scrum Masters: What Makes a Good One?

The Scrum Master should ensure that all the Scrum meetings and processes flow smoothly. He should make sure that standups are being used for their correct purpose. He should encourage the team to hold each other accountable and he, himself, should hold the team accountable to what they promised to deliver.

The Scrum Master should be the guy (or gal), who makes things happen. He should know the right people to talk to and know how to get things done. The team should focus on the work, the Scrum Master should focus on the politics. If the team is dealing with politics the Scrum Master has failed.

Most of all, the Scrum Master should be willing to lay it all on the line—to take the hits for the team. Even though the Scrum Master doesn’t control the team and get to boss them around, they are his team and his alone. A good Scrum Master isn’t afraid to take full responsibility for the actions and performance of the team and step in the way of that bullet and take one in the chest if he has to.

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What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Writing and You Have Nothing to Say

I spend a lot of time doing two things: blogging and telling other developers the benefits of doing things like starting their own blog. (Occasionally I squeeze in a little bit of time to code as well. And my wife says I spend too much time answering emails and checking my phone—she wanted me to add that to this post.)

So, I can tell you that one of the major pains I am well acquainted with is that of writing when you don’t feel like writing or you just don’t have anything to say.

I experience this frustration myself—heck I am experiencing it right now. I decided to write this blog post because I couldn’t come up with anything else to write about. And, to top it off, I don’t feel like writing either.

tired thumb What to Do When You Dont Feel Like Writing and You Have Nothing to Say

But, let me jump ahead and give you a little secret: by the time I’m halfway through this post, not only will I know what to write about, but I will feel like writing.

I know this from experience, and it is part of what keeps me going on days like these.

Writing is difficult

Writing isn’t an easy thing to do.

It is hard to spill your brains onto a blank piece of paper and not make it look like spaghetti.

It’s difficult to constantly come up with new ideas, week after week.

But, by far, the hardest part of writing is just sitting down in front of the keyboard and typing. Even now, as I am typing these very words, a million other things are vying for my attention, calling me away from the task at hand.

Most software developers who start a blog, end up abandoning that blog, because they never learned how to grit their teeth, glue their ass to a seat and write.

Sure, it starts out fun. When you first throw up your blog on the internet, you are full of ideas. You could write a blog post each and every day—not because you are more creative when you first start, but because you are more motivated. The whole process is still very new and enjoyable.

But, fast forward a couple of months—or a couple of weeks for those of us with ADHD—and that shiny-newness of blogging wears off. That little fairy that was sitting on you shoulder telling you what to write is gone—it’s just you and the keyboard.

This is exactly when you have to search deep down inside of yourself and find the grit beneath your soft cushy exterior. You have to decide—that’s right, make a decision—that every week you are going to write a blog post and nothing is going to stop you from doing it.

You’ll want to start over and give up

Even as I write this very sentence, I want to go back to the beginning of my post and delete everything. It’s no good. My thoughts are scattered; my analogies are crap; no one cares about what I have to say on this subject.paper thumb What to Do When You Dont Feel Like Writing and You Have Nothing to Say

I’ve been writing blog posts just about every single week for over 4 years, and I am still smacked in the face with the stick of doubt just about every time I sit down to write. So, I can tell you from experience, that part doesn’t get any easier.

But, you can’t let that stop you. Your face might be swollen, some of your teeth might be missing, you might have to squint to see out of one of your eyes, but as soon as you care that what you are writing is no good, you’ll stop writing—permanently. You’ll fall right off the wagon.

By the time you’ve gotten this far into my own essay, it doesn’t matter if it is good. I’ve got your attention already. I can’t embarrass myself any further, because if you didn’t at least sort-of like what I have said so far, you wouldn’t be reading this sentence to begin with.

I’ve come to the realization that you can’t always hit homeruns. Sometimes, you write crap. Sometimes, what you think is your best blog post turns out to be so terrible that no one makes it past the first paragraph.

But, sometimes what you think is terrible, turns out to be the most popular thing you’ve ever written.

The point is, you can’t know until you hit that publish button and even if you could, it doesn’t matter, because you can’t write for other people, you’ve got to write for you.

Not because you are writing something that you’ll someday read later and say “oh, yes, that is how I solved that problem in the past”—although, that does happen from time to time. Instead, you have to write because you made a commitment to yourself and the commitment wasn’t to string marvelous words into sentence on paper, but instead just to write—it doesn’t have to be any good.

The secret is to keep going

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I haven’t really told you what to do when you don’t feel like writing and you have nothing to say, so, here it is: write.

Yep, that’s it. It’s that simple.

Take some duct tape, put it over your mouth, shut up, stop whining, pull up a chair, sit down at the keyboard and start moving your fingers.

You can’t sit there and type and have nothing to say. Now, what you have to say, you might think isn’t any good—and it may be utter crap—but there is no reason that has to stop you from writing. Just do it.

There are a million ideas bouncing in your head, but some of those ideas will only come to the surface when you have decided you are going to sit down and do the work.

Don’t believe me?

Try this exercise on. Right now I want you to close your eyes, and think about nothing. That’s right, think about absolutely nothing—I’ll wait.

How’d that go for you? Were you able to think about nothing?

So, don’t tell me you don’t have something to write about. Of course you do. Your problem—and my problem—isn’t writing, it’s typing it out.

P.S. – By the time this post goes live, I’ll be in the middle of launching my How To Market Yourself as a Software Developer program. If you liked this post, go check out the program. It has a whole video course on creating your own developer blog and making it successful.

Why You Aren’t Paid as Much as You Are Worth (and how to get paid more)

Software developers usually make pretty decent salaries, but did you know that companies that hire software developers usually make much more money off of a single software developer than they pay that software developer?

I guess, if you think about it, it is common sense. Why hire programmers if those programmers don’t make more money for your company than the salary you are paying them?

But sometimes this disparity between what a software developer actually makes and the value that software developer brings to the table is large—sometimes it’s really large.

In fact, if you are being paid an hourly rate as a contractor, you are probably making about half of what the client is being billed for, if even that.

bowl Why You Arent Paid as Much as You Are Worth (and how to get paid more)

Being a commodity

One of the big problems many software developers face is that they can be easily treated as a commodity.

This problem is becoming more and more prevalent as basic programming skills become easier to come by and more and more people are becoming programmers all over the world.

If you go onto oDesk or ELance today, you can find software developers willing to write code for less than $10 an hour; you can find really good software developers writing code for $25 an hour.

If you are letting yourself be treated like a commodity and the price of that commodity is dropping, you are in big trouble.

Forget about job security at a single job. You’ve got to worry about your entire career and all the investment you put into your skills.

If you want a long and prosperous future doing what you love to do, you’ve got to be able to justify why someone should hire you and keep paying you at your current rate instead of hiring someone at $10 an hour to do the same work.

What makes something a commodity?

In order to solve this problem, you’ve got to examine what exactly it is that makes something a commodity.

But, before we go any further, let’s take a moment to make sure we are on the same page about what a commodity is.

I like this definition from the Wikipedia entry on Commodity:

“The exact definition of the term commodity is specifically applied to goods . It is used to describe a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market.”

commodities Why You Arent Paid as Much as You Are Worth (and how to get paid more)

The key thing here is “without qualitative differentiation across a market.”

This means that if the service or product you provide isn’t much different than what everyone else is selling, it can be considered a commodity. And, as such, the price will be determined by the market, not by the actual value you provide.

So, even though you may be providing your employer with $500,000 worth of value per year by writing code, your employer can turn around and pay you whatever the market says a software developer with your years of experience and skill level is worth.

That is unless…

You find a way to be something more than a commodity

That is the key to being paid what you are actually worth instead of what the commodity market for software developers says you are worth.

But, it isn’t easy to stand out. It isn’t easy to be perceived as something more than a commodity if you don’t know how to do it.

I want to show you an example of how some people break out of commodity markets and differentiate themselves to make more money.

Have you ever heard of a voice-over?

voice actor Why You Arent Paid as Much as You Are Worth (and how to get paid more)

A voice over is when you have someone who has good oratory skills or a particular accent, or sounds create a recording for something like an advertisement or a cartoon character’s voice in a cartoon.

There is quite a big market for people who do voice overs. Just about every radio ad, podcast advertisement, and animated film or show needs voice over talent to create voice overs.

But, did you know it is a commodity market?

That’s right; I can actually go onto Fiverr.com and pick from a multitude of skilled voice over actors to do a voice over for me for $5. Not only can I do it—I have done it. I’ve hired two different voice over actors to do voice overs for my podcast for just $5.

But, believe it or not, some voice over actors get paid millions of dollars each year to do basically the same work.

So, what separates the voice over actors who get paid millions from the ones who get paid five bucks?

I’ll give you a hint—and it’s not talent—it’s marketing.

Those voice over actors that are making the big bucks have figured out how to market themselves to land the right gigs, which increases the value of their name and gets them more and higher paying gigs.

If you don’t believe me, go on Fiverr.com yourself and check out the talent level of some of the top people on there that are doing voice overs for just five dollars—you will be impressed.

No one tells software developers how to market themselves

In the entertainment industry self-promotion and marketing is the name of the game.

There are whole companies that do nothing but market talent. I mean, actors have agents, so do musicians, and yes, even people who do voice overs have agents… at least the successful ones do.

But, when it comes to software development, you are not very likely to find the same kind of resources of knowledge about self-promotion and advertising that envelope the entertainment world.

Have you ever heard of a software developer having an agent?

Well, even though it sounds silly, you’ve got to be your own agent if you want to rise above the crowd and stand out. If you want a chance at making the big bucks and setting your own price, you’ve got to figure out how to market yourself.

There are plenty of software developers that are already doing it. You’ve heard them on popular podcasts and read articles written by them in trade magazines or heard them speak at conferences.

But, no one ever talks about how they achieve their success… at least not until now.

Over the past few years, I’ve been talking to developers who have broken away from the herd. I’ve studied their careers and asked them about how they’ve achieved their success. I’ve been able to duplicate their results to a large degree myself, and since no one else is doing it, I want to share that information with you now.

Check out this package I am putting together called “How To Market Yourself As A Software Developer.” I’m going to be launching this this package, on March 27th.

Sign up here to get a $100 discount directly in your email on launch day.

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Well, I hope this article has been helpful to you and helped you realized that you’ve got to make a fundamental shift in your thinking if you want to be able to really advance your career and not be treated like a commodity.

My How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer Course Is Almost Ready!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that for the past few months I’ve been working on a really big project.

I get many emails from developers wanting to know how to boost their career by either finding a new job, starting a consulting business, or even just getting a raise.

I try to help as many of these developers as much as possible through emails and Skype calls, but there is only so much of me and those types of communication don’t easily scale.

I was trying to figure out how to solve this problem

Then, I had an idea…

What if I put together a full program which teaches developers what I think is the most important skill required in boosting their career—marketing themselves?

I don’t mean the cheesy kind of marketing yourself that gives marketing a bad name. I mean the true, down-to-earth, I want to help someone and by helping them I’ll build a reputation for myself, marketing.

I found in my career, this approach to marketing—of providing value to others—was the single most impactful thing I had done to increase the amount of money I make and to open up all kinds of opportunities for me.

So, that is how the idea was born. My Pluralsight courses on all kinds of technologies were very popular, but I feel like the biggest value I could provide—more valuable than any technical course—is to show developers how to get out there and build a name for themselves in the community.

combo image 51 My How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer Course Is Almost Ready!

Here is what I created

I didn’t want to just create a normal video tutorial.  I feel like the material in this course is better served by a combination of video, books, interviews and more.

I want developers who buy the package to feel like they are getting a huge value for the price.  I want to make sure that I am not leaving out any of the advice I would have given my younger self if I had a time machine and could travel back in time.

howtomarketyourself2 My How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer Course Is Almost Ready!

I started out by writing the flagship book for the course, “Why Marketing Yourself Is Important.”  I feel this book is a good starting point for the program and gives readers an understanding of what exactly the value of marketing yourself is and what exactly it entails.

The book is designed to introduce the concepts that are covered in more detail in other parts of the program and to get a reader more familiar with these concepts so that they understand where each piece fits in.

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Next up, I created the “Building a Brand” video course. The goal of this course is to talk about the importance of building a brand and show viewers exactly how to do it. I want to cover more than just the surface level understanding of what a brand is and really dive deep into what makes a great personal brand and the value having a great personal brand can bring.

I wanted this course to be structured like you are having a real conversation with me. So, I shot a majority of the course in full HD video with me talking into the camera.  In this course I take you from the basics of understanding what makes up a brand all the way to the creation of your own brand and I answer the most common questions related to personal branding that I have received from talking about this topic at code camps and conferences.

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Since having a blog is a central part of the strategy I recommend, I created a full step-by-step course that shows you how to build a blog from scratch and gives you the tools and advice I’ve learned over the years for making your blog successful.

In this course I go over all the options for setting up a blog, including free hosting, shared hosting and using a full blown virtual private server.  But, I don’t want to just talk about building blogs, so I took the extra steps and actually show you how to create a blog using each possible option.

I end the course by giving you all the tips and tricks I’ve used to build this blog up to a blog that gets over 100,000 visitors each month—around 3 thousand per day on average.

utilimate 3d1 My How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer Course Is Almost Ready!

I feel that learning to use social networks effectively is a very important skill for getting your name out there and spreading the content you create.  So, I wrote another book called “The Ultimate Developer’s Guide to Social Networks.”

In this book, I lay out my overall strategy for gaining traction on social networks. I talk about concepts like building an audience and connecting with people. I cover my strategies for each of the major social networks.  I also give a run down of all the tools I use to manage my social networks effectively and not spend hours each week keeping up my presence in them.

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One area that I feel is sorely lacking for most developers is the area of creating a good resume.  So, I decided to write a “Resume Advice That Will Make Or Break You” in the form of: do this, don’t do that.  I included all the best resume advice I’ve gotten from recruiters and hiring managers over the years along with tips that I’ve used myself to land good jobs and negotiate higher salaries.

3d1 My How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer Course Is Almost Ready!Next, comes the big topic of getting your name out there. I decided to write “The Complete Guide to Getting Your Name Out There” to cover this topic in detail.  In this book I talk about all the different mediums you can use to get your name and brand out there where people can see it.

I start out by talking about how to get people coming to your blog. Then, I give you some advice on getting published in magazines or other blogs. I cover writing your own book and either self-publishing it or getting it published by a traditional publisher. I even talk about all the tips and tricks I use to create video tutorials and screencasts or shoot high quality YouTube videos.  I also cover the topic of getting on developer podcasts or creating your own podcast—it isn’t that hard. And finally, I give you some practical advice on getting out there in the community either by speaking or through open source. There is a ton of information packed into this book.

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I really want to make this package valuable, so I didn’t stop there. I created a list of networking do’s and don’ts and I hired a graphic designer to create a beautiful inforgraphic out of it. I am really happy with how this thing came out. In this infographic I reveal all the networking secrets I’ve learned over the years from countless books, articles and just plain old trial and error.

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Finally, I reached out and contacted the most prominent and well know software developers I could think of. I was able to get Bob Martin, Jeff Atwood, Jon Skeet, Rob Conery and a bunch of other developers to let me interview them. I feel like these interviews alone are worth the price of the course—Mark Freedman, even agrees with me.

In these interviews I dig deep into what made these famous software developers so successful. They share plenty of secrets I haven’t heard anywhere else. One interview in particular that I think you’ll find extremely valuable is the one I did with Pinal Dave. Pinal is the creator of SQLAuthority, an extremely successful blog that gets over 1.8 million views per month. That’s right 1.8 million! For the first time, he shares his secrets to success.

I’ll also be updating the package with more interviews and other content as I get feedback about the content. I want to make this package as dynamic as possible.

When does it go live?

So, you might be wondering when this course goes live. Well, if you preordered the package, you’ve already gotten most of the content I’ll be launching with.

But, if you didn’t preorder, you can get the full finished package on March 27th. If you are a subscriber to my email list, you’ll get a nice hefty discount code in your email on the day of the launch.

If you aren’t already signed up, just go here and you can register to make sure you get the discount code and get notified when the full package goes live.

Man, am I tired

I do have to say, I am exhausted from working on this package. I’ve never put so much effort into a single project in such a relatively short time-frame. I spent countless hours up late at night working on parts of the package. But, I think it was all worth it, because I am extremely happy with the way everything turned out. I am 100% confident this course will help developers learn the skills they need to market themselves and boost their careers.

My Secret To Ridiculous Productivity. (I’m Using It Now)

In the last year, I:

I’m not saying this to brag–although I am certainly proud of these accomplishments. I am saying these things to prove that I know what I am talking about when it comes to productivity.

Being super productive

Right now–as I type–I have a timer ticking down. The clock shows approximately 14 minutes before I’ll take my next break. I live and die by this clock.

Live and die by clock thumb My Secret To Ridiculous Productivity. (Im Using It Now)

You may have guessed it, but the clock is a Pomodoro timer. For the last year, I’ve been religiously using the Pomodoro technique to not only stay on task, but to plan out my days and weeks.

If you aren’t familiar with the Pomodoro technique, the concept is remarkably simple. So simple, that I first dismissed it as ridiculous. But, thanks to my good friend Josh Earl’s success with it, I decided to give it another try.

You basically set a timer for 25 minutes. During that time you pick a single task to accomplish and work on that task, uninterrupted. After 25 minutes you take a break for 5 minutes and then begin again. After 4 cycles, you take a longer 15 minute break. (There are some variations on this, but that is the basic idea.)

Like I said, it seems pretty simple and unremarkable, but I can’t even begin to express how powerful this technique is for getting things done.

I’m lazy by nature. I have to constantly fight against the side of me that wants to procrastinate and slough off my work. The Pomodoro technique helps keep me focused by forcing me to work uninterrupted for a period of time. It also gives me a measure to compare myself against and realistic targets to aspire to achieve.

My week

My week beings on Monday. On Monday morning I wake up and go to the gym to lift weights. When I get back, I have a protein shake and get to work.

The first thing I do when I get to my desk on Monday is start my Pomodoro timer and open up my “Weekly Plan” Trello board. I use this board to organize my week. It has nine columns. Seven columns for the days of the week, one column for today, and one column for done.

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My first task of the day is to create the rest of the tasks that I think I can get done that week. I start off with a checklist of things that I know I need to do every week:

  • Blog post
  • Podcast episode
  • YouTube video
  • Newsletter email
  • Buffer social network posts

Then, I add cards for the current projects I am working on for that week.

Once I’ve got all the cards I can think of on the board, I start tagging each card with a color that represents how many Pomodoros I think that task will take. I have three categories:

  • Green: 1 Pomodoro
  • Yellow: 2 Pomodoros
  • Orange: 3 Pomodoros

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If something is going to take up more than three Pomodoros worth of time, it needs to be split into multiple tasks.

Next up is planning the week. For each day of the week–unless there is something that will take up most of my time–I figure I can get about 10 Pomodoros done.  This may not seem like a lot, but believe me, it is. I drag cards into the columns until I have filled up each weekday with 10 Pomodoros worth of cards. For weekends, I usually just drag in about three or four.

My estimates are always on the high side, but they are pretty accurate, because it is fairly easy to estimate based on half hour intervals–especially when many of your tasks are repeated each week. (For example, a blog post is estimated at three Pomodoros.)

My day

I have a similar ritual every single day. The first thing I do, after exercising each day, is to open up my Trello board again and this time plan the day.

New things come up and other things need to get shifted around, so planning for the week alone is not sufficient. Often, I’ll have different tasks that I had vaguely identified at the beginning of the week which I’ll give more clarity to later on.

I first drag things over from the appropriate day into my “Today” column until that column is filled with about 10 Pomodoros worth of work. After that, I’ll take a look at the today columns and think about anything I might have missed that needs to get done that day. Finally, I’ll sort the “Today” column based on priority–I want to make sure I am always working on the most important things first.

Once I’ve got the day sorted out, I go back to the rest of the days in the week and move around cards until everything is balanced again. If I find that I’ve got some empty slots, I’ll create new cards and start filling those slots until I am back at full capacity again.

Once all the prep-work is done, it’s time to actually start working on tasks. I grab the first task off the list, start a timer and get to work. At about 5:00, I stop for the day and add up my Pomodoros. If I didn’t hit at least 10, I count on working a little bit that evening. If I did hit 10, it’s optional.

Why this works

So, you may be wondering why this works–why it is worth even writing about such a simple workflow. Well, even though this workflow seems really simple, there are a few key things going on here that aren’t immediately obvious.

First of all, I am using quotas to make sure that I accomplish the volume of work that I want to produce each week. I have quotas for how many blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, and other content that I need to produce each week. The things that are being measured by a quota get dropped onto my board first.

I’m also using a daily and weekly quota when it comes to Pomodoros. Pomodoros are little measurable units of work for me. I know that I should be able to get 10 done each day and that I should be able to get roughly 50 done in a week without killing myself. I know from experience that hitting 60-70 will cause a measurable dip in performance the next week and that if I am doing less than 50, I am slacking off.

Because I have those quotas in place, I know what is expected of me each and every week. I have the power to hold myself accountable to a real measurable standard. I can’t emphasize enough how important this point is. If you don’t have a way to hold yourself accountable to a standard that you want to achieve, human nature will cause you to fall way below the bar.

Another major component that makes this technique successful is the awareness of my capacity within a given amount of time. It is really easy to over or under estimate what you can get done in week, because you don’t normally have a ruler that you can use to measure task duration versus your actual capacity. When I start the week, I know that my capacity is about 50–I’ve got that much gas in my car. I get to choose where I want to drive that car that week–I can only go so far. I have to make a realistic prediction of what I can actually get done. From that prediction I have to prioritize my tasks so that the most important things get done first.

Capacity thumb My Secret To Ridiculous Productivity. (Im Using It Now)

Without this understanding of my capacity, it is easy to fall into the trap of overestimating my ability to get work done and underestimating the take it will take to get the work done. With this system, I have a real metric to compare to. I know that I am not going to get 80 Pomodoros done in a week. I know that in an 8 hour day, I will not get 8 hours of work done. I am eliminating my biases by replacing them with real statistics.

Finally, the dedicated focus of the Pomodoro technique makes me more efficient at the work I am doing. When I am solely focused on one task at a time–without checking Facebook or Twitter–I work much more efficiently. Several studies have shown that multitasking causes a drop in efficiency. When I stay focused on a single task, I get much more done. I’ve written about this before, when I talked about quitting your job, but you can easily lose hours of time in a day to small distractions. Over the period of a year’s worth of time, all those wasted minutes can end up equaling weeks of lost productivity.

The benefits

One huge benefit of this technique is that I am able to do most of this work without stress or guilt. Normally, when I am working, I always feel guilty about how much time I am wasting during the day. I also feel stressed about not getting as much done as I should be getting done. This situation of stress and guilt actually ends up being the perfect breeding ground for procrastination and burnout.

When I am using the Pomodoro technique, I don’t feel the guilt of wasting time, because I know that as long as I get done 10 Pomodoros in a day I have reached my productivity goal for the day. If I get more done, great.

I also don’t feel stressed about getting as much done as I should have, because how much I get done is no longer what is being measured–I’ve taken the burden off of my shoulders. My focus has shifted from results to process. I can’t control the results. Work takes as long as work takes. But, I can control the process. If I put in my 10 Pomodoros for the day and I have sufficiently prioritized my work, then I have done the best that I can do–no need for guilt, shame or stress.

Time for a break

If you are interested in getting started with the Pomodoro technique, I’d recommend checking out Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. And if you have any questions about my process and how it works, feel free to ask and I am happy to answer them in the comments below.

Also, if you liked this post and are interested in more of what I have to say about being productive and boosting your career, sign up for my weekly newsletter here. You also might want to check out the course I am putting together called “How To Market Yourself as a Software Developer.”

There Is No Better Indicator of Success Than Quantity

The best way to guarantee success in almost any pursuit is to be prolific. Not all successful people are prolific, but almost all prolific people–regardless of vocation–are successful.

When you take so many swings at the ball, it is hard to not eventually hit a home run.

Unbalanced rewards

Rewards are unfairly skewed towards the top.

I used to be addicted to playing poker tournaments online. I would spend countless hours in the evenings with multiple poker tables open, happily clicking away as I could hear the mechanical chk chk chk of the computerized dealer dealing me out hand after hand.

poker thumb There Is No Better Indicator of Success Than Quantity

A typical breakdown of a poker tournament prize pool goes something like this:

  • 1st place = 25%
  • 2nd place = 15%
  • 3rd place = 10%
  • 4th and lower = remaining 50%

Half of all the money goes to the top 3 places. A quarter of it goes to 1st place.

In a poker tournament, you want to win first place.

This same kind of payout structure exists in many areas of life. You see it everywhere you look. 1st place gets the big bucks, the endorsement deals, and a unfair share of the glory. 2nd place and lower get much less.

As Ricky Bobby says, “If you ain’t first you’re last.”

Because so much of life is weighted to give those who end up on top a lion’s share of the bounty, it makes much more sense to take a lot of big swings than it does to take a few little swings.

Keep swinging that bat as hard as you can, and even if you have your eyes closed, you are bound to eventually connect with the ball, and when you do you are going to knock it right out of the park.

Rarely when you find someone who is wildly successful, do you find them taking small carefully calculated conservative steps, instead you find them wildly flailing in every direction until success just walks right into one of their haymakers.

Some examples

One of the most famous examples of prolific people who produce amazing results is Thomas Edison. (By the way, if you don’t know what prolific means, it basically means producing a lot.)

Thomas Edison had 1,093 US patents in his name. That means he basically invented a new thing every single day for the equivalent of 3 years. Imagine waking up every morning and filing a patent for 3 years–talk about being productive.

Here is another example. You’ve probably heard of the famous romance and fiction novelist Nora Roberts. Any guesses to how many books she has written?

She has written over 208 novels. Not blog posts, not eBooks–novels.

She doesn’t use a ghostwriter. She doesn’t have a research assistant. She does it all herself and she publishes about 5 complete novels a year. I can’t even imagine writing that much.

Want to know how many blind swings Nora Roberts took before she knocked one out of the park?

Well, she got rejection letters for her first 6 books and got her first book published in 1981. From 1982 till 1984 she wrote 23 novels which were published and she didn’t make the New York Times Best Seller List until 1991 when she had already produced close to 100 novels–that is a whole lot of swinging.

Now, every single novel she has published since 1999 has been a New York Times bestseller.

I want you to stop and think for a minute about how many authors or would-be-authors write one book or two books or even 10 books and give up. Think about it. If it took Nora Roberts almost a hundred tries to hit a home-run, why do so many people think they can do it in one?

I used to be lazy

I used to produce almost nothing. Weeks would go by and I would have no real tangible asset which I produced. During those times in my life, I wasn’t a failure, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I was just sort of floating in the pond.

But, one day something changed. I can’t quite tell you what it was, but something lit a fire under my ass. I started being productive. I turned off the TV, put the XBox controller down and started producing instead of just consuming.

I went to work and I tried to see how many backlogs I could get done in a day. I got home and wrote blog posts and created Android apps. Everyday I was doing something. Everyday I was taking big swings and stepping into them–hard.

Then one day, crack–my bat connected with something.

I got a chance to do some developer training videos for Pluralsight.

I took a bunch more swings, producing courses as rapidly as I could. 3 years went by and somehow 54 courses manifested themselves out of nights and weekends of sitting in front of my computer recording. crack! crack! crack!

baseball thumb There Is No Better Indicator of Success Than Quantity

It started to become harder to miss the ball than it was to hit it.

Lazy me had become… prolific?

By the way, one of the first books that helped me become more productive was Getting Things Done by David Allen, I highly recommend reading this book if you’ve never read it before.

Also, if you are having trouble staying on task and actually producing the work you know you should be producing, read one of my all time favorite books, The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. This book will kick your ass.

Quantity breeds quality

Many software developers focus on quality. And while quality is important, it can’t be manufactured on its own. You can’t force quality to appear. It takes practice; it takes quantity to produce quality.

If you want to become a better developer, write more code. Produce some applications. There has never been an easier time for a developer to publish their own application, whether it be a web application, mobile app or even a standalone desktop one.

If you want to write good code, you need to write a lot of it. No matter how hard you try, you aren’t going to write better code by gritting your teeth and concentrating really hard. You’ve got to be actively producing code and solving problems if you want to produce better code and solve harder problems.

It’s not that quantity beats quality, so much as it breed quality.  The more you produce the better you become at producing.

Back to you

If you want to guarantee success, more than anything else, you need quantity. You can’t just assume that your first try is going to be successful, you’ve got to assume it is going to take 5 tries or 10 tries or maybe even 100 tries to hit a big success.

Far too many people give up early and far too many people aren’t willing to put in the hard work that is required to be prolific.

If you are having trouble hitting your stride it may be because you just haven’t stuck with it long enough.

Your first application might not be a success. Your first attempt at solving a difficult problem may be a dismal failure. But, the question is, are you going to keep trying?

If you want to be successful, you have to learn how to produce. You’ve got to learn how to put a crank in your back and wind that thing up until you can’t turn it any more.

Are you going to be the kind of person who takes a few halfhearted whiffs at the ball and gives up? Or are you going to be the kind of person that is there day after day, swinging that bat, knowing the outcome will come if you only are willing to put in the time?

Prolific people generate prolific results.

What is it that you could be doing, but you’re not?

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How You Are Wasting Your Time

I write quite often on this blog about starting a side business or becoming self-employed, but one of the biggest struggles in getting something new started is finding time.

The same goes for getting fit and getting in shape.

So, if you want to be successful in your career, or in life in general, it is really beneficial to find out where you are wasting your time—so you can stop wasting your time.

I’ve found there is one major time-waster out there that many of us indulge in.  One that can easily be cut out, or at least reduced significantly, to give you back much of that time you are wasting each day.

I’m not going to give away the answer here, but you can probably guess what it is already.

Check out my video for this week below and let me know what you think.

The Importance of Having a Routine

In this video I talk about how important it is to build a routine for yourself.

I’ve found that having a routine, while boring at times, is really important for long term success.  I used this technique to get 30 Pluralsight courses created this year alone and 54 overall.

Watch the video to find out why I think having a routine is so important.

So You Want To Quit Your Job (How To Do It)

This is the 3rd post in a three part series about quitting your job and working for yourself. Check out the first post about why you should want to quit your job, and the second post about the fantasies and realities of quitting your job.

I want to start off by saying that I, myself, have had several false starts and I’ve witnessed countless others who think that they are going to quit their job and live their dream only to wash up, shipwrecked on the shores of reality.

I’ve already talked about the harsh realities of working for yourself. If that part didn’t scare you at least a little bit, or you think that what I said doesn’t apply to you, there isn’t much point reading any further, because this advice won’t help you either.

But, if what I said earlier made you sweat just a little bit; made you just a little bit more unsure of your brilliant plan, then you’ll probably find the advice I offer here immensely useful (I wish I would have had this, advice when I started out.)

Transition into working for yourself

Too many people, myself included at earlier points in my career, want to just make a big leap from working for someone else to working for themselves.leap thumb So You Want To Quit Your Job (How To Do It)

Now, for some people this ends up working out. These are the people you hear of that quit their job to follow their dream and then they created some startup company that got purchased for millions of dollars. Some people also win the lottery and others, unfortunately, get hit by lightning.

But, what you don’t hear about is all the people who quit their jobs to follow their dreams and end up wasting a year or two of their life eating up all the savings they have accumulated from the past 10 years while they suffer from a bout of writer’s block that never ends up being cured.

The truth is, working for the man is quite a bit like slavery or prison. You can’t just be set free and expect that you’ll adapt comfortably to your new life and start fulfilling your dreams. It is a bit like when you get off that 6 week diet you were on and say “ok, I’m just going to pig out a little as a reward, then I’ll get back to ‘normal eating.’” What ends up happening is this instant transformation from the shackles of a restrictive diet to “free eater” doesn’t land us in the comfortable norm of “normal healthy eater” like we’d expect. Nope, instead we take a 1 way ticket to pig-out land until we eventually come crawling back to the comfortable diet prison that we hated, yet required.

The same happens to software developers, and other professionals who go from working for the man to being the man– they can’t handle it! They go nuts, and waste lots of time being unproductive without the structure of a workplace and someone cracking the whip on their back. Eventually, they crawl back to their cruel masters and begrudgingly reenter the rat race.

The problem is that working for yourself requires self-discipline. More than you’ve got right now. Yes, I know that your parents and friends have commented on how self-disciplined you are because you have excelled at your job by actually showing up to work each day and doing your job, but there is a huge difference between doing what you are supposed to do because you are supposed to do it and doing what you are supposed to do, because there are immediate and dire consequences if you don’t.

Stop shaking your head for a moment and listen to me. I know you think you are better than that, but you aren’t. Take a deep breath, dig deep and realize what I am saying is true. If you really want to succeed on your own, you are going to have to learn this skill as well; seeing an unfiltered view of reality.

The demons

In order to be ready to be successful on your own, without a boss, without a formalized structure and system of consequences, you are going to have to exorcise a few demons.

demons thumb So You Want To Quit Your Job (How To Do It)

The best place to perform this religious rite is at your current workplace, in your current job. You will use this as a transition period and training ground to prove yourself, before you cut loose your chains.

The first demon: productivity

In my last post, I talked about the fantasy and reality of working for yourself and really what it focused on was the most critical component: productivity.

These days, productivity is like a drug; lots of people are peddling productivity hacks and productivity tools as if productivity means more than just working hard on what you are supposed to.

The trick is that it is much easier said than done. As I highlighted in the last post, most of us are spending very little time actually working productively at work. And, you will probably be in for quite a shock when you lose your shackles and find out that you aren’t getting nearly as much done as you thought you were– oh, and now you aren’t getting paid for goofing off.

So, my advice is: before you quit your job, you need to actually be able to put in a 6 hour day of hard work. No better place to practice doing that than in a paid learning environment.

How do we get there?

It isn’t going to be easy. But, nothing ever is, right?

I use a productivity technique called the Pomodoro technique to both measure and help me achieve a high level of productivity. The idea behind this technique is pretty simple. So simple that I actually overlooked it the first time I had been introduced to it and only later came back to it when a friend of mine, Josh Earl, mentioned how much success he was having using it.

The idea is that you set a timer for 25 minutes. During this time, you work on one focused task without interruption. After you are done, you take a 5 minute break and repeat. Nothing magic here. The magic is actually in the measurement. You see how many of these you can get done in a day and you track them. You can actually then plan out your work and estimate your work in terms of Pomodoros, which it turns outs, is extremely useful.

I’d recommend getting this book, Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Life), to learn more about this deceptively simple seeming productivity tool.

2013 10 24 23 26 09 So You Want To Quit Your Job (How To Do It)

I’d recommend starting to put this into practice at your regular job. Try to achieve 8 Pomodoros a day. This would represent close to 6 hours of productivity. And only count time that you are actually being productive. This means producing something of tangible value. You are going to end up not replying back to lots of emails and dismissing yourself from a bunch of meetings.

The second demon: gold-plating

On someone else’s dime it is pretty easy to forgo pragmatism. But, something I had to learn really quickly when I struck out on my own is that good enough really is good enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying do shoddy work. And you already know that I’m not advocating not working so hard. What I am saying is, if you want to be super productive, you can’t make every piece of work you do a masterpiece. You have to find the right balance of time and effort.

Take this blog post, for example. I’m putting quite a bit of work into this post and the series of blog posts it belongs to, but I could actually spend weeks or months writing and rewriting parts of this post. If I did this, I might end up with a true work of art at the end of the process, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to ship it when it gets to the 80-90% effectiveness mark and not worry about squeezing out that extra 10% of quality for another 300% cost of time and effort.

Don’t take this as an excuse to do s!*# work and ship a bunch of crap. That is easy, anyone can do that. Instead focus on being pragmatic. Get to the point where the work is good enough and let it go, then move onto the next thing. This is much harder than you might think– it is a delicate balance.

The third demon: consistency

Success is usually not the result of a glorious fight with a single dragon which you vanquish in a fierce battle, instead the road to success looks much more like running around Midgaard naked, killing rats over and over again.  So You Want To Quit Your Job (How To Do It) So You Want To Quit Your Job (How To Do It)

Working hard and being pragmatic is completely worthless if you can’t do these things consistently week after week month after month. It is like starving yourself for a day and thinking you are going to lose weight, or running a marathon and sitting on the couch for the rest of the year.

So, how do you learn consistency? Simple, you cut out all the excuses. Make being consistent a matter of life and death. Don’t act like failure is an option. Pretend like just missing a single day or skipping a beat is the end of the world.

Eventually, you’ll be able to use your judgment to decide what you should do and when to make exceptions, but for now make rules for yourself. Rules that you will not break under any circumstances. Learning to live by rules like this will be a huge benefit to you. Everyone is weak-willed, no one can resist temptation; if you want to be successful, avoid judgment calls and decision making. Make your decisions ahead of time and codify them as rules that you follow every day.

I’ll give you an example, before I wrap up this post, because it is already getting quite long. Right now I am learning Spanish. I am using an app on my iPad called Doulingo to do this. I have a rule that I do this app at least 30 minutes a day, every day– no excuses. What do you think will happen if I obey this rule every single day for a year? I think I am going to be pretty good at Spanish. Unless I stick my finger in an electrical socket and fry my brains, it will be pretty hard for me not to succeed, so long as I follow my rule.

The hard part

If I haven’t lost you yet, you must really be serious. Good. You are going to need to be serious to stomach what I am going to tell you next.

At this point, if you start right now, you are probably still at least two years out from the point where you are going to be able to quit your job and not end up coming crawling back to the rat race battered and beaten.

I see far too many people come up with the ill-conceived plan of saving up perhaps 6 months to a year’s worth of living expenses and then quitting their job to pursue their dreams of starting their own business. (I’ve entertained this idea myself several times in my career.)

But, let me tell you why this is a very bad idea and then give you a much better one– a plan that will actually work and isn’t likely to leave you homeless or broke.

The reason why saving up a bunch of money and quitting is a bad idea is, because if you do this, you will be constantly racing against time. Instead of time working for you, you will have time working against you. You’ll make bad choices, you’ll feel panicked, you will not be operating under ideal conditions and you won’t be giving yourself room to fail– which you will inevitably do.

Here is a better plan. Instead, of thinking in terms of saving up X amount of dollars, think in terms of earning X amount of monthly income from a side business. Whatever business you plan on creating once you quit your job, start doing it now. Start building you future business while you are still working for the man. If you can’t get something going on the side without the stress and pressure of potential financial ruin, you aren’t going to succeed when you go it alone and add all the extra pressure and stress that comes with being self-employed and not getting a pay check.

Sure, it will take you longer. Sure, it is going to be hard to essentially work two jobs, but the question is, how bad do you want it? If you don’t want it that bad, fine, I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise– to each his own. But, if you really want it, and you are willing to both work and wait for it, then do it the smart way; build your business on the side while you are still getting a regular paycheck.

Parting words

Well, I hope this series was helpful to you. I’m not an expert by any means on the subject, but I can speak from personal experience, and I’ve talked with enough other people who have made the transition to know that what I am telling you here is not my advice alone.

When I first quit my job, I was shocked at how different life was from how I had imagined it would be. I had to make some big adjustments really fast, because I wasn’t prepared. Hopefully, after this advice, you won’t find yourself in the same situation, or at least you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect and how to deal with it.

So, You Want To Quit Your Job? (Fantasy Versus Reality)

This is part two in a series about quitting your job.  Check out the first post here.

Imagine you are going for a run in your neighborhood; just a casual jog. You are running along comfortably, not really straining that much or breathing heavy, but making good progress. Now imagine that all of the sudden a tiger jumps out of the bushes and starts chasing you.

What do you do?

You probably run quite a bit faster with much more purpose, because you are scared for your life. This is kind what is it like when you quit your job to work for yourself.tiger chasing thumb So, You Want To Quit Your Job? (Fantasy Versus Reality)

For the longest time I had this fantasy of quitting my job and working for myself. Well, actually my real fantasy was playing video games all day and not having to work at all, but even fantasies need to have some basis in reality, so I modified it to be a little more reasonable.

Anyway, I always wanted to be my own boss; to work for myself. I thought that life would be so much better if I had more control over my life; if I could come and go as I pleased and set my own work hours.

Now that I’ve actually done it, I’ve found that working for yourself is not exactly as I had imagined it… let me explain.

The 8 hour fantasy

One of the main things I thought about when I had dreams of working for myself was just how much I could accomplish if I had 8 full hours in a day to work on goals and projects that I set for myself.

For a couple of years my life was pretty miserable. I would work 8 hours during the day for my employer and then when I was done doing my first job I would take a little break to eat dinner and spend some time with my daughter and then back to work for another 4 hours doing Pluralsight courses at night. Weekends usually involved at least another 4 or so hours of doing Pluralsight courses and perhaps another 3-4 to create a blog post each week.

I kept thinking to myself that if I could work full time on the Pluralsight courses I would get an additional 4 hours a day and not even have to work nights. I should be able to get twice as much done and work far fewer hours during the week.

I ran some calculations to see if the payment for creating Pluralsight courses would cover the income I made from my regular job if I produced twice as much content. The numbers seemed to say I would come out pretty far ahead, so as far as I was concerned “quitting my day job” was a no brainer.

The 8 hour reality

My first week of working for myself turned out to not be the fun lighthearted adventure I had set out on.

When the end of the first week had come, instead of completing 4 to 5 modules of a Pluralsight course, like I had anticipated, I had actually only barely completed 3, and that was with me putting in the same 12 hour days that I had put in before quitting my job.

Something was wrong; something was seriously wrong. Working a full time job I was completing 2 modules a week, so if I had 40 extra hours in the week, shouldn’t I have been able to easily get done another 2 more, perhaps even 3 more?

I shook it off as just a fluke. The particular course I was working on required a large amount of research and prep-work as well as scripting out paragraphs of text for each slide—it must have just been bad timing.

The next week I fared a little better, but still not anywhere close to what I had anticipated. I got 4 modules done but it still required around 12 hours of work each day during the week and some on the weekend; the math just didn’t add up.

Here I was busting my butt for only slightly improved results over what I was getting before.

There is work and then there is work

I bet you are probably wondering what exactly happened at this point. What can explain the results I was seeing?

Well, it turns out there is a difference between a job and “work.”time card thumb So, You Want To Quit Your Job? (Fantasy Versus Reality)

You see, at a job you get paid just for showing up. Now I don’t mean to say that you can just sit at your desk and do nothing all day, but in reality you can just sit at your desk and practically do nothing most days at most jobs.

Again, I don’t want to make it seem like I wasn’t working hard for my employers. As an employee, I have always worked hard and done a good job, usually performing well beyond the level that I was expected to perform at. But regardless for how hard I ever worked at any job, I never worked so hard as when I started working for myself.

The reality of the situation is that even the hardest desk worker I know who is working for someone else usually only actually works less than 4 real hours in an 8 hour day. I would actually venture to guess that actual hard nose-to-the-grindstone hours would probably average about 2 per day.

Now, before you get all upset about what I am saying, let’s take a moment to think about why this is.

There are a number of reasons why employees work much fewer hours than the hours they are on the clock. The first, most obvious reason is because they are getting paid by the hour and not the job. When you are getting paid by the hour you have no real motivation to be fast or efficient or to make sure you are working every minute of every hour.

This means that a task that would perhaps take you an hour to do if you were working as diligently and as hard as possible, might take you 2 to 3 hours if you are working, but just not working hard at the task.

Think about the difference between jogging down the street and running for your life because a man-eating lion is chasing you. It isn’t like you are being lazy when you are jogging down the street, it is just that you aren’t in any real rush.

Another major source of distraction is office conversations. In most work environments, people socialize. It is not unreasonable to assume that 2 hours of each day, on average, is eaten up by socializing about non-work related topics or remotely work related topics.

Let’s take another slice out of that 8 hour pie and account for general job overhead. This would be things like checking your work email, reading bulletins and memos, attending pointless meetings, etc. I’ll be absolutely ridiculous and assume this kind of thing only takes up an hour of time a day on average, (although we really know that it probably takes up much more.)

Finally, we get to just plain laziness and doing personal stuff on company time. Life is life and things happen. Your kid gets called into the principal’s office and you get a call at work about it that you have to deal with. You are buying and house and need to fax those loan documents to your mortgage broker. Sometimes you get to work and you just feel burnt out and tired and can’t really manage to do much other than pretend to code while you scroll repeatedly through lines of code waiting for the clock to tick 5:00.

I’ll be nice again and attribute this to only taking up an average an hour a day, but based on my Facebook and Twitter streams, I am pretty sure we all know that number is greater than even the most candid of us will be willing to admit.

So let’s go ahead and do the math. Take your 8 hours and subtract away 2 hours for socialization. That leaves you with 6 hours. Take away 1 for work related overhead and another 1 for life related overhead and laziness and you are already at 4 hours right there. Now take the 4 hours of work that could be done at a running pace and reduce it to a jogging pace, and you are effectively cutting it in half to about 2 hours of actual real work. If you come in late or leave early or you are more social or more lazy or you have more meetings than average, the number could even be further reduced. Some of you might be coming up with negative numbers. It is a wonder anyone gets any work done at all!

So, where did my hours go?

Just because you switch from working for someone else to working for yourself doesn’t mean that you immediately go from getting 2 hours of work done a day to a full 8. Some of the office distractions are eliminated by working for yourself, but others are not.

Most importantly though, there is a big difference and adjustment from being used to working 2 actual hours of real hard work to working 6 to 8 hours of real hard work.

It is sort of like going for a 3 mile jog every day for a couple of years than suddenly one day deciding to start running 12 miles instead. You might be able to do it, but you are going to feel like total crap until you adjust.

It turns out for me that my old routine, before I quit, was working my regular job during the day, which wasn’t all that taxing on me, then working 4 hours each night, at which time I would accomplish perhaps 3 hours of real hard work.

Each day I was perhaps doing 5 hours of real hard work.

When I started working for myself, I found that I was actually doing about 5 hours of real hard work during the day and by the time the night came, I would work perhaps 4 hours, but was so exhausted that I was only getting about 1 hour of real hard work done.

So overall, I was only adding about an hour or two of actual real work worth of progress each day. This lines up about perfectly with the results I was seeing. I was still having to work the same number of hours and I was just getting marginal improvements in my results.

Tracking my time

I’ll put things as civilly as possible here, but to say the least, this was royally pissing me off.

I mean, I was not happy at all with this revelation I was discovering.

I thought long and hard about different jobs I had and what I did during the day at work. I tried to count up the hours and determine if it was really true that I was only spending a couple of hours of real hard work, on average, a day at any given job. Then, I thought about how at most jobs I was getting a lot more work done than most developers were and it made me even more sad.

I decided to start tracking every minute of every day I spent doing work on my Pluralsight courses and whatever else I was working on during the day in order to see where my time went.

My results after several weeks confirmed what I had already known. In any given day, I was lucky to get 5 hours of solid work done during the daytime and 6-7 hours overall in the entire day was about the average.

I was also busting my butt harder than I had ever before.

Summing it up

So, what am I trying to say here? What can you learn from my experience?

Well, first of all, working for yourself is much harder than you might imagine. When you are working for yourself, you are only getting paid if you are working. You don’t just show up and get paid.

You may think you are busting your butt at your job now, and you may very well be, but I can almost guarantee you that you are not working nearly as hard as you would if you were working for yourself. There is a huge difference between doing 2 hours of hard work per day and 6 hours or more of real hard work per day. If you aren’t ready for this change of pace, you can easily be crushed and discouraged by it.

You might just think that this doesn’t apply to you; that you can just sit down at 9:00 AM, plug in your headphones and work hard until 5:00 PM when you disconnect and smile happily at your 8 hours of good old hard work you put in that day.

But, if you are of this mindset, I’d encourage you to do two things before quitting your day job. First, take a week off and try it out. During that week track your time and see how much work you actually get done. Only count work that results in you creating something you get paid for. Don’t count all the overhead and checking emails, etc.

Second, after you see how dismal your results are, get a copy of “The War of Art” and learn that you are not alone. We all struggle with the same problem of being lazy creatures who want to do what is pleasurable instead of being productive and habitually rationalize all our actions until we are reduced into believing that the course of action we are taking is the only possible and reasonable choice.

I’m not saying don’t quit your job. In fact, I encourage you to find a way to build your own business and work for yourself. But, just realize that if you don’t like the idea of working hard every single day you probably won’t like working for yourself very much.