In the last days I stumbled upon some articles about how to improve, be more productive, etc. Usually you can separate this kind of articles in two categories:

  • the articles that talk about non work-related activities you must do if you want to increase your productivity. Eat the right food, sleep the right amount of time, do exercise, etc.
  • the articles that talk about work-related activities. Go to meetups, read, do pet projects, etc.

As many activities (if not all) we do as a human beings, the success of a technique always depend on many factors, being us the most important one. The things that work for me maybe don’t work for you.

Both kind of articles talks about valuable things that you should definitively do but taking them as the only source of truth can lead you to a difficult position. Let me explain my feelings with a couple of examples.

Until one month ago I was working in Coventry (I live in London) from 9 to 17. That means that I had to wake up at 6:15 and be back at home at 18:45, just in time to give my son a bath, have dinner and put my son to sleep. As I’m not a super-human I need to sleep at least 7 hours (to me the right amount of hours to sleep is 8 ), so basically I had one hour to do “other things”. Yes, I could have made a thorough study plan, but I also like to do strange things like talking to my wife, watch Game of Thrones, read a fiction book or play a videogame.

The hours in the train!! You should take advantage of the hour of train you have from London to Coventry!!

That’s what the Yoda inside me shouted from time to time. I tried to listen to him and actually I could read quite a lot on the train and do some coding. But it’s something you can’t do (or at least I can’t) on a daily basis. Sometimes in the mornings (and in the afternoons too) you need to sleep because you’re so tired, or you need to talk with your workmate, or whatever. Let’s say that you can use 4 of the 8 hours you spend on the train every week. Not too much but more than 0.

Obviously going to meetups, hackathons and so on was quite difficult.

One month ago we agreed that we can work at the train, so we just need to be from 9 to 15:20 in the office. That made a big change. Now I get home at 17:15 and I have time to pick up my son at the nursery. You don’t know how happy I am to do that.

Now you can do a lot of things in the afternoon! You have two hours more! Let’s make lots of pet projects and read thousands of books.

No I can’t. And I can’t because I don’t want to. I want to use those hours to be with my kid and my wife. I prefer to pretend to be Sant Jordi and the Dragon than reading the last rant about micro-services. I want to do some exercise a couple of days a week, and to go to some meetups from time to time.

What’s my point with this article? I think that every decision that you make in your life has some trade-offs and you have to think always if you want to accept them. And that those trade-offs are much bigger when you have a family. You can’t just decide that you’re going to focus in your career and leave all the other things apart. You have to try to do some of the things of both categories, focusing more on some things now and in other things later. I agree in what both categories of articles are explaining: it’s good to go to meetups, read books, do pet projects, go to hackathons, etc. And It’s also good (and probably more important) to eat well, do exercise, spend time with your family, sleep, do meditation and so on.

But you can’t just do the things of one category, and you can’t do all of them. Accept that and choose. And probably review and think what you choose every week. Fix some things you want to do (family, some sort of exercise) and decide what you want to do with the rest of your time.

Is for that reason that every day I value more remote work. I think that (in general) it allows you a greater flexibility and it removes commuting from your life, which is always great.