Working a full-time job and being a consultant definitely has its challenges but also provides a lot of great opportunities. These opportunities include the obvious which is making more money (always a good thing) but also to grow, learn and do things how you want them done which isn't always possible when working for someone else. In this article I talk a little bit about my role as a consultant, some tools that I use and the approches I take to maintain a good balance between work, life, family and fun.
Sunday Coding Session
I am (and have been for the last 5 years) a software engineer and database administrator for the Nevada System of Higher Education. It's a fairly demanding job with a lot of responsibility but having a heavy workload and a lot of things that I am responsible for is a big part of why I enjoy it. Generally I spend about 45 hours a week in the office and do some additional work after hours but I try to keep that in check and not let it get out of control. As far as consulting goes I have a monthly commitment to The Nevada Museum of Art where I work as a software/database engineer and typically I also have about 1-3 other projects going on that I poke away at in my spare time.
Tools that I use to keep everything going smoothly:
- Evernote - I use Evernote for all of my note taking. Whenever a client calls and has ideas or suggestions I log them in Evernote. This product syncs across all of my devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc) and is really the best of its kind.
- Freshbooks - I use this for all my invoicing/bookkeeping and I have absolutely no complaints. It's a very slick system and takes care of a lot of the tedious grunt work related to invoicing.
- Google Calendar - Staying organized is key. With Google Calendar and its alert system I can make plans/appointments months out and have the system notify me weeks, days, hours or even minutes before a specific event/task needs to occur. If these alerts are set up properly it is very easy to stay on top of everything you have going on.
- iPhone - All alerts are sent to my iPhone (as well as my email) and I can access Freshbooks, Google Calendar and Pivotal Tracker right from my phone so that I can always stay updated and provide feedback while I am on the go. There are other mobile devices that would enable me to do this but nothing does it better than the iPhone.
- Pivotal Tracker - PT is a terrific online project management system that works very well with a small or large group of contributors. We use it to track all bugs, feature requests, etc and it works very well. The interface is slick and it has just about every feature you would want from a system like this.
In order to maintain a healthy balance I think it is essential to block out specific times for getting work done and specific times for having fun. Obviously things can come up which need to be addressed immediately but for the most part sticking to these schedules and making time for family is the best thing you can do. I love what I do and could probably sit around and write code all day every day but when it's all said and done nothing beats spending time with my family. Keeping a good balance will help prevent burnout and ensure that you aren't letting your priorities get out of sync.