A thought from Rachel Smith

22nd December 2016

From on-site agency work to working on a product from home - one year later

This time last year I was finishing up at my gig at Active Theory. I had truly loved that job and the things I learnt there, but I was ready to give up the digital advertising hustle. Working hard for long days had me neglecting other parts of my life, namely my health and the housework. I ate too much fast food, was skipping the gym, leaving the house in a mess and my cooking (which I used to take joy in) was often quick and uninspiring.

I was excited to give up the agency work lifestyle to working on a product from home. Regular hours, working on my own time - think of all that extra time I'll have for activities! I was fantasising about being a super-fit, domesticated, culinary goddess. It was all in my grasp with this change of job.

Cut to midway through this year, and this wasn't quite the case. I was still (choosing to) work long days. I was still cooking the same old meals, maybe making it to the gym twice a week? Still leaving the house in a mess. Andy was still doing the majority of housework & laundry. I did have this extra time, but what I was doing with it, I couldn't tell you now. Maybe Twitter & YouTube or something. Whatever it was, I was wasting it.

During a summer vacation in early August I decided to read a book called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". My new year's resolution was actually to learn how to be tidy. I was always the 'messy one' in my relationship, and I didn't like that. The book resonated with me, and when I came home from the vacation, I started tidying the house. I've kept it tidy ever since. It was bizarre, a complete personality change. Something that I had always thought was just "built in" to my psych (the inability to be tidy) was modified just with the right technique and a bit of effort. I thought about other areas of my life I could improve, namely how to achieve the lifestyle I had been envisioning for myself at the job change.

And so, I did some research on self-development and productivity and chose to develop three new habits (further details are linked):

So many positive changes have happened in my life since developing these habits. I took up yoga and exercise now almost every day. I'm having a great time researching and trying new plant-based recipes. I've lost most of the extra weight I gained since moving to the States. There feels like there is so much time in my day that keeping up with my share of the housework seems easy. I feel clear and focused while I'm working, rather than in a constant state of reaction.

Time in your day provides the space to stop and reflect on yourself, and the past. I had always thought that my agency job was the reason I couldn't be the best version of myself, and a remote job would be the answer. I discovered that the only barrier to me being the person I wanted to be, was myself. I often worked from 10 am until 8 pm, and I would use that as a big fat excuse as to why I couldn't get things done. A lot of mornings, I would wake up at 7 am and lie in bed for an hour and a half messing around on my phone. 6 am - 11 am are my most productive hours in the day, and I was wasting them on social media. I would skip exercise because I was too tired, but I was too tired because I was skipping exercise! If I'm honest with myself, I could have achieved some version of the lifestyle I have now, while at my agency gig, if I had put in the effort.

I'm just glad I worked it out now. One thing I've always excelled at is being a good employee and coworker. In part because I would prioritise my job over many other aspects of my life. What I've realised now is there is no need to prioritise work over, say, health. They can live on the same priority level together :) I would say I'm an even better performer now because I'm more likely to stop and reflect, on the code I'm writing and the colleague I'm being.

I guess I'm sharing this because it is an example of the trap we can fall into, believing that when we have the perfect job scenario or family scenario, we will suddenly become this different person. I fell into that trap, thinking a remote job would magically gift me a different lifestyle. I had to work on changing myself, not my job. And I continually have to work; there are still many days where my instinct is to lie in my bed instead of getting moving. But with the right strategies and habits, I know I'll get better at this all the time.

Next thought: Some reflection on the fifth anniversary of the first day of the rest of my life