Disadvantages of a Flexible Work Schedule

One of the main reasons people choose to work from home is so that they can have more freedom and flexibility. They want a lifestyle with less restrictions, less schedule, and more free time...

The reality is that most people simply want to work less. Period. Having a flexible work schedule sounds ideal if you need to work around young children or need more free time to devote to other things in your life. The problem is that it becomes very easy to let those things cut into your necessary work hours...

It takes a lot of discipline and self-motivation to work at home successfully, and to manage your own work schedule. I have been working from home for 11 full years now, so I've experienced the struggles firsthand - but also the benefits.

The number one perk has been being able to stay home with my 2 children full-time. They are 11 & 16 now, but I started working from home when they were 5 months & 5 years (one on the hip, one on the hand I always say). As a single mother for 8 of those 11 years, I dont know how I would have made it otherwise.

I've had the opportunity to travel, spend quality time with my grandmother during her last 2 years, homeschool my children when my son was sick, get involved in local groups, and many other things I wouldnt have been able to do if I held a full-time job outside the home.

I've also had the opportunity to work more when I needed to and to work less when I wanted to, and to earn more money than I would have earned at any "job". Sounds great so far, doesnt it? It is ;)

So then what's the downside, you ask?

Finding that perfect balance between flexible and productive. Dealing with the obvious home office distractions. Balancing work and parenting under the same roof. Investing the time to get to the point where you have plenty of both free time and money. And then spending each of those wisely, no doubt.

Finding that balance is a common struggle. Most people want to make the change overnight, or expect things will magically work out perfectly, but it takes time to achieve that balance - and that level of success in both your personal life and your business.

I've been through it myself, and am finally at a place in my life where I have things running smoothly. That's not to say I'm some perfect cross between Betty Crocker and Hillary Clinton. Actually, I'm not even the perfect ME (yet)...

And that's what it's all about, really - becoming the person you aspire to be.

Its easy to say things like "I want to lose weight" or "I want to double my income" or "I want to quit my job and work from home full time running an internet-based business." Its another story to actually DO those things.

And on a flexible easygoing schedule where things are running nicely, its not always easy to find the motivation or self-discipline to make major life changes like that. In fact, its easy to become complacent.

Over the years I have gone back and forth between the flexible schedule (go with the flow), and micro-managing my schedule hour for hour. I've tried day planners, desk calendars, Outlook reminders, task lists, charts, post-it notes, egg timers, time logs - you name it. The flexible schedule is much more pleasant, I assure you - but its not generally as productive.

Micro-managing your schedule and pushing yourself to the limits has its drawbacks too, of course. The two main issues (in my experience) being disappointment and discouragement. If you get the slightest bit off track, you end up with a load of negative feelings, which can be very counter-productive.

So what's the solution?

I've been pondering this quite a bit lately. Jeff Jones actually brought it up for discussion in our private group at the SSWT Forum. The timing couldnt have been better for that discussion because, like I said, this had been on my mind already.

Unfortunately, I didnt have the magic answer. The truth is - nobody does. Since we are all unique individuals with our own set of circumstances, what works for one person wont work at all for another. Its all about finding the schedule and environment where you work best.

But if I had to draw from my experience and offer some good general advice on the topic... I would suggest a cross between a flexible schedule and a strict one. To give you an example of what I mean, here are some of the things that have worked well for me over the years:

  • Daily Schedule
    My daily schedule is a good mix of structure and flexibility. I have specific tasks that I want to accomplish each day, and so I do those first before anything else. These tasks are required to manage and maintain my business, and generally take 1-2 hours a day at the most.

    The rest of my work hours are more flexible, which leaves room for creative work and networking and other less structured tasks. This combination works out well for me because its less restrictive - and because it allows me to work as little as 5-10 hours a week when I need to run on a minimal schedule (such as when I'm sick, when I need to be away, or when the children are out of school for the summer).

  • Seasonal Schedule
    Over the years I've noticed some obvious trends, both with myself and with my business. There are certain times of the year that I need to be super-focused and super-productive. And there are certain times of the year that I'm simply not.

    For example, seasonal marketing campaigns such as holiday related sales during Christmas require more preparation - beginning in August. Luckily the Fall tends to be a productive time for me personally, as the children have just returned to their school schedule. Summer is the slow season for much of my business, which works out well for me also because that's the season I like to spend more time doing things outdoors with the children.

    It's simply not possible to maintain a highly structured schedule year-round, year after year. Its the recipe for burn-out. So monitor your trends as you go, and plan for seasonal downtime, and seasonal productivity - that works best for you.

Again, the goal is to find balance - which is a very personal objective.

The dream of having tons of freedom and flexibility comes at the price of investing tons of time and energy into changing your lifestyle completely. And maintaining that lifestyle requires (at least a little) structure and discipline.

As for me, its time to go back into super-production mode. I've got the itch to take things to the next level ;)

Best,

Related: Making The Leap: From Employee to Entrepreneur

5 Ways To Balance Home & Business, Under The Same Roof…

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»

Discussion

  1. Stacie Bennett says:

    Lynn,

    A very timely post for me as I am preparing material for our Nashville Meeting! As you know our topic is Goals and Plans For Business in 2008. I'm looking at my goals and plans and trying to figure out the scheduling that is going to get me to the point I want to be at in my goals and plans.

    My schedule with my four children requires that the morning and early afternoon be my productive time. I have at least identified that part any way ;)

    I may just have to get you to speak a little on this topic on Saturday :P

    Thank you for a great topic!

  2. I'm doing the same, Stacie - and going on more of a strict schedule at the moment to achieve some of my current goals. I'm looking forward to the meet-up in Nashville, and the topic - and yes of course I'd be happy to speak up and join in on the discussion ;)

  3. Lynn,

    That is exactly the point I was trying to bring out in the forum-there has to be balance and that mix between structure and flexibility is as individual as our DNA.

    Oh, and I'm honored to be included in your work ;)

    Jeff

  4. Hi Lynn,

    Ahh Balance and Discipline! Two words, I need to implement more into actionable steps in moving forward. Reading this post definitely helps me to break down my goals into bite size steps.

    And as you explained without doing those necessary things to be efficient and productive will only make it challenging. I'm with you on relieving that itch for 2008 and beyond.

    Muchos Gracias,
    Maurice

    p.s. I hope to join you soon in Nashville's Internet Marketing meet up-too bad they don't have one up in the Boston-Northeast area.

  5. Hey Lynn,

    I'm one of few people who is trying to make a living online with the goal of NOT working from home! :)

    I actually want to make enough money to quit my regular job to get my own little office. I know exactly how I want my office to be laid out right now to the coffee maker.

    There are several reasons for not wanting to work from home but mostly it has to do with the fact that if I was home with my wife and two children I wouldn't get anything done.

    My ideal day would be to get up, get ready for "work", and go to my own office at 9am. Work until 5pm and go home. My nights could be spent then playing with the kids, enjoying life, and relaxing.

    BTW... I say "work" in quotations because doing internet marketing in my own office would not be work for me. It would be an enjoyable rewarding job.

    ~Shannon

  6. Good goal Shannon - and for all the right reasons. I actually started out with an office on the square when we lived in the city. Well, originally I ran my business from my office in my other business, which was a commercial building also - but after the divorce I had the office uptown.

    That was great until my son became extremely ill. That's when I moved to a home office exclusively, and I've been here ever since. It works out well for me since I'm a single mother, but I can certainly see the advantages if you had a partner/parent at home.

  7. I dont know how many of you are subscribed to Willie Crawford's newsletter, but ironically he addressed this same issue today with an email titled "My Very Effective Time Management System". If you are on his list, take a couple of minutes to read that one...

    I found it interesting that Willie follows the same workday pattern as myself - with a set list of core tasks first, and then working on a more flexible schedule the rest of the day - choosing prioritized tasks for building his business (while the management of it is done first, in the mornings).

    Good stuff, if not a bit ironic with the timing ;)

  8. Makingyouricher.com review online affiliatemarketingsteps says:

    Thanks Lynn. Hey now I remember again - how are your teenage kids doing?

    As for me, I've always love working from home, but because I 'want to work to less' as you alleged it's for most people.

    Though it's not been easy at all - ups and downs. However, things are getting better. Thanks for the 'time management nuggets in this post.

  9. True enough - its not about the number of hours, its about the productivity.

    The kids are doing great, Patrick - thanks for asking! They are 11 & 16 now and keeping me busy ;)

  10. Dan Reinhold says:

    Good one, Lynny, more so since I've started using Mark Joyner's Simpleology system. BIIIIIIG help!!

    Hey, Maurice...if you want a Boston meetup, all we have to do is do it.

    I hear the big table at Denny's is open...

  11. Jan - queenofkaos says:

    When I am at my most effective, I do a daily core checklist, this can change day to day, I may do a certain task alternated days etc. but I have a master list.

    I categorize anything else as a project and creating a project time block for specific projects.

    The project can be reoccurring, I have a physical products site so I need to pack and ship orders as a regular time pocket, writing blog posts is regular but more flexible and working on my ebook is flexible - which is a whole other topic, it's so flexible it's not written yet :0) A question of priorities and looking at the big picture.

    I find working on the least amounts of projects possible at one time helps me to get them finished because I am prone to getting sidetracked about 3/4 through.

    I call this doing my Circuit, I do it at home for housework too.

    Basically it is creating time pockets, naming them and then dropping specific tasks for each "name" into them.

    It's flexible because if you need to you can rearrange them or bump the time block without throwing off your whole day.

    I guess the trick is not to micromanage the specific tasks, for some I allot a specific time for them using the egg timer, especially for my home stuff.

    The more automated you can make it, the better.

    I have written about it here and a few articles on using systems for increased productivity.
    http://queenofkaos.com/WAHMblog/179/online-business-system-creation/

    Systems don't have to be terribly restrictive, I've done that too, it's why I prefer the time pockets to using a day planner where one thing can throw off the whole day.

    Keeping an up to date calender is of course important for appointments etc. and also for long range planning which can give you a good base to work from when deciding what projects to work on.

    I like Simpleology also, it introduced me to how much more can be FINISHED by focusing and prioritizing and putting it into practice.

  12. Hey Dan,

    I'm game with that idea of starting an Internet Marketing meet up in Boston. I'll contact you on your website.

    Peace,
    Maurice

  13. Sharon Lee says:

    Great post!

    One of the great "artists" of the flexible work schedule is Tim Ferriss, whose book "The Four-Hour Work Week" was a best-seller last year.

    Another example is James Brausch, creator of the "Freedom Business System". Both of these gentlemen now work less than 4 hours per week, and travel around the world, yet their incomes continue to increase.

    Sure, it takes extra effort and commitment to set this all up (and time). But in the long run, the rewards are definitely worth it. (And no, I haven't attained that yet, but I'm definitely on the right path!) :-)

    -Sharon

  14. Jan - I love the 'time pocket' and circuit concepts. Thanks for sharing that! I've done quite a bit of reading on the topic this past week and there are some obvious similarities in those who are (or feel, or seem) productive.

    Its not far at all from how I manage my own work schedule, though I'm convinced it could use a little more deliberate structure at times.

  15. Hi Sharon,

    I'm not a big "Ferriss Fan" myself, but I realize a lot of people are. You'll find my review of the 4-Hour Work Week at: http://www.clicknewz.com/745/review-4-hour-workweek-by-timothy-ferriss/

    As for James Brausch, there has been some very recent discussion on him - and his methods - here recently that dont shed a very positive light on him. I havent kept up with him myself, but the comments are coming from fellow readers - so that's something I'm looking into. Its an off-topic thread on an unrelated blog post, but it starts here if you're interested:

    http://www.clicknewz.com/1315/just-how-shocking-is-the-shocking-video/#comment-105177

    All that aside, the vagabond lifestyle is not one I desire personally. I have developed a rewarding career and financial security, and am investing in a new home and solid roots for my children in the Cumberland Valley.

    To each his own, right? I certainly respect those who want to travel freely in that manner, but its not for everyone. I do like to travel though, and fortunately can do that anytime I please :D

  16. Dan Reinhold says:

    That all sounds good to me, Lynny!

    These are exactly the sort of things I'm struggling to setup now. Simpleology has certainly helped, but your suggestions can only make it all the more helpful.

    I like the regular time pockets and daily core checklist Jan mentioned. Automated and consistent is definitely better than the alternative.

    Say, after your get-together in Nashville (after the hangover has lifted ;) ), perhaps a full, exhaustive and comprehensive report of how to put all this in place would be in order. Or just the basics...

    Possible report ala Fast Cash? A teamup with Jan?

  17. A great idea, Dan - and I'll look into that. But FYI, there'll be no hangover on this end. I'm more into coffee than booze ;)

  18. Sharon Lee says:

    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for the response...

    I must admit to finding Alice's comments somewhat cryptic and confusing... seems some of the other commenters were confused as well..

    Anyways, I agree with your observations in the thread you linked to, that Tim Ferriss' book isn't a step-by-step blueprint -- but it nevertheless did open my eyes to the possibilities out there. :-)

    Best regards,
    - Sharon

  19. Its not for everyone of course, but a lot of people have really been inspired by it - which is great.

    As for the spam comment issue, its a new one on me too - but I went to her blog and searched out the source and it certainly has me curious to research it more.

    At any rate, welcome to ClickNewz - I've enjoyed your comments and look forward to hearing more from you!

  20. Lee Yang Kin says:

    Hi Lynn,

    I stumbled upon this site while browsing the net. You posted some great ideas there.

    I have always gotten myself to abide by a strict daily schedule working from home, thinking that it would be simple. And well, time tells otherwise.

    It's not easy sticking to a fixed schedule. I am re-working my schedules, and I'm sure your suggestions would work out very well.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Lee

  21. Thank you Lee! For me the perfect solution is a combination of structured *and* flexible scheduling, as discussed above -- though it seems to be a constant learning process as things change from year to year. The most beneficial factor being able to adapt with those changes and consistently keep a good balance between the structured business-management tasks and the flexibility needed for creative work.

  22. zephyr sloan says:

    a very interesting and useful article indeed. we should develop a blance between work and relaxation ourselves if we are operating from home. As far as flexibility and ease of work is concerned, Jeff Paul's marketing techniques are rather interesting for those operating from home. they are not only easy to access but are known to be helping people make hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few months. i found his books very captivating too.

  23. great article.

  24. I follow a similar list system like Jan mentioned. On Sunday I make a list of all big items I want to accomplish for the week. Every morning I pick items from the big list and make a daily list. This gets me going every day. After working from home for a few years I was looking for a way to get out of my house but still be productive. I do not feel I can be productive in coffee shops or book stores due to frequent conference calls. After reading about coworking spaces online I found one here in Houston. This really helped me stay on task when I could not get my lists accomplished.

  25. Strange title! But I think the main disadvantage here is that not many people are willing to take the plunge and let go of the security of a full-time paid job. Certainly being a single parent helps as it propels you to do it because there is no other in those circumstances, but a flexible work schedule? Yes, everyone can have one, IF they want one. The only disadvantage I hear is that there is not enough of ‘me’ to get all my tasks done and my life lived :)

  26. Thanks for the enlightening advice Lynn! After getting laid off from my job last year I transitioned to a part-time job which allowed me to work at home. Self-discipline was definitely key to the tough learning curve I had to conquer before I could be come an effective work-at-home employee! I started with a strict schedule almost immediately and it has helped me through ever since, but one thing I hadn’t considered was a seasonal schedule, although now, after reading it advised by you it make the most perfect sense! First thing on my to do list for Monday morning!

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