View Full Version : Defining working hours for the creative person...
10-21-2003, 02:46 AM
I've thought about this quite allot. I'm lucky to be working flexi-time, so as long as I put in a minimum of 8 hours a day I can come and go as I please. Well, that's the rules I made since I work for myself!
I think that if you're going to be working with people / companies for the day, you'll have to abide by normal working hours (9-5?), thus lessening the possibility of not reaching them at office.
The reasoning behind my 'free' working hours method is that as a creative person, I cannot just switch my creativeness on and off as I please and often when I don't feel inspired, I'll just head on home and go and do something useful with my time, because I'll be wasting precious company time. Even if it means I'm getting in only 5 hours this day, the next day might yield 14 good hours, because I've given my mind time to run over what has to be done.
I wouldn't recommend this way of working if a client phones you and wants you to do something ASAP though! :-) So be responsible. That also brings up the question of how you manage someone that works like this? Well, timesheets are a good way of monitoring your employees (and for billing purposes). Maybe having them work for at least a year before putting them on flexi-time will also be beneficial for creating respect and commitment in the work place.
What are your thoughts?
10-21-2003, 03:35 AM
It's one of the prices you pay, isn't it? ;)
Like you say, creativity isn't just turned on and off like a tap. But on the other hand, clients are usually 9-5ers.
When we generate prices we look at all the overheads and determine what I like to call the 'break-even price'. Then we add our margins on top (think of a number, multiply it by pi, and so on).
The key to doing it this way (in my company) is that you need to know what your overheads are - and of course, these include salaries, services, and so on. Basically, all the 9-5 sort of things (plus overtime if you are paying it).
If someone chooses to think about the job in their own time you can't really charge for that. I suppose this is even more true when you're self-employed, because trying to charge would put your prices up and make you unattractive to potential clients.
As for employees, we've had our share of wasters who just regard a job as something that gets in the way of free time between one paycheck and the next. We dealt with it by clearly defining expectations in both the contract and people's individual targets (which can be set and reviewed yearly, monthly, weekly, or whatever). A 'two strikes and you're out' system has been used on rare occasions.
It is a diffcult subject.
10-21-2003, 04:02 AM
Your question seems to contain something of the answer: you ask about "conventional hours". Well they're called that for a reason.
I'm not quite with your real point. I agree about the common sense of working when it's happening )as you describe) but why are you concerned about your hours? If a client seeks contact then they really won't know if a) you're busy already
b) in the pool
c) out of hours
Can you clarify your question. It's clearly important to you as you've also posted on Chat to draw us to your thread. So more specifically,
what are you really asking?
By the way, I start at 5 am (as I work from home) and by midday I've done 7 hrs, so take a break, lunch, have a siesta, watch a movie, go to the beach. Then later in the afternoon I can put in another few hours. I find the early moring so clear, quiet, uncluttered that I can more done in one hour then then two hours in the early afternoon (which I think is for resting)...but that's my personal choice and it's the way I get most done.
ps sorry about the Springboks - they're not having a good year at all!
10-21-2003, 04:20 AM
Just probing to find out what other designers think of either working conventional hours or working flexi-time, and which they apply/prefer.So you've actually answered my question.
Sorry for being vague, I've actually gone from one question and trailed into another issue alltogether...
10-21-2003, 07:40 AM
From the point of view of someone who is self-employed... I find it one of the most difficult areas to regulate. As you rightly point out, there's no knowing when inspiration will strike.. whether you're struggling with a design idea or a piece of code. My habit now is to pack a pen and paper wherever I go.. so I'm often to be found scribbling away between train stops!
It's also really important to be able to walk away from something as well.. or as Michael suggests, do something completely unrelated.. and then regroup your thoughts and return afresh. So many times, I've found that to work a charm!
Unfortunately, the same freedom can't often be found in the conventional 9-5 environment. Though it's refreshing to hear your company's progressive attitude to flexi-time working, Mtrax.
Personally I'd really like to working flexi time or even working from home. I find that my most creative hours are in the evening between 7pm and 1am which isn't much good to me being in a 9-5 office.
10-21-2003, 11:15 AM
I to am self employed, and the flex time thing works wonders for me. And I aslo now find myself carrying pencil and paper and camera everywhere I go in case I spot something that inspires me. A picture does more to remind me of that inspiration then writing it down would, not to mention that I get hundreds of free images to pick and choose from. If a client needs a picture of a water fall I have them, and don't have to worry about copyrights.
If I ever get big enough to hire other people I think I will try the flex time method and the two strike rule.
10-21-2003, 12:12 PM
I reccomend "The artist's way" by julia cameron for more info on this topic. It has a lot of useful exercises which help to make creativity more time-manageable. Lots of unblocking exercises as well.
10-21-2003, 12:23 PM
In a related note- I was at a writing seminar by Anne Wiley (creative communications) on Friday where she highly stressed the need to plan time to 'incubate' into the schedule for your creative process. I would love the luxury of being able to go home and do something truly productive whenever I reach this 'incubate' stage, rather than staying in the office and trying to distract myself from the subject to allow this phase to happen, but that's not really an option.
It's amazing, though, how you can train yourself to have 'learned' incubation time- I tend to head to the gym or go for a run over the lunch hour (my only flex time option) which creates a natural break in the flow of my day. I have to admit, by the time I'm winding down the workout or in the shower afterwards I can almost count on a breakthrough on whatever project I'd left behind at the office. (Ok- maybe it's one from yesterday that I had to give up on for a while.)
Another tool I've learned is to drop what I'm doing for a bit and do some site reviews here in the forums. It seems to be a great tool for creating a perspective change and you never know when you'll be inspired by one of the sites you're checking out. (And heck, if you can help someone else who might be stuck, it's a bonus all around.)
10-21-2003, 12:46 PM
So true, so true MtraX:) I have long come to the conclusion that I'm wasting time and energy trying to force creativity when it just isn't there. Since my office is at home I don't have far to go to and from work but I often get up and go for a walk, pick at some weeds or even call it quits for the day. On the other hand though, I might jump up from the couch at 11pm with that perfect image or piece of code in my head:) Either way though, I do pick up the phone during 'regular' business hours and appear to be 'at my desk', even when I'm not.
As long as you are working for yourself there probably isn't much worry about 'slacking off' however, I can see flexi-hours be difficult to keep track off with employees. I suppose you'd have to look at the overall performance...do projects get done on time (or within reasonable time)?
Thanks for a great subject,
10-21-2003, 12:47 PM
Flexible hours is the reason why I am self employed. I really think that if it wasn't for the customers and the standard of society, working 9 to 5 makes no sense at all, especially if you create something.
Not everybody has the same biorythm. Our brain is more active at a certain time of the day and it's a different moment for everybody.
Also, let me push the theory farther. After all, this thread is about our well being.
Breaks are, for me, even more important than the working hours. Our brain has a hard time to focus more than 30 minutes and beyond those 30 minutes of focusing some people develop headache and stress wich leads to ineffeciency. So for programmers and designers, I think it's important to stop only a few minutes every half hours to reset the brain clock and restart working with a fresh mind.
Well, I'll ask my wife (she's a psychologist) for more details about our way to function and write a thread about it when I have some time ;)
10-21-2003, 01:35 PM
I love flexi-time,but being the Director of the company helps! I have my most 'innovative and imaginative' thoughts anywhere from 11pm onwards, I open my personal office at 10.30am until 7pm, and as someone else said,can do what I want/need to do - or not as the case may be, whilst appearing to be at the end of the telephone or at the computer. The order line opens at 9am until 7pm weekdays and at various time during the weekends/holidays.
When we employed staff however, we had to set rules for flexitime, as if everyone wanted to work 7am until 3pm we were in trouble; Flexitime in our offices works on the principle that everyone knows what hours need to be covered, and therefore as long as every hour from 9am until 7pm weekdays and weekend evenings are covered, then fine....sort it out between yourselves, to suit childrens school time/dental appointments/mental blocks, but make sure we know who is available (by email or a quick telephone call). The only other rule is that the timesheet must have 35 hours 'in office' time per week.
it has worked well for over 4 years, it was abused once quite badly, however the abuser had been working another job in the hours they had accredited to us and i'm afraid it was a case of instant dismissal once it was discovered; which unfortunately took us around 4 weeks to do.
So apart from that one occasion, it works well for us, we retain staff as they know that if they need a break, time to think, time to attend school plays (hristmas can get hectic trying to juggle these) then they can ligitimately do it. We also allow working from home, and find that many projects are completed ahead of time, as once the 'flow' starts, employees see it through, rather than stopping at 5pm!
10-21-2003, 04:04 PM
Reading others' replies to your question MtraX reminds me that Western science (and culture) ignores two very important aspects of being human.
The first is Rhythm - we ignore it completely. Living by the ocean shows me how much the rhythms subtly affect people. Everything in nature has rhythm yet we think people can perform 9-5 12 months a year.
The second is Refection.Because science is authoritative (as are large corporations, the church erc) our lives have not included reflection. It is actually a critical part of the learning cycle and we need to make time for it. It's different for each of us and we need to discover our own. some run, some doze, some watch videos and some sit quietly.
It's interesting that nearly every major mathematical discovery was made as a eureka moment, stepping onto a bus, having a bath.....
So I'd direct our attention to personal rhythms and time for reflection.
As most have pointed out flexi time seems to work pretty well and I'd be surprised if anyone could fool everyone for long (those who fail to produce).
10-21-2003, 04:18 PM
After reading all the above post it makes me want to be self-employed....wait I'am self-employed but I do not have time to eat lunch on most days. I do hope in the next year I can get everything under control enough to work 8 hour days as it is I end up working 20 hour days most of the time and still stay behind.
10-21-2003, 04:52 PM
Janeth spoketh: I end up working 20 hour days most of the time and still stay behind.
Isn't that why you geeks take steroids though? ::Ducking::: LOL (Just teasing cutie, I couldn't resist.)
On the subject at hand...I'm self employed and in college...my best and most creative times are late at night. Thanks to things like email,cell phones, & interactive extranets, contacting and trading info with customers during regular hours so far hasn't presented a problem. I still manage to do most of my work deep into the night! I always take a ride in the saucer around 3am, just don't tell the Air Force. They've been mad at me ever since that incident with the cow and the general.
10-21-2003, 10:02 PM
I agree with all of you, Janeth et al. Creativity cannot be switched on or off. I am a self-employed single dad and find most of my creativity 'appears' after the kids have gone to bed - ie 9pm-6am. That's when I really create. Same for my friends.
10-21-2003, 10:18 PM
This is a topic that has fascinated me all my life, in the context of creativity.
Perhaps this question becomes more important as the part of our work becomes based on creativity becomes larger. To illustrate what I mean, at one extreme, a person working as a stocker has no need to draw on creativity -- the work requires only knowing how many widgets are in stock, how many are needed, and how to make sure there are enough widgets available to meet anticipated need. At the other extreme, an oil painter, say, has to be inspired to accomplish the central task of creating an artistic work (unless that person is working as a portrait artist or something along those lines, in which case a client has to be accommodated, of course).
In the experiences of some professional artists I know, they manage to incorporate both. Two are fiction writers, the other is a professional photographer, non-fiction writer, and professional oil painter. The two fiction writers have set blocks of time they work; even if they aren't visited by the Muses during such a block, they'll tgurn their attention to mundane matters (updating accounting records, answering correspondence, etc.) -- but they also always have a pen and notepad with them around the clock so even if they wake up in the wee hours of night with a sudden inspiration they can jot it down. For that matter, both work out of their homes, so if they are positively overflowing with inspiration, they'll fire up their computers and get to it. As for the third guy, it depends upon his project. Independently wealthy, he chooses not to work for anyone, even on a contract basis (i.e., he declines to take portrait photographs for people, though his particularly strongest photographic skills are in partrait photography). But because his photographic work depends upon the cooperation of others, he has to work around their schedules. As for his writing and painting, he finds that on average he does his best, most inspired work from dawn until midday or so, and therefore tends to work during those hours. But if one morning he *isn't* inspired but has nothing else to do (those mundane tasks again), he simply forgets about it after staring at the canvas or computer screen awhile. Of course, many of us don't have his financial luxury, true.
There is, of course, a huge middle ground between such extremes. Website developers, newspaper/magazine columnists, advertising specialists, and the like all work in fields requiring dealing with both creative materials and factual material. Working in such disciplines may imply some flex-time is necessary and some set time-schedule. But even in this case, were I to work in such a field and to have only the choices of 100% set hours or 100% flex-time, I would opt for the latter. But that's a purely personal preference.
As one contributor to this thread noted, many mathmateical breakthroughs (and others) have come in "Eureka!" moments, and by definition such moments can be neither regulated nor anticipated. A classic example from 20th-century science is the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, if "discovery" is the right word for the breakthrough in scientific understanding. According to the folklore of science, one of the researchers involved had a dream in which he saw intertwined snakes, then when he woke up he realized this possibly resembled the actual structure of DNA, a realization later proved to be correct. One presumes he might never have had the idea during his regular, awake working hours in his laboratory.
Just my two cents" worth . . .
10-21-2003, 11:07 PM
the first thing we all have to do is get it straight that "creativity" in this sense is of the commercial variety and is not the creativity spoken of "for creativity's sake".
therefore, this necessarily implies some sort of compromise- paid creative people need to be able to turn it on like a switch to some extent. i admit it's sad and it kills me a little everyday, but we gotta eat.
10-21-2003, 11:26 PM
I have to disagree with you. Once you become self-employed NO-ONE tells you what to do or when. Those times where when we where students! Creativity doesn't come 9-5. When I was in a sallaried job, I always made sure my boss understood that I would come into work when I was ready. That way I helped creat a company turning over £4mill in two years flat.
We are our own bosses now! (OK we have to conform to a degree - but not if it doesn't suit us!)
10-21-2003, 11:52 PM
"When I was in a sallaried job, I always made sure my boss understood that I would come into work when I was ready."
I think the if any employee of mine no matter how good told me something like that they would be looking for another job before they ever got the word ready out of there mouth.
This can be taken to far.
So your in business for yourself you have a customer that says I need a website this month I will pay whatever I need to pay but I need it this month. So you say if a creative desire hits me I will build it. But if that same desire says go to the beach intsead you will just have to wait.
And your customer says sounds great.
I do hope all my competition thinks this way.
10-22-2003, 12:04 AM
In one sense a definition of 'professional' is the ability to perform even when you don't 'feel like it'. This is true inter alia for singers, musicians... however I doubt if it is true for composers. Writers also benefit from discipline. One reason that this thread is intersting is that there is no answer. Each company/individual working from home will evolve their own compromise.
Also no-one has mentioned yet the universality of say a web design business. Yur customer may be on the other side of the world in an opposite time zone so surely time (as in 9-5) is increasingly becoming irrelevant.
Take my problem for instance - neither my Registration.htm or Contactus.htm is working. I've sworn, threatened, cajoled, pleaded AND finally offered to PAY extra to my host to get it working. It's still not working and naturally I'm not getting any business. Now frankly I don't care if someone fixes it at 1 am, 3 am (after flying in a saucer), 6am or midday but I do NEED it fixed. Whether it's done after a ride on a magic carpet or after ingesting peote is irrelevant to me as the customer.
(ps if a reader runs a Host service and can compete price-ways with webquarry.com then let me know urgently)
10-22-2003, 12:15 AM
Janeth wrote: So your in business for yourself you have a customer that says I need a website this month I will pay whatever I need to pay but I need it this month.
When I take my car for service and am told it'll be ready tomorrow morning then I feel very put out if it's not ready. I would prefer the gargage to say "we'll call as soon as we're got the parts" or
"this job will take 3 days.
So adding to the definition of professional might include the ability to provide 'realistic and reliable' time quotations. i find most people don't really mind too much when it will be done provided the indication/quotation is adhered to.
10-22-2003, 05:18 AM
Hi, excellent everyone! Thanx for the GREAT replies. Mdaiah, I have to agree, if you're going to be working flexi time, don't promise and not deliver, it's the one thing which will cost you many clients. We used to have printers which will promise the world and only deliver 3 days after the told date and as I was the one who chose the printers (or recommended them to my client), I was to blame for the late delivery!
Anyway, I agree that one should not necessarily buffer quoted hours, but indeed your delivery date as to give myself ample time to be competitively creative :-)
I like the idea of telling employees to at least work about 35-40 hours a week, but you need some good managing :-) Like I mentioned, you might want to keep employees in a 9-5 for a probational period.
Time to 'reflect'...
10-22-2003, 10:29 AM
I write tech documentation in spanish and english and have been working Flexitime (actually on my own) for over 15 years to this date. The best and worst of it is:
+ I've Managed to stop smoking (about 10 years ago)
+ I've been job related stress free for over 14 years.
+ My clothing, travel expenses have been reduced in over 75%
+ I now live in a remote rural area free of smog, noise and, best of all, no rat races!
- In second wave countries like Venezuela (where I Live) you are a pariah if you don't have steady hours, steady paychecks, you don't wear a suit & tie, etc.
- It has been extremely difficult to convince my clients that I work by results and not by plan ie: if I promise for next week I expect NOT to be hassled untill NEXT week (Hardly ever works!)
- The only way I´ve found to combat the issue above is to use the No Cure No Pay approach. It has been difficult, especially at first, since all expenses had to be met without a real guarantte of payment.
My bottom Line....
Regardless of the inconveniences, I Will not be lulled into a 8-12 2-6 job (std hours in Vzla) again.
The temptation is always there!
10-22-2003, 01:35 PM
I am very thankful that I work for a start-up software development firm that has an open corporate culture. I am required to put in 50+ hours a week and fortunately, only about 30 of those hours are put in at the office. Because I have to interact with other members on the team, I come into the office at least 3 days a week. The rest of the time I work from home, usually splitting my time between morning and late at night.
For the creativity comments, I have found Jump Start Your Brain by Doug Hall to be a great read. He talks about using stimulus (like Greyhawk uses his photos) to jumpstart creativity. The book is "light" and entertaining, filled with supporting data but it's not presented in a dry fashion. It's been helpful to follow his suggestions when it's necessary to come up with creative ideas under a deadline.
10-23-2003, 12:07 AM
only 8 hours a day?
some of y'all are lucky!
10-23-2003, 05:13 AM
There's creativity and then there is the backbone of that creativity...the labour aspect. Not even an artist can just pick up his paint brushes and paint. He has to have put in the labour content previously so that his brushes are there ready to paint.
Ditto for web designers, et el. I also live by the ocean & spend a lot of time there. Most of my ideas come in during those times, though the latest one came to me in the shower (must be something about water!) :-) I'll rush back to my comp & get to work on it as soon as I can...but then comes the backbone of it....endless pages of code writing.
So while inspiration is not labour intensive, the actual labour side of it can be.
Worse place scenarios...trying to make something work for you & spending ALL nite doing so, then having to get up & do all the normal daytime chores. Recently a friend told me to take a break at 3am because I had hit a brick wall with my coding. I replied that I was determined to see it out...and after seeing all the troops off the school & work I was finaly able to crawl into bed at 9.30am. But I got it done ;-) In fact I am feeling quite shattered after last nites effort! :) But it was worth it.
Which brings me to another point brought up earlier, those dam time zones. From Oz we have approx 8hr time diff to the UK, and 12hrs+ to the US. Dealing with clients or anyone in the industry can involve many late nite efforts. If I want to deal directly with my server (US) I have to wait until 10pm at nite to do so. We run at a slight disadvantage down here. There is more work available in your time zones than in our own, and thats not just in the web design industry. Many corporate dudes spend late nites wheeling & dealing & watching stock exchanges.
So my conclusion has always been, if the work has to be done, you do it no matter what the time of day. From the postings on this topic I can see it is a common problem, so to that I feel I am in good company. Now if we can make others understand that if we are still asleep at 9.30am+, we have good reason! :-)
10-23-2003, 10:07 AM
As I am currently a fulltime univ student, flex is definitely part of my life. I work a parttime job around my class schedule 5 days a week. Weekends are pretty tight too.
As my homework is usually software related, debugging, etc., that takes up quite a bit of time too.
plus, I have my web/site related work to do too.
As I have previously mentioned in other threads, I am currently suffering from insomnia, most of my work (creative or not) happens in the wee hours of the morning. sometimes, one, two, or six hours...
Due to my 'unconventional' schedule, when on a project/contract, I make sure it is a set deadline.