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It states in my Speak Up author bio, my occupation is Father / Husband / Owner / Designer — pretty much in that order. Well, at least it should be. I probably need to amend it — President / Coach / Friend — should be added and, of course, Speak Up author fits in there somewhere.

If life were truly beautiful that would be the order they would be in; Father / Husband would be permanent fixtures and the rest, ideally would shuffle around based on need, want, whim or whatever. Sometimes, the importance of being a father and a husband ironically move other job titles ahead in the list. In order to provide for my family I need to put in a lot of time as an owner (partner) of my own creative studio. And, since I am a fiendish slave driver, when I wear the Designer hat, the owner in me makes the designer work insane hours. These four occupations take up the majority if my waking and should be sleeping hours. At least my daughter has been consistently sleeping through the night for a few months now. Therefore, if I am up past 11PM it is because I have work to do or I just want a moment for myself.

This past week my wife was out of town and was lucky enough to take our daughter with her. Timing could not have been more perfect. I had been working on a huge deadline and it was necessary to put in a late night pretty much every night they were gone. If they had been in town or if our daughter needed to stay here I’m not sure how much time I could have put in on the job. Obviously she would have come first and the work would have suffered, I might have missed my milestones and ultimately the deadline. I even had to work today while most of you were relishing a day off. Though I am sure I was not alone; was I?

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, while I was finishing work one night at 3AM. I started thinking about this scenario I was in. What would I have done? Would my priorities be in line — remembering father comes first, husband a close second and everything else must take a number — if I did not have the immediate responsibilities of the first two jobs? And, while everything else must take a number, it follows that everything else suffers.

Or does it?

I let April slip by without writing for Speak Up. Referee Vit gave me the yellow card. You know what? Shame on me. He’s right. He was kind enough to ask me to join the roster of authors and I let responsibility slip. Armin is by no means, a fiendish slave driver like me, but embarrassment got the best of me and I started writing immediately. My priorities, for a brief moment shifted to look like this Speak Up author / Father / Husband… Then the big project with the short deadline reared its ugly head. Priorities shifted and again were back to where they were before Father / Husband / Owner / Designer / Speak Up author / etc.

Now, after working until 8PM on Sunday May 30, here I am scrapping my original post to write about this one to meet another deadline, the May post. Which brings me back to the question. In setting priorities, if we devote so much time to the things that are deemed more important, do the things that bring up the rear suffer? If we try to combat that by allotting equal time to our responsibilities do they then suffer equally?

My first answer is yes, but then there are times like this where my writing for Speak Up was pushed in order to provide for my family and guess what? I got something to write for Speak Up. And, I’ll argue that this post is better than the one I was writing because at the time I was writing out of guilt for shirking my responsibilities to this forum and not really writing from inspiration. Further, while writing this I have come across inspiration for at least two more posts. With this in mind, were the priorities I placed on my other responsibilities the reason why I did not write? Or, was it because I had no inspiration; no topic I felt compelled to write about? Who’s to say for sure?

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy everything I do, including the frustrations. It’s hard work, but it wouldn’t be satisfying if it were easy. Could I give something up? Sure, but I would not be happy with myself.

Wow, I’ve asked a lot of questions. I would say some are rhetorical or part of an internal dialogue with myself. But, I do have some questions for you…

Where are your priorities?

How do you keep things in check with your life/work/misc. responsibilities?

When does the quality suffer?

When was the last time you had a reality check? And did it stick or are we as humans and (worse?) creative professionals doomed to continuously fall into the same traps?

Bonus Question!

When was the last time you told a client, “No.”? Not for design reasons but because you had other things to do?

- -

I am going to go sleep now.

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ARCHIVE ID 1970 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON May.31.2004 BY Brady Bone
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Brady, thank you for sharing this conflicting but seemingly increasing occurrence. I think it's like this across the board for most people today, at least in most professions. Business, technology, globalization, I'm not sure what it is. I struggle with these conflicts too, and I don't even have kids. I wonder everyday about this, with all I have going on, how could I possibly add to the mix? And kids aren't like some piece of new software that if you never get to it, it's not that big a deal. For all you that have kids, I don't know how you do it. Much respect.

I would say my priorities are as follows. Son/Designer/Boyfriend To put it another way, as general as it may sound, Family/$ to live/Boyfriend. Of course we all would like it to fall as you'd like it too, Family/Job. If I were independently wealthy, it would certainly be that way. And when push comes to shove, it really is that way.

How do I keep things in check? No clue. You know I've been struggling with this since my last year in college, there was a major shift in my psyche I think and I don't know if it's the computer to blame but I'm beginning to think so. Not in a geeky way, but perhaps "plugged in" is more accurate. Ever since that last year, I don't feel like I ever can slow down. And when I do, I'm restless. The pile started. There is never an end, there is always something to do. Read these books and magazines, watch these classic movies, go to this opening and that lecture, work this software update into my workflow, argh all this music to listen too, crap my grammar sucks - go by a style guide idiot. And I didn't even get to work yet! But maybe that's where it lies. Since I found design, it seems like life is design. Everything matters. Everything is or could be an experience to be used for some brand, some book, some house. It worries me. I can't watch TV now without going through some old magazines and checking this and that site with my wireless PowerBook. NPR is on in the background too. Like you, if I gave something up, I wouldn't be happy either. But then again, maybe I would. All the greats in design didn't have computers. They didn't have TV. The created from scratch - a desk, pencil, and paper. I remember seeing a documentary on a band once, and they interviewed a homeless man if he heard of the band before. The man looked puzzled and said he doesn't listen to anyone else's music. The documentary filmmaker said you're a musician too? He said yes and continued saying that if he listened to other peoples music, he wouldn't be original.

I was in Staples once, in the section where the blank CD's are. I'm starring at the shelves of seemingly the same product, when I notice a construction worker next to me. He's big, filthy, has boots on. He stares at the shelves for a bit too, and then shakes his head. "I work with wood," as he grabs a random spindle and walks on. I'll never forget that story, for some reason it sums up this recent feeling. Maybe that guy is as crazy about building as I am about design. Maybe he can't shut up about Makita as I can't about Apple. Sometimes I wish I had it easier. Yes I know, other people have it worse, much worse. That's not what I mean. And yes, I can shut off my brain (figuratively) should it really become necessary. My co-worker's husband drives this envy sometimes. He's a postal worker. He works outside, goes home early most days, has a pool, hunts, doesn't have email, and didn't even have a computer until I gave them a first generation iMac a few months ago. There are things I want to see realized, fulfilled, achieved - maybe I wish it were easier, perhaps come sooner? Then why do I want these things in the first place?

Excuse me if I'm way off topic, a bit of a brain dump going on here.

The quality deffinately suffers. Chores, full-time job, two big freelance jobs, job hunting, future planning, keep up with the things mentioned above, being a boyfriend - it makes "it" suffer. You don't want it to and in the end some of these things do take a back seat to get it somewhere to where you want it - at least close to where you want it. I guess it is about priorities, you can't have your cake and eat it too. I am trying to make time to get back to the gym, ride my bike, try yoga. I know in the end, everything needs balance. You can't design all the time, it will eat you, consume you, spit you out, burn you out... It's hard not to though.

You caught me in the middle of my reality check.

I have a hard time saying no. A really hard time. From clients to family to myself. I do put others in front more than myself, I need to learn to say no. I'll waste a day fixing so and so's computer and then build my Mother something in the garden and then at night my girl will call be ask what we're doing. It's all nice and dandy but it won't get me to where I want to be/go. Or will it?

Brady, maybe it is the process that matters, not the outcome? You are not alone on this holiday weekend, lots of work to do. Thank you again, you made me fill my responsibility too. Much appreciated.

On May.31.2004 at 08:27 PM
Mark’s comment is:

I play the same roles as you Brady - Father / Husband / Owner / Designer and I spent my share of time trying to figure it all out during the first few years as a designer but then realized that it all comes down to three things for me really... balance, expectations and efficiency.

These really came into effect when I became a father (of twins no less) and moved out of the city (adding 1.5hrs to my commute - each way!) and moved into a 150 yr old home in need of restoration (which I am doing myself).

I needed that balance. Time with family outweighs time to run a business but there are realities to respond to. That is where the efficiency comes in, I've learned to do things quickly (without, I believe, compromising on quality) make quick decisions, and manage expectations of clients, projects and staff. Everyone knows I leave the office at 4pm every day and don't work weekends. When I had no kids and lived within cycling distance to the office I would wander home when work was done for the day (usually late). Now, following a train schedule has worked wonders since catching my train is a hard deadline I have to meet everyday.

Manage deadlines and milestones properly and you're half way there. I have said 'No' to clients several times and it usually relates to the timelines (receiving assets, final text, approvals etc or they miss their print/launch deadlines etc). I am also fortunate to work with a great team of dedicated, talented, like-minded people and clients have reacted well to our working ethics. It makes for a great working environment.

There are choices you have to make about what you do with your time. I get up at 5:30am to play/feed the kids, work on my powerbook on the train, am the first one in the office, and don't waste time on things like watching tv.

I work hard as a Father / Husband / Owner / Designer and never stand still for very long. It's worked well for us. If you balance your lifestyle, work efficiently and manage expectations you will do alright.

On Jun.01.2004 at 08:36 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I often think about how productive I could be without the title of husband and father. I'd finally get my web site posted. Would have a steady stream of freelance work. Would finally have the basement finished.

But then I remember my first design gig working at a large design firm and noticing that a lot of the senior design management had clearly chosen the route of career over family. And they didn't seem too happy. At least to me. At least it wasn't the type of happiness I was really looking forward to having 30 years down the road.

So, yea, balance is hard, but that's what makes life interesting. ;o)

On Jun.01.2004 at 09:54 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Also, it's probably worth mentioning that as Americans, we work way too damn much.

On Jun.01.2004 at 09:55 AM
Diane’s comment is:

Wow! I'm glad that I am not the only one. I became a mom in September and with a little boy who is teething it's absolutely proved a challenge.

At times I feel I have split personalities, not in a psychotic way but in the sense of the roles that I must play through out the day. Here's the breakdown.

1. Mom. The first and most important role of all.

2. Girlfriend. Without my wonderful boyfriend and father of my baby, where would I be?

3. Sole-proprietor. My passion for design shines through in my freelance work. I love what I do!

4. Production Artist. This is my full-time job, it's not as creative as freelance but it's a steady pay and fuels the fire.

These are my four personalities, the ones that overrule anything else in my life. There's also Diane the daughter, Diane the co-worker, Diane the crazy commuter honking her horn and occasionally flipping the bird to those who cut her off, and Diane the friend. Diane the designer is who I am no matter what. I see the possibilites in everything and curse the designers who created some of these baby products. It took me a half an hour to take down my son's playyard and caused much pain to my wrist to unlock the stupid rails. Curse them!

I've never had to say "no" (yet) but I sure have had to delay some of my work to make time for a screaming baby, a loving boyfriend, and long time friends. I think having priorities in life are great and just wish that people could realize that happiness is always more important than money. Always.

Life is a juggling act, so come and join the circus!

On Jun.01.2004 at 11:46 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Don't choose career over family. You can have it all. It takes a freaking miracle, blood, sweat, and tears — but it can be done.

And most important of all, it takes Risk. And the drive to make opportunities for yourself. Lots and lots of both. You can't play it safe, and expect things to all work out with your career, family, and self. Playing it safe will only ensure compromises somewhere down the line.

Diane — more power to you. I'll be the first guy here to acknowledge how tough it is to find balance in this profession as a woman. I know many women who have sacrificed their personal lives for their design careers, and vice-versa — including my wife, who gave up a good design job to be a full-time mom to our two young kids. As a dad and husband, I see and know how demanding — emotionally, mentally, and physically — kids can be, even more so for mothers. And once you've made the decision to become a parent, it's impossible to go back and keep the priorities you once had. Nothing in design is that important or rewarding.

Yes, it's all about balance — to find that balance and success between both worlds is a daunting task, but is achievable.

This whole discussion reminds me of the Harry Chapin song "Cat's In The Cradle"...

On Jun.01.2004 at 01:27 PM
Schmitty’s comment is:

Do we rearrange out life priorities when we begin a new job at a new place?

Do we put our job/career at the top of the list during the first six months because we feel the need to "prove" ourselves to others on the organization.

I do, and I hate to. Any suggestions to avoid this pitfall>

On Jun.01.2004 at 02:14 PM
Steven’s comment is:

During my stint at Macromedia, I took one of those sophmoric-yet-ultimately-useful time management classes. One of the things they showed was this chart:

Apologies for those who have seen this before, but I have often found it useful in thinking about priorities. The most important part of the diagram is the lower right-hand side: important, but not urgent. This is the one area that we frequently put off or forget about while being engulfed in the rest; and yet, it is the area that will ultimately give the biggest long-term benefits.

I really commend and morally support all that put family/life partner/friends before work/business/design. After a decade in the corporate (dot-com, software) world with the opposite, abusive orientation, I can say from first-hand experience that this leads to really feeling empty inside. In the end, without family and friends, we are truly alone in the world.

What perhaps is most surprisingly ironic with my current semi-employed situation is how my life is still filled with conflicting priorities and obligations. Granted, I've basically become a bit of a house-hubby and taken on a lot of the domestic responsibilities. This seems only fair and reasonable, since my wife is working full-time; even if all these chores take me away from spending time looking for work, my site redesign, and yes, even blogging. But keeping things together at home gives us more stability and happiness in the longrun. And yet, I'm still as busy as ever. (Especially now, while looking for a house to buy and exploring a multitude of options and possibilities, including the insane option of buying an HUGE old abandoned victorian on a big view lot that's probably a moneypit, basket-case, but it's got such amazing potential [what am I thinking though, and yet!].)

In the end, our family and friends are the parts of our lives that matter most. All the other priorities just have a way of working themselves out in mostly good ways, as long as we're reasonably productive and focused.

On Jun.01.2004 at 04:04 PM
Andy’s comment is:

Do we rearrange out life priorities when we begin a new job at a new place?

This is always difficult. I often think about if I were to take a new job, would they be as flexible as the job I have now? Are the benefits the same? Will I take less money if the job is more fulfilling, creative?

I've worked at the same place for many years and have a lot of latitude about when I am in and out of the office and what projects I work on. It works great for me because I have two young boys (5 & 7) and I like to be at a lot of their school functions etc. They come first, that's it, end of story.

But the grass is always greener, right? I always wonder if I'm doing enough for myself professionally. Am I pushing hard enough? Could I work somwhere that is more challenging creatively?

There is no way I'm working 60 hours a week at this point in my life, so I guess for me if I were starting at a new firm I would have to find what the work culture there is like and be upfront about your expectations and needs. It might work out, it might not. You're probably going to be working for 40 years, so find a place where you're happy.

In the end, our family and friends are the parts of our lives that matter most. All the other priorities just have a way of working themselves out in mostly good ways, as long as we're reasonably productive and focused.

Well said Steven, I heartily agree...

On Jun.01.2004 at 04:51 PM
Rob’s comment is:

This all sounds too familiar. I work in an industry where 'men' are expected to put in long hours and have told in the past that my committment to my family was unfair to my co-workers. Now that they have all been layed-off that isn't so much an issue but there is still that pressure of doing your job as well as posibble without sacrificing the time with your family. Add to the list things like board positions, coaching t-ball and things just get crazier. Travel is always a missed blessing, especially when you can't bring your family along. On the one hand it's nice to escape but you feel guilty about being away, even if it is going to result in something that brings advantages back to the home front.

In the end, the choices must be made and family is what should really count. It's really not the American way, as much as we'd like to think it is, but in reality, at the end of the day, it is where true joy is found.

On Jun.01.2004 at 07:36 PM
Tan’s comment is:

A few people have mentioned the fact that as a country, Americans work too hard. Inferring also, that we don't spend enough quality time on ourselves or our family — and that somehow, the rest of the world knows better.

I don't think that's necessarily true at all.

I've known a number of people who worked in London or Milan for extended periods of time, and who worked just as long and hard as they would have in the US. I've had oversea clients that keep insane hours and matched our offfice's hours minute for minute, and then some.

Working 40 hour weeks (2011 hrs/annually — accounting for holidays and vacation/sick days) is not something exclusive to the US. I bet it's average at best compared to other industrialized nations, maybe even on the low side. In fact, in many countries, like Japan and India — Saturdays are not taken off by a large majority of urban workers. Six day work weeks are the norm.

And the vaulted 6 week vacation is also becoming a thing of the past in Europe. But no one seems to be complaining. It sounds nice to have all that time off, but I can't imagine how hard it must be to pick things up again when you come back from a vacation of that length. A series of 2 week vacations throughout the year makes much more sense, and would be much more productive. The fact is, like the UK and Europe, it's common for most professionals in the US to have accrued 5-6 weeks of vacation by the time they've worked about 10 years. And most of us take our vacations 2 weeks at a time. So it's not as large of a discrepancy as it seems.

And I bet that of all the industrialized nations in the world, we have the largest group per capita of telecommuting workers anywhere. Think about it — how many clients/people do you know who can work from home a portion of the week? Do you?

It's not so bad here in the US. Really, look it up. Don't blame the system if you're not getting what you want out of your life and career. More vacation doesn't solve anything. It's about how you choose to spend your time at work, and your time at home with family. It's about managing stress, not time off.

On Jun.01.2004 at 09:24 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Balance best sums up what we're talking about here. It's all give and take. If you aren't keeping things in line, you'll know. Chew each bite of food through the entire alphabet. Once the nervous breakdown kicks in (or your spouse threatens divorce), it's time to evaluate how things are put together and why they're coming apart. Escape. Designers should take note of all the cop movies out there, where the overworked officer/detective spends so much time working that they lose their wife. 48hrs or Heat are good examples. Take a load off your mind.

Multi-tasking is a tricky ordeal. I don't know many people who do it well, and I don't know if it can be done well. Smile. Structuring your day helps. If you have milestones set up in blocks of time, you'll look forward to getting things done or at least over with for the moment, and then moving to the next task.

And I encourage people to read self-help books that put things into perspective. Be bored. After reading "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's all small stuff)" I felt my tension level reduce greatly. I recommend this book for anyone trying to balance career, school, family, or personal health. Exercise. It's not overly preachy, but will open up your mind if you let it.

Lastly, make time for yourself. Meditate. Do yoga. Listen to Beethoven while staring at the ceiling in your undergarments. Or better yet, make time for the other people in your life. There's nothing more valuable than friends and family. Laugh. If this all sounds mad, give it a try before judging.

On Jun.02.2004 at 01:29 AM
tim’s comment is:

Not much more I can add to what's already been said. I work as an in-house designer for a manufacturer. Am I doing cutting edge award winning stuff? Will I be published in annuals? No... but I do get to go home at five nearly every day, I have a Mac at home if I have a tight deadline. I have a steady paycheck, benefits to cover the family. I have understanding bosses who allow me to leave for home on a moment's notice - my wife is a doula, and when babies come, they come on nobody's schedule. So I can scoot out and be home for the kids.

These are choices I've made. Some days it feel harder to live with than others, but in moments of rare objectivity, I realize I have a pretty good life. (Now if I could only find time to improve my GameCube skills...)

On Jun.02.2004 at 07:37 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

have told in the past that my committment to my family was unfair to my co-workers

Right about then I'd be looking for a new job. ;o)

I don't think that's necessarily true at all.

I think we've had this debate before, Tan. ;o)

I bet it's average at best compared to other industrialized nations

Well, you'd loose that bet if we're talking about nations in Europe. Most of Europe has, on average, 6 weeks vacation, MUCH longer maternity leaves, etc.

This is a good site:


Since the last labor revolution, we've become rather docile employees. Union power is down. Benefits are down. Working hours are up.

We really do overwork ourselves.

Now, if you're comparing us with nations like China, well, that's a different story. Either way, there's no reason that in this day in age that we should be getting 2 weeks vacation to enjoy life.

The fact is, like the UK and Europe, it's common for most professionals in the US to have accrued 5-6 weeks of vacation by the time they've worked about 10 years.

10 years AT THE SAME JOB (and, even then, I wouldn't come close to that...and I'm a government employee)...which is arguably as defeating as only getting 2 weeks vaction to begin with. ;o)

we have the largest group per capita of telecommuting workers anywhere

Telecommuting is still a bad word for a lot of corporations. And if you do telecommute, many expect you to be working the same 8 hour shift as everyone else, which rather defeats the efficiencies one can gain by telecommuting.

More vacation doesn't solve anything.

Well, maybe not for you, Tan, but for a lot of people it solves a lot. It allows them to travel more. Relax. Donate time. Learn. Explore.

A well rested employee that works 36 weeks a year is likely to be as productive if not more so than an overworked stressed out employee working 40 weeks a year.

And I can really relate to Tim. I REALLY miss the grind of a working design firm. Lot's of projects, wide array of clients, etc. But, now that I have a family, I appreciate the steadiness of a 9-5 gig. Coming out of school, I couldn't comprehend how in-house corporate designers could enjoy what they do. It all makes perfect sense now. ;o)

Granted, I won't be here forever. That *still* is a scary thought.

On Jun.02.2004 at 09:08 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

BTW, I do think we work too much PER WEEK rather than just too many week. There have been studies (and I tend to believe them) that show a person working 6 hours can be just as productive as one working 8 hours. We have an 8 hour day, so we fill it. If we're given only 6 hours, I bet we could do the same amount of work.

Having just one or two extra hours a day can make life so much easier...time to cook a dinner, an extra half hour at the gym, finally get the yard work done so I don't have to do it on the weekend.

I'm all for a 32 hour work week...done at will. Ie, you put in 36 hours whenever. There are some things I'd still need to work out to get it to run smoothly, of course... ;o)

On Jun.02.2004 at 09:12 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Darrel — I'm not saying that I wouldn't enjoy more vacation. I relish any time off I can get. But I just don't see that many firms and companies forcing their employees to work to the ground.

On the contrary, in the last 2 agencies I was at, we actually had to force employees to use their accrued vacation hours. There were employees that had six to eight weeks accrued — it wasn't healthy for them, and it was financially problematic for the company.

>I wouldn't come close to that...and I'm a government employee

Bro, that just means you should be looking for another job. And when you find it, ask them to give you vacation that's commisserate with your years of experience. It's a common request, and often granted if you just ask.

>A well rested employee that works 36 weeks a year is likely to be as productive if not more so than an overworked stressed out employee working 40 weeks a year.

I agree. I once read somewhere that the average professional produces 70% of his or her workload in the first 3 hours in a work day. The longer the workday, the less efficient that person becomes.

That's why most firms only expect an average employee to be 80% billable (1600 hours/annually — compared against the 2011 hrs/annually total work hours). That's about 6 hours out of an 8 hour day.

On Jun.02.2004 at 10:01 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

But I just don't see that many firms and companies forcing their employees to work to the ground.

I see it quite a bit...and have worked at such places. But certainly there are companies that do and those that don't.

I think your commenting on having to force someone to take their vacation is one of the symptoms of our work culture in the US. A lot of folks put work ahead of everything else, at a detriment to a lot of things...including work, actually.

Bro, that just means you should be looking for another job. And when you find it, ask them to give you vacation that's commisserate with your years of experience. It's a common request, and often granted if you just ask.

I COMPLETELY agree with that. Too many people negotiate their salary and pay raises, but never think to negotiate vacaation packages. It's often easier for the employer to give more vacation than anything else. (In my case, the job benefits are tightly defined and public knowlege, so there wasn't a lot of leeway...however, we're allowed to take non-paid time off, which is nice.)

expect an average employee to be 80% billable

Even that is a tad high IHMO when you start counting research, personal development, continuing ed, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings--but, then again, I'm not a big fan of hourly billing, either. ;o)

On Jun.02.2004 at 10:19 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I mean cm'on Darrel. You think working 6 billable hours a day for a living is still unreasonable?

There are farmers and ranchers that would laugh at the thought of a 6 hour work day. I mean, you've got to have some sort of realistic expectations and work ethic.

I know what your solution is — you need to find a sugar-momma that'll let you become a kept man :-) Or buy that lottery ticket for this week's drawing and pray...

On Jun.02.2004 at 11:25 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

You think working 6 billable hours a day for a living is still unreasonable?

It all depends on how the firm defines billable time. I saw Clement Mok give a talk once and someone asked him how his firm bills. He said they bill in 4 hour minimums, stating that you can't do anything worthwhile for a client in less than four hours. With freelance work, I've moved towards a project phase billing style. Yes, you still need to track hours as you see fit, but I find the 'billable hour percentage' to be a red herring issue a lot of the time in firms' middle management.

In the firms I've worked at where billing was done hourly (down to the quarter hour...and, at one place, down to the TENTH of an hour...) I found that there was way too much emphasis on the billable percentage figure and led to rather unproductive projects IMHO.

I'm not saying I'm against working 6 hours...just that the billable percentage figure can be calculated in a number of ways and putting to much weight on your staff's billable hour percentages can get in the way of other things.

I think every time we get in this mini-debate, Tan, that you think I'm anti-work. I'm not. I'm for sensible work environments. ;o)

On Jun.02.2004 at 12:37 PM
bryony’s comment is:

It is all in the balance, as many of you have mentioned, but I will have to say it goes a step further. It is all in you, in your values, your education, your principles, and what you deem important at the particular point in your life when you are faced with a choice of this kind.

As a recent grad, your priority may be your career, even if you have a partner and maybe even a young kid, with the idea of advancing as much as possible as soon as possible and then be able to live comfortably and dedicate lots of time to your family. As a new mom you might find that what you need is a limited amount of freelance to keep nurturing your passion for design, but turn to your top priority with any tiny cry or gurgle. You might work your tushy around the globe a couple of times, just so that a few years later you can watch Junior play ball on a Tuesday morning (even if you missed his first steps).

It's all up to you, what risks and what you are willing to do to obtain what you want, be it today or planning ahead.

On Jun.02.2004 at 12:48 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> but turn to your top priority with any tiny cry or gurgle.

And man, can I gurgle…

On Jun.02.2004 at 01:04 PM
Diane’s comment is:

Tan-Thanks for the kudos! Being a mom is the most difficult thing I have ever been challenged with in my life, but with lots of help it has become almost natural. Though on the other hand I have loved design since I was very young and it seems to be who I am, I could never give it up.

Balance is the key. You have to be able to manage time, organize, and love the things that you arrange time for into your day. I found that the pressure of being a mom has improved in other areas forcing me to become much more organized and living my life on a schedule (my son's schedule of course!). Two years ago when I was just a waitress and attending college I would roll out of bed at a time when it was necessary and only retire at night when I completely ran out of energy. I was on my schedule and did things when only I wanted or had the need. It's amazing what can happen in two years!

I have to say all of the pressure is good for me. Just like the preceding discussions intent: when given only 6 hours in a work day, employees perform much more efficiently and get the same amount of work done as an 8 hour day. There's a reason for this, and I think that this should not be overlooked. People would prefer less hours and more time for the things that they personally enjoy( cooking, hiking, whatever your enjoyment may be). But when working like a horse you tend to burn out.

Question to all:

How would you prefer to work? 8 hours with more money and less time for leisurely things or 6 hours with more time to spare and a slightly less paycheck?

P.S. It's only 10 hours less per week on a 5-day work week. Is it worth the extra amount?

Think about it...

On Jun.02.2004 at 02:02 PM
anonymous’s comment is:

that just means you should be looking for another job.

I'm curious what you guys think about a specific situation.

Say you find another job... your dream job... but its in another city. Your spouse says they don't mind moving, but you know they don't really want to (they just won't say it).

Do you turn down your dream job?

Btw. In this situation, current job sucks, and you've been there for 5 years, doing the same projects over and over and over because it's a cyclical project list. There's not really any room for upward mobility... You've searched in your current city for other opportunities, but like I said... this is your dream job!

Please forgive me for remaining anonymous... I hope you understand...

I would love to hear your advice on this issue!

On Jun.02.2004 at 05:06 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Btw. In this situation, current job sucks

I'd say move. Nothing is worse that a job that sucks. A bad job just permeates every part of your life.

On Jun.02.2004 at 05:09 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Like Darrel said, if you are in a job that you can't stand going to in the morning and if you have a solid opportunity, it's hard not to take it.

And — since I'm quoting — Like Bryony said: [It's about] what you deem important at the particular point in your life when you are faced with a choice of this kind. Right now it seems like it's important for you to make a change. I know what it's like making joint decisions with a spouse, and sometimes one needs to sacrifice a little for the other. If there is no huge reason tying you down to your current city, go for it. Long-term decisions are important, moving to another city is not easy but it's hell of a lot easier than being miserable.

On Jun.02.2004 at 05:33 PM
I'm anonymous as well (a different person)’s comment is:

Hi all, I have a question as well. I'm posting anonymous because I have a lot of competition and employees.

I'm burned out.

I manage a web development firm in the Southwest. We have some great clients, some small clients, and some other great clients.

I have three employees. The trouble is this business of web design/development is so difficult and complex. Increasing costs, clients that always want lower prices, projects that take twice as long as you expect, etc.

I wondered if any of the other small firm owners (especially web firms) could give me some advice.

Is anybody making any money? Especially wondering if you could share your techniques or tips. I've been doing this for 6 years and the last 1 - 2 have been rough. We sell a project (for example, an ecommerce site for 20 grand) and next thing you know, your developer quits halfway through and your project takes 6 months.

I find it very often in this industry. Projects take twice as long as everybody expects. Can anybody share techniques for getting jobs done quickly?

Sorry this isn't clear, I'd be happy to elaborate.

On Jun.02.2004 at 07:01 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Oh priorities...how I love thee...

Like Brady I got flagged by insane futbol fan/referee Armin and it took me till the end of the month to get anything written well for Speak Up, still my favorite site on the web but not one that I visit frequently enough.

During much of April, and particularly during the month of May, I literally put everything on hold for my job--because my job is pretty flexible and allows me to be as personal and private about my work as I want to be. And because we had a lot going on and there's really no one else to do it. The result? Every day in May I spent in the office, one time even going out for a few drinks on a Saturday night around midnight, then returning at 2 am to work some more. Insane!

So everything fell by the wayside. Friends. Family. Speak Up. Weekend drives in the MINI. Of course, I'm all of 25 so...really now, what does it matter. Its not like I'm hurting anyone by doing this.

Or am I? Designers play this work/life balance game a lot and its almost impossible to figure it out. I think the key is--make a decision. See what's feasible and don't try to do too much. I guess that's what prioritizing is...even knowing how to do it doesn't mean you can, and that's what's frustrating.

One thing that helps me is to simply surround myself with people and things that make me happy. If I feel like I've lost a pint of plasma after dealing with someone or something, I avoid that person or that experience.

The bottomline is, its your life...live it for yourself.

On Jun.02.2004 at 07:19 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I wondered if any of the other small firm owners (especially web firms) could give me some advice.

I'm not an owner, but have worked in a couple of small firms. The advice I'd give is to find a cut-throat project/client manager. Someone to play the 'bad cop' to your 'good cop'. This person is the one that reigns in the client, makes sure there is a schedule, a very defined set of tasks, and that the project remains on schedule and on task. Nothing should trump the schedule. Any changes to the scope are simply added to the 'to-do' pile for phase-II of the project, which you will then bill as a separate project.

In the past, I've found the biggest problems with small firms is the 'drift' factor where it's really easy to have all your projects drift beyond the original scope.

next thing you know, your developer quits

Well, make sure you know why they are quitting first. I'd also suggest outsourcing a lot of it to dedicated and talented freelancers or other small firms.

I find it very often in this industry. Projects take twice as long as everybody expects. Can anybody share techniques for getting jobs done quickly?

See above. The only way to fix this is to take project management seriously.

On Jun.03.2004 at 09:34 AM
J. Lathrop’s comment is:

I just want to thank everyone for sharing some really personal things.

Sometimes I read through the postings and feel "wow, these guys all have fabulous desgin jobs and fabulous lives." It's nice to know that everyone in the industry is facing the same balance issues as I am. And that so many of you put spouse/partner and family at the top. Thank you.

On Jun.03.2004 at 11:53 AM