Balancing Flexibility with Predictability When Working from Home

Ah, the dot com lifestyle. I’ve been living some variation of this lifestyle choice for over a decade and I can’t imagine ever looking back. I’ve been living the dot com lifestyle even before I knew of the term, even before I met John for the first time. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be successful online, to earn a livable income exclusively over the Internet, working with people who I may not have ever met in real life at all.

As I’ve written here before, the biggest appeal to the dot com lifestyle isn’t the money. It isn’t about driving fast cars, living in giant mansions, or taking extravagant vacations. Though I certainly refuse any of those niceties. No, the two biggest appeals to the dot com lifestyle are the time freedom and location freedom that this lifestyle choice can afford you.

You can work when you want, where you want, how you want. And if you unlock the power of passive income, you can keep making money in your sleep with no additional effort on your part. This all sounds tremendous and, for the most part, it really is. The kind of flexibility you can enjoy when working online for yourself simply cannot be matched. But this comes at a cost and it is going to take a lot of discipline on your part to take advantage of everything the dot com lifestyle has to offer.

Put another way, you have to strike a balance between flexibility and predictability. Let me explain.

When you can work at any time of any day from just about anywhere you have a reliable Internet connection, you might feel compelled to work at every hour at every day, no matter where you are. Because you might feel that if you don’t put in the work every chance you get, you’re leaving money on the table and you’re not taking advantage of every opportunity. If you can work, you feel like you should work.

This is drastically different from a more conventional job where you can clock out when you finish for the day or for the week. You can work the weekend. You can work in the evenings. You can work during dinner. But should you?

Paradoxically, this flexibility also opens up the opportunity to avoid working altogether. The allure of procrastination and distraction is undeniable. Your best friend calls you up and asks if you want to go to lunch. You’ve got a project you’re working on, but it’d be great to catch up with your buddy (on his day off). So, you go for lunch and suddenly it’s three hours later and you’ve got nothing done today.

The wife asks for your help to go grocery shopping. Your mom asks for some help fixing her computer. Your neighbor asks if you wouldn’t mind watching her daughter for a few hours as she needs to be somewhere else. Everyone else assumes that just because you’re home, you’re fully available for all of these “extra” tasks. In some sense, you are. In other ways, you’re not.

If you worked a 9-to-5 at some office downtown, your buddy probably wouldn’t ask you to come out to the suburbs for a three hour lunch. Your wife wouldn’t ask you to skip out on a big part of the middle of your day to go grocery shopping and your neighbor wouldn’t think you can babysit for a few hours either.

In this way, you may feel tempted to implement a more predictable schedule to your work day, one that provides your day with more structure…. but doesn’t that go against the whole point of the dot com lifestyle in the first place? Isn’t the whole point that you can work when you want and not feel obligated to work at a particular time?

There is no easy solution to this problem. But when you choose the dot com lifestyle, you have the choice. Your life is in your control and not in the control of some mid-level executive telling what to do, when to jump, and where to jump to. It’s you. It’s all you. So, choose the work dynamic that works best for you.

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