Rules

I have spent many years as a software developer who did everything that was needed and yet could not step forward. I was the guy who suited perfectly to his job but nothing more. When I look back I see I have wasted a lot of time without developing myself. I think one of the reasons was that I did not have any rule that I could set on and I could be strict to.

When you start switching your job from a regular 9 to 5 job to remote working you will be invisible for all of the people around you. Before the change, your family knew you have a job and you have to work. Before the change, you were visible for your teammates. From one day to another you become the invisible programmer, and you have to find your way to work effectively and become visible. To do that you must have some rules.

Distractions at home

I remember my first day as a remote developer. My whole family knew I came back to the city where I was born and I was going to work at home. Actually there are almost nobody in my family who could understand what computer programming means and what it means when I say I will work at home. On the first day I got multiple requests from my family: My mother asked me to go to the pharmacy and get her medicines, my sister-in-law wanted to me to do her shopping and I got a request to go to the post office to post some letters. Actually nobody thought I will work. I believe they had a picture in their mind about me playing computer games the whole day and that I have a lot of time.

And there was one additional source of distraction that could highly affect my performance. In that time I played a lot with an online game called League Of Legends (LOL). This is a really good game that can burn all of your time if it grabs you. As I remember, the average gaming time was about 40 minutes and that means you can waste a really huge amount of time if you do not control your playing habits. I believe online gaming is an invisible distraction source that can the most of your time.

Rules to reduce distractions

So as you can see not only my family but I was a distraction source for myself too. On the first day I have learned I need some rules and I have to be strict with them. The first rule was: my working time is my working time. I have to act the same as when I work in the office with my colleagues.

There is no exception. So I have started to say no: No, I will not go to the pharmacy, no I will not do the shopping or post letters. And I had an other important rule: I will never play online game during my working time. Maybe it seems to be funny that I have to create a rule about online gaming but the truth is my brain fall into a habit: when I sit down my computer I start to play. And it is terrible.

Rules about rules

Actually there are some rules about having rules too. First of all, not enough just write down your rules, you have to commit to them. Every time you go close to break a rule you have to ask a question to yourself: ‘I am sure I want to break that rule? What will happen when I break that rule? What happens when I break that rule multiple times?’. I am sure the answer is simple: If you have committed yourself to your rule, you will not break that rule. Of course there are some emergency cases when you have to break them. If your pregnant wife asks you to call the ambulance you will not tell her ‘Sorry honey, this is my working time and I have committed myself to not to care about my family during my working hours’.

If somebody asks you to leave one hour earlier and drink a beer with him it will be a lot more easier to answer the question. And the reason is simple: if you have a rule you do not have to decide if you go to drink a beer or not. You have your rule and you have accepted the fact you will not leave sooner. Because if you leave sooner today, you will make the same decision tomorrow and the next week too.

Conclusion

To summarize that, You have to create your rules. If you are at the decision point you do not have to do a decision if you have a rule, just follow your rule. And do not forget sometimes to review your existing rules and do not hesitate to modify them.

And finally I highly recommend you to use rules not only for your work but for your personal life too.

 

Example

You have your goal. You want to lose some weight. To reach that goal your goal has to be specified: You have to write down your target weight and your deadline. You cannot choose a short deadline. You have to give time for yourself. It cannot be done in one week. So choose one year or a half year. The internet is full with calorie counters and they will help you a lot. You enter your age, your gender, your current weight, your target weight and your deadline. After that you just have to enter every meal and every drink that you take and follow one simple rule. Never eat too much and never eat more calories than your daily limit.

When you are committed to your goal and your girlfriend asks you to eat some cake, or your friend calls you to drink some beers you do not have to choose. You will see how many calories you would eat and you will simply able to answer no. And you say, sorry, but I cannot eat that or drink that because I have a goal and I have a rule that helps me to achieve my goal. And your goal will be simple: I will never eat more than my daily limit.

I had that rule for a year. There was a new year party when my weight was about 99 kilograms and I told myself; it is enough. I will never reach 100. So I have set my goal to reach 88 kilograms in a year. I have started to use a calorie counter software. And after I was strict to my rule I could check my weight again on the next new year eve and it was about 86 kilograms so I think the method works perfectly.

Actually after I have reached my goal I made a big mistake. I have forgotten to follow my rules and now, about 2 years later I am at 92 kilograms and I know what I have to do. I set my calorie counter and I start to follow my rule again.

That is my experience about having rules. I hope you enjoyed it and you find that article useful.