Putting The ‘Flex’ In Flexibility: What It’s Like To Work On My Own Time

The option and ability to work when I want has been an amazing employee privilege since joining Automattic. There are a lot of obvious advantages to choosing my own schedule, so I wanted to share what a typical week looks like for me — what better way to do that than to share this week’s schedule 🙂

Following in the footsteps of some of the great leaders that have inspired me to maximize my time, I officially make 4AM the beginning of my days, waking up before the rest of the world does, while 5PM is the time when I clock out. This is not to say I work 13 hour days, nor does it mean I’m getting less sleep a night.

For the record, whenever I hit the hay, I’m lights out within minutes, and the time that usually happens is the same time when Kosato & I put Keimei to bed (since he absolutely needs both of us there) — 9PM-ish. Early sleeping eventually made me an early riser, naturally.

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 15.37.45
This is what I’ve set for my basic availability. A mandatory 8 hours of availability per day. Mondays & Thursdays have an hour blocked off for weekly/bi-weekly 1:1 meetings I have with my team leader and team. With the exception of Saturdays being the last day of my week for two full workdays in a month — I’ve set a special schedule for that day.

After submitting my availability, I’ll get a weekly schedule from the scheduling team. There will be days when I’ll be assigned 6 hours of shifts, but sometimes it will be less. On the rare occasion, I may be scheduled to work a full 8 hours.

Being in a remote position, the advantage of being available & unavailable is literally the same as being ‘on’ & ‘off’. When I’m available for any given hour, I’m switched on, productive, and working — no time being wasted. On the flip-side, when I’m unavailable, I’m literally OFF. These are of course two extremes, and occasionally, there will be times when I’m attending to work-related tasks during my off-time, but never to a significant extent.

During a normal workday, you’ll notice I’ve given myself two blocks of unavailability. The first block of unavailable time would be from 6AM to 8AM, as this is the necessary amount of time I need to fix breakfast for Keimei, get him to daycare, and come back home on time for what’s usually my first shift.

The second block is when I start to take advantage of the flex — here I give myself a three hour lunch break from 11AM to 2PM! A generous rest period (overkill maybe) when looked at in stark contrast with the 40 minute break allotted to me in my previous job.

I’ve yet to actually decide what I want to actively pursue during this valuable chunk of time, but there’s been a few things that have been floating around in my head:

  • Hit the gym
  • Go for a run
  • Brush up on my breakin’
  • Continue my ongoing dev&design learning with my favorite online course platforms (Code College, Udemy, Lynda, etc.)
  • Study Japanese (N2 is waiting for me to kick its butt!)
  • Catch up on some recent flix (must catch up on all the Marvel series + Silicon Valley Season 5!!)
  • Maybe sneak in a little bit of gaming here-and-there (currently playing Mafia III on Mac)

Up until now though, I’ve been swamped with just having to take care of a bunch of small, but necessary errands.

However, as you may start to realize, the point is that the possibilities to benefit from a flex schedule are endless. The time that can be freed up for yourself can be spent doing things that matter to you, while at the same time you can work smarter and more efficiently by working only during the times you’re most productive.

My Flex Schedule (Tuesday 5/8 – Saturday 5/12)

Tuesday 5/8
04-05 SHIFT
05-06 SHIFT
06-07 UNAVAILABLE
07-08 UNAVAILABLE
08-09 SHIFT
09-10 SHIFT
10-11 SHIFT
11-12 UNAVAILABLE (1:1 Chat w/training buddy)
12-13 UNAVAILABLE
13-14 UNAVAILABLE
14-15 SHIFT
15-16 SHIFT
16-17 SHIFT

This day seems like one of the few instances (the first actually) where I’ve been scheduled a full 8 hours of work shifts. Up until now, the schedulers haven’t assigned me any shifts during my 4AM-6AM availability slots, but this day is the first. UPDATE: Well, after checking up on that, those last two shifts were added on to my schedule by mistake. No worries, looks like I can end my day early then!

Wednesday 5/9
04-05 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)
05-06 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)
06-07 UNAVAILABLE
07-08 UNAVAILABLE
08-09 SHIFT
09-10 SHIFT
10-11 SHIFT
11-12 UNAVAILABLE
12-13 UNAVAILABLE
13-14 UNAVAILABLE
14-15 SHIFT
15-16 SHIFT
16-17 SHIFT

Today’s Wednesday schedule is what a usual schedule would look like for me normally. As mentioned previously, I’m not usually scheduled any shifts during my 4AM-6AM slots, so I would use that time to do any lingering followups and/or side-tasks, as well as catch up on P2s.

Thursday 5/10
04-05 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)
05-06 SHIFT
06-07 UNAVAILABLE
07-08 UNAVAILABLE
08-09 SHIFT
09-10 SHIFT
10-11 SHIFT
11-12 UNAVAILABLE
12-13 UNAVAILABLE
13-14 UNAVAILABLE
14-15 UNAVAILABLE (Team Hangout)
15-16 SHIFT
16-17 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)

On Thursday, it seems I only have just 1 shift assigned in the early morning. At 2PM JST, my team has its ‘Team Hangout’, where we fire up a Zoom conference, and while we see ourselves in a Brady Bunch style video configuration, we sort of recap on the week & discuss other sorts of current work-related issues.

Friday 5/11
04-05 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)
05-06 SHIFT
06-07 UNAVAILABLE
07-08 UNAVAILABLE
08-09 SHIFT
09-10 SHIFT
10-11 SHIFT
11-12 UNAVAILABLE
12-13 UNAVAILABLE
13-14 UNAVAILABLE
14-15 SHIFT
15-16 SHIFT
16-17 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)

Oh, this is interesting — free hours at both the start and end of my Friday!

Saturday 5/12
04-05 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)
05-06 AVAILABLE (no assigned shift)
06-07 SHIFT
07-08 SHIFT
08-09 UNAVAILABLE
09-10 UNAVAILABLE
10-11 UNAVAILABLE
11-12 UNAVAILABLE
12-13 UNAVAILABLE
13-14 UNAVAILABLE
14-15 UNAVAILABLE
15-16 UNAVAILABLE
16-17 UNAVAILABLE
17-18 UNAVAILABLE
18-19 UNAVAILABLE
19-20 UNAVAILABLE
20-21 SHIFT
21-22 SHIFT
22-23 SHIFT
23-00 SHIFT

Saturdays are where I really take advantage of the flexibility I have in setting my own schedule to suit my own life. My morning availability from 4AM stays the same, but for Saturdays I’ll extend it to 8AM since I won’t need to worry about getting my son ready for daycare. I’ll then leave the rest of the day as unavailable, so that I can spend the majority of my time with my family. I’ll then continue the rest of my “day” to finish off the rest of my assigned shifts from 8PM to 12AM. Since, I won’t have work the next day, I’ll be able to sleep in. This then gives me Sunday & Monday as ‘my weekend’.

In a way, I’m still able to have the majority of my Saturday’s waking hours, so it’s almost like I have 3-day weekend!

Out of any given month, I’ll have two weeks where I work the ‘normal’ week (Mon-Fri), and the other two weeks where I work (Tues-Sat), since it’s required of my position to work two weekend days out of the month for weekend coverage.

That’s basically my week! Whenever I work a weekend day, I’m able to take a ‘flex day’ off during the following week. Any day is fine, but to keep things simple for now, I’ve simply made my ‘weekend’ to be Sunday & Monday.

By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too — Timothy Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek)

My Flex Schedule Pros

  • Taking advantage of working when I’m most productive — the morning times! From the times that I made myself available, I made 5 hours out of the 8 to be in the morning, and it works out wonderfully.
  • Shaping my schedule around my family. Something I didn’t mention yet, I purposely end my days at 5PM because that’s the same time Kosato usually comes home from work, in addition to the same time Keimei needs to be picked up from daycare. Furthermore, on the weekend days that I do need to work, I can split my work time between the early morning and late evening so that I can still have the majority of the day to spend time with Kosato & Keimei, and do other things.
  • I don’t need to leave my home if I don’t want to. If I want to lounge & scrounge at home on some days, I can do that. On other days, if I want to head out to catch some sun, or work out of a chic cafe in Sapporo, I can do that too.
  • My schedule isn’t set in stone. In fact, I can flip the entire thing upside-down at the drop of a dime (sort of). Since schedule availability changes don’t take place until two weeks after, that’s the time I’ll need to wait before I can try out a new schedule. But I can live with that.

Automattic is a fully-distributed remote company passionate about making the web a better place, and part of how it makes that happen is by empowering its employees to choose their own schedules, so that they can produce their best work during their most productive hours. If that’s something that resonates with you, it might be good to mention we’re hiring 🙂


This post is part of a chronicled series titled, The ‘W’ Series, of how remote work came knocking at my door, and influenced my life for the better.

01 – The WhyMy Journey of How I Went From Teaching English in Japan to a Career in Tech With The Coolest Company in the World
02 – The What: Swagged Out
03 – The When: Putting The ‘Flex’ In Flexibility: What It’s Like To Work On My Own Time
04 – The Where: TBD (June 2018)
05 – The Who: TBD (July 2018)

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