Contracting – 1 Month and Counting

February 10th marked the first day I logged hours in my after-hours contracting with my previous employer. 29 days, 68 hours billed, three incredibly complicated screens done. (Where each screen involved managing probably a dozen different entities, passing data to pop-ups and back, and some fancy DOM manipulation using Javascript.) The real challenge in the app is not only understanding all the different entities involved, what they mean, and how their lifecycle is managed, but also creating a web application that behaves more like a desktop application. The validations, notifications, dynamic disabling of fields based on other fields, dynamic addition and subtraction of rows to a tier structure is all pretty intense.

In spite of averaging 2+ hours a day, including weekends, in addition to the day job, I feel fairly relaxed about it. It hasn’t interfered with my ability to enjoy myself nor my sleep. I’m into a routine – get up around 8, get to work by 9, work until 5 or 6 (depending on whether I take a working lunch), head to the gym (3-4 days a week), spend prime time doing what I like, spending time with my wife, playing Gran Turismo 4, etc. Sometimes I’ll put in some hours during prime time, but much of the time, I’ll dig in again after my wife is asleep (~10 pm). I’ve always been a night owl, so I’m very alert and there aren’t as many distractions, so it works out nicely. I’ll turn in for the night between 12 and 2, lather, rinse, and repeat.

The biggest challenge hasn’t been balancing business with pleasure, it’s been balancing this project with my other side projects. It’s challenging not to fall completely behind when you’re working 1/4 the hours of everyone else on a project. It helps that the time I spend is unencumbered by the typical overhead that comes with being a full-timer in the office, and I know I’m not expected to produce 8 hours work in 2 hours each day, but it’s something I put on myself. I do know that at a high level, my supplemental work has helped make some ambitious project deadlines a little more realistic. It looks like the other projects are on track, though, and I’m still convinced that the opportunity cost of the time I spend on them has made my work on them more productive and efficient.