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Outside of the development world, it’s difficult to describe how I landed on my current ‘remote worker lifestyle’. The concept of working from home isn’t new to most people. Some think it’s a late night infomercial’s pipe-dream, and some 100% understand it. When I tell them, though, that I work when I need to, where I need to, and how I need to, without “being my own boss”, they get curious. Where I lose them though, is that it all started with open source.

To be fair, this occurs mostly due to the fact that I then have to explain open source and the philosophy of giving back to a community via code (or “Working for Free” in their minds), but once we get past that, it’s kind of an inspiring discussion that actually excites me.

Just a little push

Back in 2012, a service called Pushover was released that allowed an API to talk to a mobile Application, basically giving you the platform to send push notifications with just about any data you wanted, to your mobile device. I was digging this. It was pre-WordPress push notifications for mobile apps and I hate email. I built Pushover Notifications for WordPress (not my first plugin but, my first big one) to allow things like comments and password reset warnings to be sent to your mobile device instead of clogging up your inbox. Then Adam Pickering of Astoundify sent me a tweet:

From here, it was just me learning the EDD ecosystem, and then discussing the details of a hosted extension with Pippin. Things stayed pretty “status quo” until the first Pressnomics event took place in Chandler, AZ.

Face to Face

I didn’t actually attend Pressnomics 1. At the time I was a software developer at GoDaddy, and the business of WordPress wasn’t something that my job considered part of my scope, and it wasn’t something I could afford on my own dollar. However, Pippin was attending, and I was only a 40 minute drive away, so we met up for beers and talked WordPress, life, development and what not. Great times, but more importantly (unaware at the time), laying the foundation for what my future was to become.

Contributing

After about 6 months of using EDD as an end user to sell WordPress plugins with the Software Licensing extension, I found something that I could improve. On February 3rd of 2013, this magic happened:

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 4.15.40 PM

My first ever commit to EDD core. I went on to make 11 more commits that year. Super minor in the scheme of things, but super important to where I am today.

Supporting the Users

In 2014 I started as a contractor, doing support and eventually development for EDD. This was in addition to my full-time job as a Software Developer at GoDaddy, and at times, really put a strain on my home life, as I was working after work was done.

Taking the Leap

Throughout my career at GoDaddy, I had worked on a large number of projects that ranged from writing my familiar PHP and WordPress, Classic ASP, .Net, and eventually NodeJS. This really made me confident in my skills and made me feel more comfortable with a decision I had been pondering for almost 8 months, but could never seem to do. I announced my 2 week notice at GoDaddy and accepted a position as a full time employee working on Easy Digital Downloads.

Leaving stable corporate life is a nerve-wrecking and odd feeling, but for me, it was about lifestyle. With a 2 year old son, and another child due in August (born August 10th to be exact), being home to help my wife and see my kids more often was the key. The move also allowed me to take trips with the family and work when I was able to, where I was able to. The freedom to choose the work hours and venues is so key to my new lifestyle.

My new challenges

With all that awesomeness described above, the real problem now becomes, managing that ever-so-important work/life balance. As many of you know, in software development, there is always the chance you’ll have to work a long day, a weekend, or even an emergency in the middle of the night when needed.

This is just assumed, but when you work from home, on a flexible schedule…that goes out the door and it becomes very easy to just work whenever you sit down for 30 seconds. This is my new challenge.

Work/life balance isn't a buzz topic. It's real and affects everyone you interact with. Click To Tweet

Thankfully I have a wonderful wife who understands that I have the luxury of working in my field of passion, writing code. With that passion comes the inane ‘ability’ to always be thinking about it, even when I’m not sitting at my computer. This has lead to a few couch-coding sessions while relaxing with the family, and some late dinners, which ultimately lead up to some stress.

My truest challenge in this new lifestyle is knowing when it’s time to ignore Slack, shut off email, take off the Pebble, and just spend time with my family. It’s a challenge I’m learning to face, and the hardest part is admitting to myself that it’s a problem. It’s come up in conversation a couple times with my wife, and every time, she lets me know when I’m failing. Honesty here is the key. Not guilt, not anger, just brutal honesty of when I’m not being the best husband and dad because I’m putting work before them.

I think one great thing we did as a team, not to long ago, was to sit down and have an open discussion on expectations and work habits. We’ve all agreed that we need to tackle the balance and even when our passion get’s the best of us, learn when to turn it off and tend to our ‘non-work’ life. Getting those concerns and opinions out in the open air was very important. It’s helping with the ‘Did I work enough this week?’ internal monologue, and really allowing me to be confident in the fact that I’m giving what’s expected of me.

Work/Life balance cannot be overcome on your own. It takes accountability and openness. Click To Tweet

I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work for Pippin and have someone who understands the importance of family at the heart of my daily work life. I’m also blessed to have the support of my wife to do what I love to do, even if that means an odd and sometimes changing work schedule.

What are some of your work/life balance techniques? Do you have set schedule imposed on yourself? Please share something you are doing to make sure you are taking care of your life outside of work.

Featured image (Family Portrait taken by Two Loves Photography in Arizona)

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Posted by Chris Klosowski

Hi, I'm Chris Klosowski. Currently I am a Lead Developer of Easy Digital Downloads, where we build the easiest way to sell digital products with WordPress.

I am also the person behind Post Promoter Pro, the most effective way to promote your WordPress Content.

28 Comments

  1. Chris! Huge congrats!

    As for my “techniques”, my top two are probably:
    * First and foremost, I admit that keeping a healthy balance in my life is a struggle. This way, when it is brought to my attention (be it by my wife or son, or a friend saying “are you still working?” when I check my phone at the bar) I’m not offended and I don’t get defensive.
    * I have found that for me, being flexible is better than being scheduled. I’m sure this is different for different people. If I’m not finished with a particular task, stopping because it’s 5pm isn’t helpful. I may be with my family physically, but my mind is almost certainly stuck on the problem I was working on. Instead, I try to be far more flexible with my hours (ten hours one day, six the next? No problem).

    Reply

    1. Thanks Aaron. It’s been a rewarding 8 months, for sure.

      1) Admitting to yourself is so important here. I used to get defensive when my wife was mad at me. Then I realized, it was my side that was wrong here. Such a key point that I failed to mention above, thank you.

      2) So true on the flexibility. As I type this comment I’m taking a break from work to watch my son for a bit while my wife and newborn take a nap. I’m on the flexible side of things. Work when it’s best for my family, and just know when I need to focus and sit down to get some tasks done.

      Thanks again for your comment, you raised two excellent points.

      Reply

  2. Thanks for writing this Chris. I love your story and this topic. It is tough to overemphasize how serious this challenge is. Gosh, there are times when I look back fondly on the days when I had a non-stressful (in comparison) full time job with a set routine and long commute home which allowed me to easily transition into my home/family mental state. In the end I know I’d never exchange what I have now for what I had then but I also recognize that this whole balance thing is a constant struggle that I’ll likely iterate on for the rest of my career. Every time I improve in one area, some other imbalance manifests itself.

    Discussions like this are productive I think. Thanks again.

    Reply

    1. So true. My commute was my ‘decompression’ time. It was about an hour and sometimes longer. Plenty of time to kind of leave it all behind. There’s something that triggers mentally when you physically see your work in the rear view mirror that helps that transition I think.

      Reply

  3. Hey, Chris!
    You have no idea how much your story resonates with mine except for the two major differences, former being working for a company and later being having wife & kids.

    I work all day long, not because I have to but because I love to, and doing so I have gained 30KGs in three years which I am trying to shed.

    I don’t really have any tips for you, but I keep putting myself to routine and then keep breaking it.

    Reply

    1. To be honest Ahmad, work life balance is tough with a company as well. I did it for 4 and a half years. I too have noticed significant weight gain, but have recently started focusing on living a healthier lifestyle. Do I slip, yes. The trick is to not let that slip go into an outright tumble.

      Keep your head up and take it one day at a time. Routines aren’t for everyone, as Aaron stated above. I actually function much better on the take it as the day goes method. Work a few hours, stop to grab a drink of water, watch the news for 15 minutes, or, recently a 7 minute workout:
      http://7-min.com/ (there are apps in Google Play and the App Store if you don’t want to use your computer to, well, try and get away from your computer).

      Reply

  4. […] How Writing One Plugin Changed My Lifestyle – Chris Klowsowski talks about Work Life balance and working full time for EDD. […]

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  5. […] Klosowski, co-lead developer of Easy Digital Downloads, explains how writing one plugin changed his lifestyle. He left his corporate job to be a full-time distributed worker and being a […]

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  6. […] Klosowski, co-lead developer of Easy Digital Downloads, explains how writing one plugin changed his lifestyle. He left his corporate job to be a full-time distributed worker and being a […]

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  7. […] Klosowski, co-lead developer of Easy Digital Downloads, explains how writing one plugin changed his lifestyle. He left his corporate job to be a full-time distributed worker and being a […]

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  8. Thanks for being vulnerable and real. It is so helpful to hear others’ stories to know that we are not alone in these challenges.

    Reply

    1. We are in now way alone in these challenges. In fact, I encourage us to seek each other out in discussing work life balance. The nature of the topic means we’re not ready to bring it up ourselves. 🙂

      Thanks Michael.

      Reply

  9. It’s a struggle at times even with a full time regular job. For me, it’s backwards, however. Hard to keep home life out of the office at times. That’s the life with triplets though.

    Glad to see you’re doing well, buddy.

    Reply

    1. Oh absolutely. I in no way meant the balance was easier the other way around. Thanks for pointing that out Chris. Hope all is going well with you!

      Both sides pose their own challenges. Especially with triplets I’m sure.
      What’s one thing you’ve found helpful in keeping your mental clarity at work?

      Reply

      1. I think that it’s essential to have job duties and such setup.. My wife works from home most times and has the ability to help more with the kids and be around them more. But she also likes my input on many things.

        But, to keep that work/life balance, she tries to only get me involved on major decisions or events of the day. And, if it gets to a point where I need to focus on work, she’s ok with me asking to put this off to a later time.

        As far as appointments and such, we have them broken down where I can go to some when it works with my schedule and she goes to the others when that works with her schedule. If we can both go, we do. The trust that this helps continue makes it easy for me to not worry about stuff at home and vice versa.

        In essence, have a partnership and work together.

        Reply

        1. Great way to put it Chris. Working together is so important. I think, since my work is my passion, I get caught up at times and lose sight of what’s important.

          I work to support my family, but it should not cost me my family’s happiness. Your approach is a great suggestion.

          Reply

  10. Hi Chris,
    Wow ! your story is Inspiring. It is difficult to left job to give full time what we love. I’m stuck at Engineering studies :p
    Thanks for sharing .

    Reply

    1. Thanks Ravindra

      The balance is so important. When I was still early in my studies it was easy to be consumed by the knowledge and field. As family, friends, and health start to be neglected though, it’s something you need to really make a decision about.

      Good luck in your studies and I don’t forget to take a break from time to time. Usually that’s when my best ideas come about ?

      Reply

  11. Hmm…I see your point, and I see the struggle. What I don’t see is the push back on your wife’s assessment that you’re failing. Here’s a reality check — you made a huge switch to do what you’re doing. Not many CAN do it, not many WOULD do it. You did. In part, obviously, for you, your health, your mental state, etc. All good.

    However, you also are home to help. That’s not table scraps, that’s the full steak dinner option. But you still have to work. So the next time your wife is saying you’re putting work first, ask yourself this — is she saying it’s worse than if you were working in a company office, 8 to 6 and occasional nights and weekends or is she just saying it’s not as good as last week? Because you said it was important to have brutal honesty, but that goes both ways. It’s inconvenient that society makes us work rather than spend time with our families, but that whole “we need an income” thing tends to mess with our schedule. I know a lot of women who would say your wife got the best deal around, and if she ain’t happy with the steak, there are many who would be willing to switch for their chicken or turkey dinner. (I showed it to two of them, and one of them summed it up pretty well — “oh boohoo for her”). Just cuz your wife says it, doesn’t make it true.

    That may sound overly harsh, but I too have dealt with my wife saying “You’re working too much.” Now bear in mind we’re talking about 5 nights in a year, usually at a crunch time. I took the comment for awhile, and then finally said, “Here’s the deal. I have a good job. I have some responsibility with it. They don’t pay me the salary they do just to cover the simple stuff, sometimes I have to take responsibility to get the job done in a short amount of time, and yes, that means overtime occasionally. But that sense of responsibility also goes with the values and ethics of the guy you married. You don’t get the benefits of a responsible high paying job without the work ethic that goes with it.” In return, she’s been able to take a lot of time off over the last five years to spend it with our son, do schooling, etc. But, like most people, sometimes the “me-centric” nature says, “Hey, it’s not enough from you.” Except it is. The brutal honesty goes both ways — I’ll take the hit where warranted, but from your description, it isn’t warranted here. You may decide she’s right that your balance has shifted temporarily, and you want to reshift it, that doesn’t make it a “failure” of yours.

    Or maybe I’m full of crap and you really are a sucky husband regularly 🙂

    PolyWogg

    Reply

    1. Hey Paul.

      I appreciate your assessment. And this is one of those things that is unique to each situation I think.

      In my case, part of leaving my other job was losing my community in favor of more family time. At least 2 hours a day. What ended up happening, was I just worked 2 more hours, instead of getting that family time. So the reality was I traded commute for more work, not work for more family time.

      Her being honest about that, is what I mean by her telling me when I wasn’t being the best I could be. The largest basis of moving to this lifestyle was family time…not more work. Therefore, she’s right in calling me out.

      She understands crunch time, late night emergencies, etc. She’s very patient with those moments. The key is the basis of doing what I’m doing, and being true to that. I also think that most people who work from home (remotely) have a different situation in that I’m salaried, not hourly. So more hours doesn’t necessarily mean, more money in our situation.

      I will say, while I am improving greatly at my balance, there were clear times of total suckyness on my part in the past 8 months. What’s happened Is I’m more mindful of the time I’m spending.

      Reply

  12. […] Source: How Writing One Plugin Changed My Lifestyle | Kung Fu Grep […]

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  13. […] Chris Klosowski, How Writing One Plugin Changed My Lifestyle […]

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  14. […] Klosowski, co-lead developer of Easy Digital Downloads, explains how writing one plugin changed his lifestyle. He left his corporate job to be a full-time distributed worker and being a […]

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  15. […] Klosowski, co-lead developer of Easy Digital Downloads, explains how writing one plugin changed his lifestyle. He left his corporate job to be a full-time distributed worker and being a […]

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  16. […] Klosowski, co-lead developer of Easy Digital Downloads, explains how writing one plugin changed his lifestyle. He left his corporate job to be a full-time distributed worker and being a […]

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  17. […] Source: How Writing One Plugin Changed My Lifestyle […]

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  18. […] own site pretty heavily as I write on things ranging from interacting with APIs all the way through how life changing working in open source can become. If you aren’t familiar with what the bounce rate statistic is, it refers […]

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  19. Great Job Chris. I remember working next to you at GoDaddy when you had started getting into WordPress. Your story is great and has inspired me. I am greatful since I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for you. Glad you are doing well and we will have to grab a beer sometime.

    Reply

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