A Day in the Life: Flying Solo’s Peter Crocker
Where do REM and former Dolly model Alison Brahe fit into Peter Crocker's life? You'll have to read on to find out. He's the first of Flying Solo's three directors to share what a 'typical day' for him looks like.
After a stint in digital ad agency land, Peter Crocker started his own business in 2003 specialising in business copywriting, partnering with digital agencies and corporate clients on websites and digital content. Along with his writing partner, he’s worked with agencies large and small on brands including Microsoft, NRMA, SAP, Westpac and AGL to name a few.
These days, Peter Crocker is kept busy managing Flying Solo’s online advertising and marketing, keeping an eye on our online forums and overseeing the development of our website. (He’s also one of our three directors along with Sam Leader and Robert Gerrish.)
We thought it’d be an interesting exercise to see just how those three directors spend their days and Peter is first cab off the rank! Take it away Peter!
"Like many others who work from home, my biggest challenge is maintaining focus. For me, this most obviously manifests with my self-confessed email addiction. "
This is the first time I’ve been asked to so a ‘day in the life’ type piece, and oddly it reminds me of reading my sister’s Dolly in 1991 when they did a segment entitled “REM’s Michael Stipe shows us his garbage”. It was the one with Alison Brahe on the cover.
Anyway, as luck would have it I’ve spent the last few years perfecting my ideal day, I’ve even designed my ideal week!
But typical is hard to pin down, so I’m taking a look at my good, bad and ugly.
My ideal day:
I wake up at 6am and have a quiet coffee on the back steps watching the dawn light. I head out for a bike ride and swim and come back energised and refreshed.
After a quick shower I get into my comfortable yet effortlessly-professional outfit and wake up the kids for breakfast at 7.15am. They laugh at my wacky Dad jokes as I cook them poached eggs with baby spinach on toast. They’re all organised in time to do some reading before school drop off.
By 9am I sit at my clear desk. My to-do list is already neatly handwritten. My most important task is at the top with a smiley face. I’m creative in the morning, so I knock over my priority project in the first three-hour stint before doing anything else.
Lunchtime already! I re-energise with a walk in the sun and a perfect Nicoise salad, which I packed for myself when I made the kids’ school lunches the night before.
In the afternoon I shift to smaller tasks, responding to emails, briefing our web developer on upgrades and neatly tying up loose ends. By 5.30pm my inbox is clear, my to-do list is written and I look forward to some al fresco dining with my close friends and family before an early night to read On The Road by Jack Kerouak – such crisp prose!
This happened once in 2009. A fantastic day.
My non-ideal day:
I am woken up by the smell of my daughter’s burning toast at 8am because I’ve stayed up too late watching Australia get rolled for 60 in the cricket, or mindlessly watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
We slam some bread together with random fillings, chuck an apple in the bag and rush the girls out the door. By 9.20am I’m at my desk in my ugg boots with an overflowing inbox, yesterday’s to-do list and tucking into my third coffee.
By lunchtime I’ve just about worked out what I needed to do first thing that morning. At 2.30pm I realise I haven’t eaten anything so I eat half a packet of salted peanuts. I continue to react immediately to emails that come in so that everyone else’s priorities become my own.
I’m just hitting my stride at 6pm when we realize that we’ve got no food and the eldest needs to be at dance at 6.45pm. After BBQing some sausages I’m back at the computer at 9pm feeling disheveled with a four-hour stint of work ahead of me.
Thankfully not typical, but days like this do happen more than I like to admit (although I think I just did).
My typical day:
One great benefit of being involved in Flying Solo, is that you get exposed to all manner of productivity tips and advice on the site and forums. So I’m pleased to say that usually I’m closer to ideal than non-ideal, with a typical day somewhere between these two extremes.
Version #1: In the office Tuesday and Thursday
Two days a week I commute into The Rocks to the Flying Solo office with Robert and Lisa (and occasionally others). These days are quite typical and 9-5ish. These are the days where we work on projects together.
We aim to schedule any external meetings on these days – we have a few each week. Lunch typically involves a kebab in the sun.
Version #2: At home Monday, Tuesday Friday
After the morning flurry to get the girls off to school, I’ll be at my desk about 9am.
Against better advice, the first hour or so I usually spend clearing up emails and smaller tasks. Almost always there’ll be emails or enquiries that have come up overnight that need dealing with pretty quickly.
After that I’ll do a two-hour block of focused work before lunch. Flying Solo has a prioritised WIP list that we go through on a group Skype call every Monday, so we are clear on what big tasks are on the agenda for the week ahead.
On most days I try and get a walk or run in. A few of us have Fitbits so we egg each other on to get to 10,000 steps each day – which often means walking late at night to catch up.
Some days I go out in the afternoon and work at a café down the road where there’s wi-fi and free tables. It’s great for getting a few hours of focused work done without the dishwasher beeping to be unpacked.
A couple of nights a week I’ll do some work after the kids are in bed. When I was doing a lot more copywriting work, I found working late into the night was one of my most productive sessions. Although it messed with the next day.
While the weekdays are usually very full and hectic, my wife and I are quite disciplined about shutting the office door on Friday nights and keeping the weekends work-free.
The biggest challenge
Like many others who work from home, my biggest challenge is maintaining focus. For me, this most obviously manifests with my self-confessed email addiction. The big problem is that my inbox can easily take over my agenda for the entire day if left unchecked.
I fruitlessly tried to go cold turkey back in 2009: “I do solemnly declare, honestly promisely, that I will only check email four times per weekday.” But that was short lived!
What I do now is use the pomodoro technique to work in blocks, and try my best to only check email (and social media, news sites, text etc etc.) in between projects.
The reality of being a soloist?
I’m not sure if this is the done thing, but to answer this one I’m going to plagiarise myself in an article I wrote on the highs and lows of working for yourself.
“The life of a solo business owner, especially one working from home, can easily be glamorised into a life of freedom, leisure and balance. A world where silver laptops roam free, the sun is always at your back and children don’t answer the phone and tell your clients that “Daddy’s on the toilet.”
But the reality is that as a soloist you certainly escape a whole bunch of problems, but you also inherit a few of your own. Like cash flow, overwhelm and wearing too many hats.
Many soloists are constantly swinging between ecstasy and stress. Excited you’ve won a major new project, then despairing at how on earth you’ll meet the deadline. You’re swamped in work and desperate for a break, yet when you do get a bit of breathing space it’s only five minutes before you start wondering if the phone will never ring again!
Underneath it all there’s often that nagging desire to be able to leave the office at 5.30pm and not have to think about work every time you walk past the third bedroom. The desire for a job where keeping the business going is not your responsibility, and you know exactly how much money you’re getting.”
But of course, challenges aside, soloism has a huge upside.
What keeps me going?
What keeps me going most of all is ‘the alternative’. Even on the most challenging days of running your own business, I can think back to my past working life and sigh in appreciation.
Indulge me while I quote myself again:
“It’s Wednesday 11.30am and the sun is shining. I’m perched on the grass covering the headland overlooking Curl Curl beach. In the distance I can see Manly. If I squint really hard and use my imagination I can even see inside the old cubicle I used to work in above Wynyard station,and I can almost taste the soggy lunch I used to eat on the train on the way home at 8pm.”
For me, being a solo business person is about freedom and possibility as opposed to security and predictability. And yes, despite all challenges, there’s nothing like having a swim after lunch on a Friday or sneaking in an afternoon snooze to make everything rosy.
While many of the realities may be similar to a ‘real’ job – it seems evident that hard work, occasional stress and uncertainty are part of any ambitious role – the difference is in the control and autonomy you have being your own boss.
If you’re going to put up with challenges anyway, you may as well do it on your own terms. You can decide your own deadlines, set your own prices, refuse unreasonable requests, select who you do/don’t work with and be free to pursue any opportunity that comes your way.
What I’m getting at is that flying solo is not a way to escape problems but it is undoubtedly a way to find unlimited opportunities. You take the risks, but the rewards are all yours too.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Now, what’s new on Facebook I wonder…