From Night Owl to Lark

9 Oct 2018
boy spraying mom onto white brick wall with can of black paint spray

It’s Ada Lovelace Day. A time to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM. I’ve spent my morning commute into London pondering on this. As a mother, a wife, a returner holding down a full-time position and a tech startup founder, being a woman in STEM is damn hard. But I love it.

Becoming a fully-fledged developer in a small tech team is without a doubt the major highlight of this year for me, but it doesn’t come without its struggles. I’m nine months in which is enough time for nerves to settle and feel I own my place on the team. I’ve got used to the commute and the family is mucking in to keep the household ticking over. We’ve agreed not to discuss Ironing Mountain. It’s time to pick up the startup again. But how do you do that? Where can you steal the extra time from?

I could just forget the startup, but that’s not why I’ve started this journey into tech. I’m on a mission to fix a huge problem and I can’t stop until I’ve succeeded. The press is blowing up right now with stories of the allergy death inquests. If I’m going to get conversations started with caterers, now is the time to grab their ears and get them to listen. Time is of the essence, I have to respond now.

I’ve spent the past few weeks coding away on the laptop until the early hours with a whiskey by my side. It’s my attempt to get momentum rolling again on TreatOut. That’s not sustainable. I’m passing all the signs pointing me in the direction of Burnout City (cue the breaking glass and screeching brakes sound effect).

I’ve always been a night owl, I love being a night owl but it’s time to try and change. I need to manage my time. I’m finding that working when I’m tired, no, shattered is not effective. It’s taking twice as long to write code, and the quality is *cough* not brilliant. I’ve managed to accomplish far more on the rare occasion where I’ve leapt out of bed at dawn.

Ada Lovelace Day is the perfect marker to kick off a new regime. I went to bed early last night which was easy given how exhausted I feel. Sure enough, 5.30am and I’m flicking on the kettle for a morning cuppa. This feels good and I sail through an hour’s work on the laptop, fixing some problems for yesterday’s work that I just didn’t spot. High five!

I yell at the kids to turf them out of their beds and into the shower. Confident that they’ll be ready in time to catch the school bus I can leave early and miss the ‘school run mum’ hell that traps me for half an hour every day. The car park is still pretty quiet and I can bag a prime spot. Sorted. Then the great British Rail network hits me. Oooof. The next train due for Charing Cross is cancelled. In response, a packed platform bundles onto the stationary train. Suddenly this new regime feels like a really shit board game – the train is packed and it’s standing room only. Move back 4 spaces. The underground doesn’t help either.

All gates to the underground lines are locked – down the slippery snake you go back to the start.

I’ve lost the half hour computer time I grab on the train and have a congested walk ahead to get to the office adding an extra 20 minutes to the commute. Suddenly the feel-good factor that started the day is lost.

I’m sitting here now at my desk having got up two hours earlier than normal, sweaty and stressed with no real benefit gained. Ok, I jest, I do think that switching from owl to lark is going to be key to me gaining the extra productivity time that I need, but this is going to have to be tweaked. I could get up and head straight into the office and hopefully miss the rush hour commute madness. The downside is I don’t see my kids and I don’t want to miss them first thing. Being a mum is still first and foremost for me and I won’t compromise on that. So tomorrow I will review, rework and repeat and see if we can make this work better. Maybe I get up early, go up to my office and work through, leaving the world and his dog to navigate the rush hour madness. My workplace is flexible enough for me to head in slightly later and leave slightly later. To be honest that’s the pattern I’ve been following except the work from home is in the evening and exhausting.

So I’m raising my mug of tea to flexible working and the early morning lark. To all the women out there who are sticking at it. To all the women out there who are smashing it in STEM on Ada Lovelace Day.