The Advantages of Second Shift or, I am not now nor have I ever been a morning person

Long time readers of this blog know that I completed a year-long project on Agile posting updates every week. This year my updates have been sporadic at best, and in April I was ready to give up the project entirely – I was working, things were pretty good, I felt like I didn’t need to post weekly updates. A month worth of Internet problems, and a switch of providers with the chaos that creates and I thought I would just give it up, though I was still keeping track somewhat of various accomplishments (though not as well as I should). And my writing was going well, even without the regular posts.

April, however, was also chaotic in that I was informed at the beginning of the month, that April 15th would be my last day in my department. I would then by sent to two weeks of training, and then moved to another department. I was not happy about this to say the least, especially as the HR person and even my manager were very high-handed about the whole thing. It was presented as a fait accompli – “you will go to training, you will go to the other department, you have no choice in the matter”. No one said the word, “quit”, but it was pretty much understood by all involved that that would be my only other choice, and I couldn’t afford to do that.

So off I went to two weeks of training (nice thing about training it was a 7-hour day or less schedule, but I got paid the full 40 hours per week). This was followed by a week of “observing”/testing/and live testing. Much to my shock I passed the live-call testing. Not only that, but when I checked later, I had the highest scores in my class. After finding out about passing the training class, I was given my new schedule. I’d requested second shift – specifically a “retail second shift” which ends earlier at night than what many people think of as second shift (factories work a 3:00 or 3:30 pm – 11:00 pm second shift). Over my life I’ve worked in retail on-and-off for about eighteen years or more, this includes Summer jobs, second part-time jobs, “Holiday” jobs, etc. I often thought that the hours were the best part about working retail, and that it’s a real pity that you can’t actually make a living working in retail. But the pay is low, there’s no benefits, and it’s never full-time. My first choice for a new shift was 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. I got my second pick – 12:30 pm (aka noon-thirty) to 9:00 pm. The surprise was it was a Sunday to Thursday shift with Friday and Saturday off. The job is working in a IT call center. The call center is 24/7/365. My first working week I continued on the original training schedule hours (8:30 am to 5:00 pm, ugg).

However, for the past two weeks or so I’ve been on my new shift – 12:30 pm to 9:00 pm, and I honestly do love it. The first half of my shift is very busy and goes by quick, it’s often time for my first break or “lunch” (the half-hour unpaid meal break) before I know it. The second half of the shift tends to be slower, especially on Sundays and Thursdays. But it’s also quieter in the call center (except for the cleaning guy who keeps vacuuming right by my cubicle while I’m on a call!). There’s less chatter between agents and quieter talk (less volume and fewer people talking) as call center techs talk over the phone. I like the quietness of the evening hours. And that isn’t to say there’s nothing to do – I still have customers to serve and help; I’m currently studying for my second A+ test (the 802), and I have a stack of professional development magazines to read such as from the STC, etc. I’m actually enjoying my job – I help people all day, I’m solving problems all day, I get to think instead of doing mindless drudge work, and most of my customers on the phone are really nice, and even understanding when I have system problems or I’m having trouble finding the info to help them.

But what is also cool is the shift itself and my schedule. I work 12:30-9:00 pm; so I have all morning, while I’m fresh and awake, to do stuff. I generally get up about 8:00 am, I have my coffee and watch my recorded TV show from the previous night or something off my “to be watched” DVD shelf, and since I’m reviewing my DVDs as I watch them, that leads to future blog posts. After that I generally sit down at my computer and work. And just like on a Saturday (when I worked 8:00 am to 4:30 pm M-F) I’m working – taking care of the everyday things – paying bills, filing, writing blog posts, doing research, etc. Now, instead of only doing that on the weekends – I can get that “little stuff” done every day – which means not having a mountain of receipts to file, or bills to pay on-line, or even on-line shopping to do on Saturday. Having time in the morning, without having to get up even earlier in the morning, means I can write, or research, or organize, or whatever I need to do. About 10 or 10:30 am, I leave my home office, and make myself breakfast, or lunch, or brunch, or whatever you want to call a meal that you have in the morning but that has to last until at least 2:15 pm or 2:30 pm when I have my first break. Then I change from my relax clothes to work clothes. Then I read, play games on my tablet, or this week probably, study, until it’s time to leave for work at 11:40 am. Again, I work from noon-thirty to nine, and generally walk on the treadmill (or outside if it’s nice) during at least one break during work. Though, to be fair, when working days I tried to walk on one break as well. After work, I generally head home, have an after work meal, read (or play computer games on my tablet) for awhile then go to bed.

But, here’s the thing. I’m getting a lot more done, and faster, because the stack of stuff to deal with on my desk gets looked at daily, rather than once a week. I’ve gotten through most of the backlog of receipts, credit card offers, junk mail, and even catalogs. Rule of three: everything goes into one of three piles – file; deal with; or recycle/destroy/trash. The file and destroy piles get dealt with first. That is, they are filed or destroyed (ripped up, shredded, put in recycling, or trashed, depending on what the item is). Then it becomes a lot easier to actually focus on and deal with the “deal with” pile of actual bills, or things I actually really do want to order from, or items that need follow-up. And bonus, because I’m home on working days (plus all day Friday) I can actually call businesses or doctor’s offices that are only open during business hours – something that’s hard to do when you work business hours.

But I’m also getting through projects. I recently added all my graphic novels, three boxes worth, going back to 1986 (in copyright dates) to GoodReads. Most, other than the very recent ones, aren’t reviewed, but at least I have them listed in one easily accessible place, and everything is tagged, and it’s public, so I can point my friends to it as a quick list, rather than pulling out my new Excel spreadsheet (which was also updated). That sort of thing would have taken a week or two, maybe more, when I worked days. Working mornings, I completed it in one week. I just love that.

I’ve also been able to write more blog posts. And I’ve even written posts before work. That is awesome. Working days, I’d often be too tired to do much after work. Or if I did, it was like one thing and that was it. Now, I get at least two hours worth of stuff done before work, put in a full day at work, and have time for the fun things like reading, playing games on my tablet, or watching my shows without commercials.

And best of all, I feel better. I am not now, nor have I ever been a morning person. I hate mornings. Well, early mornings. Getting up at six am, to leave the house by 7:15 am really isn’t fun and I barely have time for coffee, much less anything else. And getting up any earlier is out of the question. Plus, even with being exhausted all the time, especially right after work, I’d often find the one time I wasn’t tired was when it was time to go to sleep – so I’d stay up to 11:00 or 11:30 pm or even Midnight, even though the next day I had to get up at six. And I’d end-up drinking coffee all day, rather than just a cup or two in the morning – and thus not sleep, and the vicious cycle goes on. Plus, on the weekends I’d try to catch-up on sleep – either sleeping in to 10 am, or taking long naps in the afternoon. Now, I’m not fighting my body clock. I get up at 8:00 am, a respectable time – but the time I used to have to be at work. I can stay up to 11:00 or even later and still get eight or more hours of sleep. I can get a good two hours of work done in the morning before “work”. I have time for appointments, even fun ones. Today I had an appointment at 10:30 am, another at 2:00 pm, in between I got to the comics book store where I spent far too much money, and picked up lunch for the family on the way home. Oh, and went out to dinner with my folks too. And I still have a day off tomorrow.

I’m now on a schedule that fits my body clock and my own circadian rhythm, rather than being forced into someone else’s idea of when I should be working. My drive in to work is busy, but not the bumper-to-bumper nightmare of working a quote, “normal”, unquote shift. I actually, much to my surprise and shock like my new position at my job. Both the people working on second shift, and the people I talk to on the phone are nicer, kinder, and quieter. The IT Helpdesk Call Center is a national call center, so I talk to people all over the country, which is awesome and fun. I like solving problems and helping people. And I’m much, much happier with this schedule – and I’m not so tired and exhausted all the time. That is just an awesome feeling!

And Agile – I definitely need to pick-up on tracking my accomplishments again. I’ve joined the “fitness club” at work, thus the tracking of my steps on my Fitbit. I’m getting back on track with my professional development goals. And my blog post writing is getting back on schedule.

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