Back in November when I started working a part-time retail job there were several adjustments I needed to make. I’ve written before about how it took some time to realize working with people half my age wasn’t that big a deal. But there was one area that was a bigger issue to get accustomed to: The schedule.

Working all hours of the day wasn’t that unusual for me. There were countless occasions where I logged significant time on holidays, weekends, late nights or early mornings when I was managing client content programs.

Even those times where I had to be up and online at 3:00 am to handle a big client announcement, I was somewhat in control. I was doing it and this was just a part of the job. I didn’t feel beholden to someone else’s whims, or at least if the decisions of others were impacting my schedule there was some leverage for me to say “No.” I could have pushed back and said I couldn’t do it, or could only do it on a time of my choosing.

That was part of the general freedom my work situation allowed me to make my own schedule. Sure, I had to be online during business hours for the most part, but if I needed to start my day at 7:30 instead of 6:00, or take an hour to handle a personal matter, that was fine. If I was reachable and got my work done and communicated my whereabouts to my team, there wasn’t a fuss made.

It’s very different being completely on someone else’s schedule. I’m plugged into work based on staffing needs, expected customer volume, available skill set and other factors that are largely out of my control. Sure, I can ask for a day off or tell them I can’t work on a certain morning because of an appointment, but that’s largely it. When I’m expected to be at work is mostly out of my hands.

That’s been a major adjustment. It meant breaking out of the routine I was in at home, including time spent with my family. We had to work things around that schedule. I developed a routine that fit the freelance work I was doing around that to make sure it was all finished on schedule.

There was a benefit, though. For years I’d been working from home, interacting with my coworkers mainly over IM, email or something like Slack. And after I was laid off and my contract position ended there was little to nothing to get me out of the house. I was getting a little stir-crazy and things weren’t turning out well. Simply having a reason to get dressed and get out improved my attitude and personality tremendously. It provided the kind of structure my schedule had been lacking and focused my efforts.

Just as I said about working with younger coworkers, what first seemed to be a tremendous challenge wound up being a pretty positive development. I’ve continued to meet – if not exceed – my freelance deadlines, all while being subject to someone else’s idea of where I should be at what time.

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