The discipline of scheduling work

Last night the subject of scheduling one's writing came up, and now I wonder how that could apply to any job. My friend is working on his Ph.D. thesis and has found that it helps to set aside blocks of time to write. An acquaintance of Alice's works from home, and has set aside a room that's essentially an office and nothing else. It's an extension of his workplace into his home.

I thought that it must be nice to be able to step easily between work and personal life. For Alice's acquaintance, it's literally just a door he opens. With such an arrangement, a person could work when they're inspired to and relax when they need to, within limits. The barriers are extremely low, in contrast to a conventional arrangement of dressing differently and commuting.

What would my job look like if I could do that? My time is split about equally between desk and lab duties. Obviously, I can't build a lab in my house, and for safety reasons I can't melt metal in the middle of the night. I could telecommute some during the workday, though I like the benefits I get from hallway conversations. I could do some of my desk work at odd hours. I used to work pretty well that way in grad school. Which, come to think of it, was a lot like my current job.

Now, crucially, how could I achieve that? I'd need a couple things. First, a boss who's flexible about the wheres and whens. Second, low barriers of dress and distance. My work wardrobe is already pretty close to my personal one, but I would need to live a lot closer - preferably within walking distance.

Imagine that: a light laptop, a blackberry, and the lab a stone's throw from home. If I woke up in the middle of the night with a design idea, I could actually do something about it.