Being in complete control of my own schedule was one of the things I was most psyched about when I made the shift from working for someone else to working for myself. My time was finally mine, ALL MINE! Mwa ha ha ha ha! *Insert lightning strike and maniacal hand rubbing*
I imagined my workday would slip by in the breezy snap of fingers, each moment blissfully designed for maximum self-actualization.
At least that’s how I hoped it would go. In reality, it took me about a year to figure out what the hell I was doing, schedule-wise.
Most of my regular work activities can be separated into one of three categories – coaching clients, writing and publishing, and administrative stuff like checking my email, improving my website, etc.
There was more than enough time in the day to do each of those things, so here’s how I chunked it out: writing in the morning, coaching in the afternoon, and administrative work sprinkled between, as needed.
I had heard that real writers, proper writers, write in the morning. They write every day and always in the morning. It’s the creative process, the morning pages ritual, whatever you want to call it. If I wanted to be a real writer this is what I would do – write religiously first thing every morning and work with my clients in the afternoons.
Sounds good, right?
Except it didn’t work.
I wouldn’t really hit my writing stride until late morning, at which point I had to stop and switch into coaching mode. I tried very hard to make this work for about 10 months. My coaching sessions felt fantastic, but my writing was kind of…flat. Stuck. I was spinning my wheels.
Now I’m writing like a motherfucker, with a book ready to publish and enough weekly blog posts in the bank to take me through this time next year. I’m ON FIRE, writing-wise.
So what changed? My schedule, that’s what.
I’m a bit clunky when it comes to switching focus. It takes me a while to get in the zone with a task, and just as long to get out of it. If I’m knee-deep in a project it takes me a while to gear down. I have to force myself to take a lunch and to unplug at the end of the day. I like to go deep and stay there. I need long stretches of time to do one kind of thing. That’s how I do my best work.
It’s not overstating it to say that knowing this has changed my life and changed the way I run my business. I’ve finally mastered the art of creating the right work conditions for myself. Instead of breaking up my day into chunks of very different activities, I do one thing all day long. I see clients all day, or write all day, or do administrative work all day. That way I can go deep and stay in the zone, no matter which task I’m working on.
My client days are intimate and intense and action-packed and incredibly fulfilling. My writing days are chill and inspired with lots of time and no pressure. Green settings and beautiful spaces are often involved. Administrative days (there are fewer of these, thankfully) are spent in sweatpants, slogging it out from my MacBook at home. Coffee and jazz help me along.
When people ask what my typical workday is like, I’m half tempted to say, which one? I don’t have a typical workday. I have three.
I don’t know many people who split up their work like I do, which is probably why it took me so long to create my ideal schedule. I was doing what everybody else was doing instead of figuring out what was best for me.
Experimenting with different ways of splitting up my time and tasks was a real game changer for me and my work. It might be for you, too. If you don’t dig your work, maybe the problem is actually your schedule, not your job (or maybe it’s both).
Do you like to switch between a variety of tasks to keep things fresh? Or are you like me, and prefer to focus deeply on one thing for long stretches of time? Discovering your ideal arrangement for task switching could change EVERYTHING. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for your coworker or best friend, but it’s worth a little trial and error to find that sweet spot.
Published at Inc.