I’m self-employed. Like most self-employed people, motivating myself to actually work is a challenge. Balancing life with work is a challenge and so is being efficient. I’ve always felt that efficiency is one of the keys to a successful business. The key to making this thing work is to get maximum bang for your buck.
There are times of the day when I naturally feel like working, like in the morning before the phone starts ringing and other things begin to compete for my attention. There are times when I struggle to maintain focus, like right after lunch. These windows have moved around over the years, especially when I became a parent. I heard myself complaining to others that my mornings were consumed with getting our daughter ready for daycare which didn’t begun until 9am meaning my day started at 9:30, in the middle of my natural productivity window. By then there were usually several fires to put out and I felt pressed for time before we had to pick her up again, or I needed to go to a meeting or transition to another work location or project.
I’m trying something new in 2021. My daughter has started pre-K which means our mornings are shorter and I can get started as early as 8:30. Great, but more importantly, I’ve designated 8:30-10:30 as a time to get as much work done as possible. A morning sprint. I check my e-mails quickly, and create a prioritized To Do list for the morning. I push off e-mails that need long replies or research. I’ll allow myself to check the news for 5-10 minutes but no more and then I GET TO WORK. And because I know this is a sprint to 10:30, I know that I can get back to those e-mails or news stories then, when my morning sprint is over.
So far it’s working. When you work at home, all the little things you need to do around the house can distract you as well, especially when you’re thinking “I should do these now while the kids aren’t here to slow me down.” I’ve given myself permission to do some of those things from 10:30-12:30, which is also a time to make lunch and exercise. By giving myself time to do household chores, I can stay on top of them, meaning some days there aren’t many to do, giving me another slot of time for work or projects. If I need to leave the house to run errands, I group those tasks together with another list and do them after lunch, ideally at the “end” of my work day right before my daughter gets home.
7:00 – 8:30 Morning routine, get daughter to school
8:30 – 10:30 Morning Sprint
10:30 – 12:30 Chores, Lunch, Exercise
12:30 – 1:30 Project
1:30 – 3:00 Errands or Afternoon Sprint
3:00 – 4:30 Pick up daughter, playtime, chores.
4:30 – 6:00 Family Time, cook.
6:00 – 8:30 Dinner, Bedtime routine, clean-up
8:30 – 10:30 Couple time, relax
This is just a framework, but I’m oddly excited by the new schedule, I think because it’s working. By focusing on my naturally productive times and giving myself permission to not work when I don’t feel like it, I’m getting more done and feeling better about it too.