To live your perfect workday, first, you have to decide what the perfect day is for you.
The traditional saying, “The early bird catches the worm,” is thought to date back to the late 1600s, and that has been the norm in time management advice ever since.
Online advisers are proud to get up so early in the a.m., to sit right down to the computer, to churn out a day’s work — or at least a few hours’ worth — before they break to look at email. Then they return to the project at hand and stick with it unfailingly. Finally, they turn off their computer at the scheduled time — perhaps 5:00 — and shut the door for keeps until returning the next workday.
They have compartmentalized their lives between work and personal and are proud as punch of this accomplishment.
Over years of self-employment, primarily as a freelance writer, I have adopted an entirely different schedule that works for me. What others would call “bad habits” are my “success habits”.
If you start out your day resolving to do the most important work first but you somehow fail to follow through, this article is for you. (And if you are an early-to-rise person, go ahead and gloat.)
I have discovered that I have different types of energy at different times of the day. While I can adjust my preferences when the outside world demands it, I find that I am happiest and most productive when I honor my inner cycles.
In the early morning, I am usually energetic and creative, but somewhat unfocused. So I usually check for email and phone messages that require follow-up. Sometimes I read the newspaper over breakfast. I may walk outside or do the dishes or start laundry to give my mind space to create.
As the day proceeds and I settle down, I begin to tackle my highest-priority projects.
My most productive work is often in the evening, sometimes until midnight or even later. At that time my energy is just right for deskwork. Tasks that have been floating around in my head earlier in the day are now easily completed. As the phone quits ringing and life quiets down, I can move forward in my work most effectively.
This was especially true when my children were young. I did my best work when they were asleep at night. I adapted my schedule to theirs whenever possible.
Related Content: 8 Ways to Get Kids Napping Consistently so You Can Work More
Here are some tips for creating a schedule that fits your energy patterns:
1. Identify your responsibilities to others that take the highest priority.
Do you drive the kids to school? Pack lunches for family members? Start the crock pot hours before dinner? Work with children on homework after school? Some of these activities must be done at certain times. Schedule them first.
2. Determine which work activities must be completed during standard office hours.
If you work at home in certain jobs, perhaps your day hours are rigidly controlled by your work schedule. However, even if you have much more discretion in how you manage your day, certain activities, such as phoning work contacts or scheduling appointments, must be carried out between 9 and 5.
3. Schedule in networking, social events, classes, etc.
Choose events that fit your energy patterns as much as possible. For instance, I avoid breakfast meetings.
4. Notice how you tend to work and which activities you favor at different periods through the day.
Instead of beating yourself up for having the “wrong” patterns, respect these preferences in planning your time.
5. Get enough sleep.
The most important step in managing your energy efficiency is to have some energy to manage. When you sleep well, you work well and accomplish more in less time.
6. Take time to relax, even to veg out.
You deserve it and you’ve earned it!
Be your best friend and your best boss. You’ll enjoy self-employment more and be much more successful if you allow yourself the pleasure of adopting the best schedule for you.
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Diana Schneidman helps people who want to land well-paid freelance and consulting work quickly. Her publishing and coaching practice is named Stand Up 8 Times after a Japanese proverb: Fall down seven times, stand up eight. She walks her talk—she is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in the insurance and asset management industries at DianaWrites. Diana has restarted her dormant freelance practice several times after corporate terminations. Diana is the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.