I recently had a discussion with someone about figuring out your full time “schedule” of sorts and creating a routine that works for you. When I started I thought I had to maintain a 9-5 mentality, but in reality, that was a large portion of what I was trying to escape. See, my brain doesn’t quite work like that. The first few weeks of me trying to mimic those same ideas proved to be unrewarding, unproductive, and unmaintainable. That was a lesson I learned pretty quickly – yes, have a routine, but make sure it’s a routine that you can work with.
It’s definitely still a work in progress for me. My current living situation (moving in less than a month, woo!) forces me to work around other people’s schedules, which I find mildly annoying, but I’ve figured out what is best for right now and definitely have a plan for what will adapt when I move.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a morning person. I’m not. I have read so many articles and posts about how the early bird catches the worm and I should have six hundred things done before 7am. But before 7am? I’m a straight-up zombie. I’m gross – mean, slow, and foggy. I spent some time figuring out when my “power hours” are an adapted my schedule accordingly. That’s the point I want to make with this blog post – all those productivity tips only work if it actually works for you. Be self-aware and take notice of yourself and adapt a schedule that fits best with you. Are you worthless at 7am? Don’t schedule hard and thought-requiring tasks then. Are you falling asleep at 2pm? Schedule your daily walk or exercise then to pump yourself up. We all have these glorious ideas and thoughts about working for ourselves but then we fall into these regimented routines that don’t actually allow for our best selves to shine (and produce)!
First: Workout (Not Because I’m Awesome, But Because It’s Mindless)
My best day starts with me waking up around 7:00, but laying in bed for about 15 minutes just reviewing the day in my head. Sometimes I’ll check my phone, but usually I just lay there and just kind of think/doze (I hit the snooze button to make sure I don’t fall all the way back to sleep). I like this slow wake up because honestly, I don’t really want to wake up, so it makes it a little easier to digest. I’m completely worthless to do anything requiring heavy thought for a little while after waking up and I don’t really want to drink (re: be dependent) on coffee, so I choose to do my yoga routine instead. I recently joined a gym that includes yoga classes and they have a morning power yoga class everyday, which is awesome. I used to do this at home, but having the class is actually a lot better for me because it forces me to get up and do something and not “take the easy way out”. By the time the class is done I am much more awake and ready to tackle the day (and my roommates have cleared out so I don’t have to worry about our conflicting schedules).
Second: Inbox Tackle Numero Uno
I’ll do my morning “get ready” personal stuff and be ready to sit down and really work by 9:30-10:00am. My first task? Jump into my inbox. This is honestly a matter of “doing the hardest thing on your to do list first.” My inbox ranges from complete disaster and barely treading water most days. In my personal life I am the person who reads your text message, mentally responds, but doesn’t actually respond for three days. I have to make a serious effort to not do this in my business, because obviously that is not how a business should run. Something that I have learned helps me is to draft responses to emails the night before (when my brain is the sharpest, thanks Art School) and then send those out in the morning. It gives me a little pep in my email-step because I start my daunting task by already being ahead. So I navigate through my inbox, sort things, star things, respond to the simple ones, and formulate a to-do list based off of other ones. This takes about 30 minutes usually.
Ideally I’ll get to a place where I only check my inbox three times a day (morning, midday, and late afternoon). At this point I still have the tab open all day and get the alerts on my phone, which really isn’t the most productive. Something I do incorporate into my business practice that helps is designating days as “admin” days versus “client” days and so on. So I do check my inbox everyday, but I don’t make a point to actually clear it out/fix everything/respond to non-urgent emails unless it’s an “admin” day. If you struggle with focus and feel like swamped I definitely recommend creating a weekly schedule that balances admin work, client work, product/business work, and so on. It’s helped me immensely and let’s my mind turn off thinking about everything at once and focus on the day’s tasks.
Need help delineating daily tasks versus weekly tasks? Grab the worksheet below and start developing your ideal routine:
Third: Get Social
By now it’s about 10:30am. I’m generally hungry at this point so I’m on my first snack/breakfast (a banana if I’m not starving, eggs if I’m feeling like trying). I move onto social media. Social media used to consume my day. I’d sit on Twitter endlessly. The switch happened when I got too busy to function and social media was the first thing cut from my to do list. I don’t recommend that, at all, but it helped me break the feelings of “NEEDING to be there.”
For a while I attempted to buffer my whole week on Sunday or Monday, but that felt overwhelming and I would find excuses not to do it. Now I buffer my day out in the morning (sometimes going a few posts ahead into the next day). This might not be the most productive, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s what works for me - and that is the best kind of routine you can create.
In this thirty-minute block I am buffering for Twitter and Facebook, going through the daily Facebook Group posts I’m involved in, and pinning for about 10-15 minutes. I’ll hop on Pinterest again in the evening and check Facebook occasionally throughout the day (because I find a lot of clients there, so I like to scroll through and answer questions/be available).
The point of this post isn’t necessarily to tell you how you should schedule your morning, but more to help you realize the opportunities that exist when working from home/for yourself and that you can embrace a non-traditional schedule. Sure, I don’t get started until about 10am, but I also work later into the evening. I may work a half-day in the middle of the week if I need to schedule some sort of appointments or if I want to take a long lunch, but I also work some weekends and make up time then. Allowing that kind of flexibility into my life/schedule is a huge part of why I craved this sort of work and though it might have felt counterintuitive at first, I relish in the non-traditional now.
What sort of routine do you maintain? Let me know in the comments! If you need help setting up your own, sign up below and grab my Developing Your Ideal Routine Worksheet!