But that freedom can also present challenges. Distractions abound. Everywhere I look are pitfalls: dirty dishes, laundry, yard work, cooking, cleaning, the dog, the TV, you name it.
That's why I find having a routine extremely helpful; it keeps me focused on work and factors in time for the non-work activities I also want to accomplish daily. Without a routine, I'd be totally unbalanced and my work would suffer as a result.
Sure, there's some leeway every now and again. Sometimes I sleep in when I need a few extra Zzzs, for instance. There are also doctor's appointments, vet appointments and the occasional story that requires me to write from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and beyond. Sometimes, I travel for on-site reporting. Most weeks, things like grocery shopping are better left to 8 a.m. on a Monday morning than during the Sunday rush. On the flip side, I often take conference calls at night with clients in different time zones.
Flexibility is key but so is a daily framework.
Here's what usually works for me:
6-6:30 a.m.: Get up, feed the dog, eat breakfast / make coffee and straighten up the house I'm a pretty big neat freak, so the house has to be totally in order before I can focus on anything else. I blame/thank my Aunt Charlotte for this. The trait lives on!
7 a.m.: Begin work. Work until approx. 12 p.m. I tackle correspondence, blogging and social media posts first, then move on to writing, transcribing or researching. I do the bulk of my "brain work" (work requiring serious thinking) during this time. I think best in the morning, especially with coffee in hand.
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.: Lunch / walk dog
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.: Work out (usually running or weight lifting or both)
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.: Shower / regroup
3 p.m.: Resume work. Work until approx. 5:30 p.m. I love my long mid-afternoon break. It allows me to get outside, breathe deeply and refresh. I come back totally renewed and ready for the home stretch. Also, I'm much more physically motivated during the middle hours of the day whereas my brain pretty much refuses to think during that time.
When I get back to my computer for my last two hours of work, I typically handle activities that are less creatively demanding such as setting up meetings, listing tasks for the following day or transcribing interviews.
And that's it! A recent study showed that the average office worker wastes more than one-third of each day. So, with this routine, I figure I actually make out pretty well as far as productivity is concerned. I also find that six hours worth of actual hands-on work is about what I need to average in order to reach my professional goals.
How about you? What does your daily routine look like? What are your secrets to staying motivated and minimizing distraction? Leave a reply in the comments section.