It’s midnight and I’m scrolling through the same posts on Facebook as I have been all evening. I’m up late because I get my best work done at night, but in reality I just read pointless social media content repeatedly because I don’t want to miss anything and getting up to do my “before bed routine” feels like a chore.
That was me. That’s probably you, too. Once you’re willing to admit “I work best late at night” was a phase you went through as a teenager and is now a poor attempt to make yourself feel better, I have a real work-pattern that’s worth trying. It’s been working wonders for me both personally and professionally. I should note that I am currently working from home; this isn’t suitable for your average 9-5.
Grab yourself a pen and paper. Write out your to-do list for tomorrow. Make sure each “task” is small and manageable; anything too big and you’re more likely to avoid that task, drag it on or even stop halfway through. Break down bigger tasks if need be. Your to-do list should ideally contain 5 crucial tasks that, when complete, would make tomorrow a “success”.
Now however long you think those tasks should take; you’re wrong. Assign each task a single hour. The task you want to do least comes first, and that task begins at 07:00 tomorrow morning. Getting these mundane tasks out of the way early gives us a positive outlook on the rest of the day and also wipes out the option of pushing it to the next day because we’ve “already done enough”. Order your remaining tasks for each hour increment for the rest of the day. Your to-do list should wrap up somewhere around 13:00.
This planning activity should take place every evening, before you get into bed but after you’ve had time to reflect on the day and know where you are with your current project and what steps are required to progress.
The idea behind this schedule is to have all your tasks finished around lunch time. The rest of the day is then yours to explore, experiment, adventure and create. Personal projects are something you no longer feel guilty about because you genuinely DON’T have something important you should be doing. Going outside and ditching the technology becomes a real possibility. Relaxation can come naturally, rather than being a forced experience that leaves you feeling more on-edge than before. You see more, do more and achieve more.
“But the reason I avoid a 9-5 job is so that I can get up whenever I want!”
There’s something very satisfying about starting work early. It motivates me to make the day count. Diving straight in and avoiding the internet for as long as I can also means I get the horrible tasks done a lot faster than I was dreading. A strong start can mean you’re a few tasks clear by the time most people are just sitting down at their workstation. What a great feeling.
Of course there are the other days. The “I don’t have to get up early, so I won’t” days. They decrease drastically over time. The more successful days you have, the more driven you become to continue the trend. It stops feeling like something you’re actively trying to do and becomes the norm… but I’ll admit slip-ups happen to begin with. It’s fine as long as you don’t let it happen consecutively. Getting enough rest is incredibly important to the Done By One system, so I recommend reading It All Starts With Sleep by my old university coursemate Sam Billingham and moulding that information around yourself and your goals.
This schedule has given me the freedom to tinker with my own ideas a lot more. Following a vision is no longer a risk, it’s an experiment; if it doesn’t work I can happily drop it and move on because it was FREE time. I have more time available to see beautiful things, to socialise in the real-world instead of online and to read more books.
Real free time gives you freedom.