Part of “A Very Valuable Series” — SELF DETERMINATION
One of the hardest things about working from home is maintaining focus. I am not complaining. Working from home is the dream. I flush with pride while dropping “work from home” in casual conversation with colleagues. I feel like a G when I say it. Jealousy, envy, swoons, daggers, you name it. People want my life.
And it’s blissful. Making my own hours, pants optional dress-code, limited human contact (an introverts paradise), no boss. But that’s the thing. How can I be motivated and self-determined when I don’t have to wake up early, when I don’t have to wear pants?
And thus began my quest to get some semblance of a routine going. Truth be told, I only wrote this because my dearest friend Sheniz was telling me that this system was inspiring. Personally I think it’s just a mechanism in my brain that makes me not be a lazy person and watch Netflix all day long. I’ve test-driven many-a-systems proposed by many-a-successful entrepreneurs. They don’t work for me. And this may not work for you. But the method I use rocks my socks and I’ve been sticking with it for about 2–3 years now. It goes as follows:
Monday: Swallow the Frog
Tuesday: Productivus Maximus
Wednesday: Whitney Wellness (Writing) Day
Thursday: Social Media Day
Friday: Social Meeting People Day
Sunday: Check Yo’ Self, Reflect On Self
MONDAY — whatever you’ve been avoiding and dodging, that one task that is the most unpleasant thing to do — do it! Swallow that frog WHOLE. No excuses, no distractions, no procrastination. Once I’ve identified the frog (usually decided on the Sunday night before) I do it, and that’s all I’m obligated to do. I’m done.
The reverse psychology behind this method is that I feel like such a boss-lady after I’ve completed my near-impossible task that I end up going on a productivity rampage! Or I pass out from the utter exhaustion. Either way, I’ve given myself permission to call it quits with just one task. I usually don’t. I level up! Momentum and mind games on a Monday.
And for this to work, the frog has to be something I’ve been avoiding, otherwise it won’t be effective. It’d be more like swallowing a slug or a worm. FROG. Worts and all.
TUESDAY is Productivus Maxiumus. I tend to clear my Tuesdays unless there is something exceptionally urgent happening. I have a problem with TO-DO lists, like most people, because things don’t get done. But I love to make the lists. Solution? The Sunday night I make my list and let it sit the Monday.
Tuesday I’m on.
All my meals are made, my tokens are all bought in advance, my clothes are lined up the night before. I even get my tea bag in my favourite mug already on the table, the kettle already filled with water. I “automate” my life-ing, so I can streamline everything and give all my energy to the work. To get to the maximus, all time-consuming decision-making must be eliminated.
And know well in advance, you will never finish that list. Ever. Like Tetris, you may get a high score but one way or another, that screen will be full of blocks. It’s less about completion and more about how long you can go before you topple over and die. On a good Tuesday, I can work until 8pm with two healthy breaks in between. A great Tuesday, midnight. Maximus!
WEDNESDAY is Whitney Wellness Day. I only work half day, usually offsite at a cafe or library. After the high productivity of Monday and Tuesday I chill out. This means sleeping in, pleasure reading, visiting to a used bookstore, watching a documentary, calling a friend and FOOT SOAKS. Hot damn, there is nothing on the planet better than a good foot soaking. Am I right? Whatever self-care looks like in that moment, I do it. I fall into it. I feel no guilt. None.
By lunch, I eat a solid healthy meal and then in the PM I’m out the door and finish up whatever is left on that godforsaken list from the day before. On the rare event the list is complete, the day transforms into Writing Wednesday and I work on my novel peacefully.
THURSDAY is Social Media Day. All blog posts (including this one) tweets, Facebook event page updates, Google Analytics collection gets done. Website updates, neglected emails, newsletter templates, graphics all Thursday work. Loads of screen time interspersed with yoga and dance breaks. If by some miracles that it all gets done, I usually do a Binder Clean Up (more on this next post) or finish any Productivus Maximus tasks. I also schedule meetings on Thursdays. I think of it as Productivus Maximus LITE.
FRIDAY, after four blissful days of glorious solitude, I put on pants (sometimes for the first time all week) and go into the world.
I mean…hello world!
Fridays I book all my meetings if I can help it (phone, Skype, face-to-face) and in the evening if I don’t have a gig, I try to get out to an event or show if only to network. Packing two pockets full of business cards (in the pants I finally put on) I’ll go to poetry readings, art exhibits, anthology launches, 80s parties, anything so long as I’m meeting new people.
This can sometimes be the hardest day of the week for introverted Frenchie. But I make myself do it. Sometimes we lose sight of the importance of socializing for your mental health but also for the growth of your business. Do it I must.
SATURDAY! Ah! A favourite among many. Usually while other people are sleeping in, I am working. HARD. I almost never have any authority over what my Saturdays look like. Saturdays are dictators. Between zine fairs, poetry busking, weekend conferences and creative writing workshops, nine times out of ten, I’m doing a gig Saturday. The rare time I’m not, its life-ing time. Doing laundry, buying groceries, seeing friends, Being a person (a real person) But that almost never happens. My Saturdays are 9-to-5ers’ Monday.
And then there’s SUNDAY, which is Check Yo’ Self, Reflect on Self.
I purposefully (if I’m not working a weekend gig) don’t do any income-generating tasks, rather, I reflect on my work for the week. I clean up my binder, make my Tuesday list, identify my frogs, take stock of my office supplies, check and review social media stats, while listening to records or cool podcasts. Another chill day.
I also have a business journal that I write in faithfully once a week. Usually I scribble reflections on the direction I’m going (or not going), new workshop ideas, product development, modifications to my business plan etc. This day is the newest addition to my routine and so far it’s one of my favourites. I get to cultivate my visioning spirit. I get excited and get grounded. These are the days that remind me what’s really important about what I’m doing. I highly suggest, whether you are just a kernel small biz juggling full-time work or deeply invested in your self-made business, CYS/ROS is beyond helpful.
People say consistency is key but in my line of work, when appointments, workshops and gigs can pop-up and drop off at a hat, I can’t use this every week. If I’m not gigging I can stay the course but my life is far from consistent. Three weeks may pass and I don’t Productivus Maximus once. If a gig requires that I work five Mondays in a row, the frogs pile up. Also, I am guilty of swapping days. Especially for friends and family, I could make Friday Social Media and swallow frogs on a Tuesday instead.
All this to say, this method works for me because its flexible as anything. I was determined in my self to get motivated to a work and stick to a routine but its not exactly written in stone. Maybe it’s successful because its a hodgepodge of other ideas I’ve read online and highlights patterns about myself as a person (alone time, self care, balanced with high-energy productive days).
Also I have drawings of animated frogs and silly acronyms that make me feel cool, so this system is personalized for me. My brain seeks variety; I couldn’t do the exact same thing everyday. That’s a big reason why I started working for myself in the first place. The self-determined scheduling breaks up the monotony of working from home. And even when I had a salary job, I worked 3 days a week and my two days off I focused on Whitney French Writes and crammed one day for Swallowing the Frog followed by Self Care and the other was Productivus Maximum and Social Media. You make it work.
I’d love to hear what strategies you use, whether you work from home, offsite or one the man’s dime. How do you determine the style in which you work? Hopefully this helps those trying to find their balance.
Until next time, over and out!