maggie’s dream report: week fifteen

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Establishing a routine

One of the things I looked forward to the most about leaving my 8-5 job was having the freedom to do whatever I wanted during the day. Due to a very limited public transit schedule, I was on a very punctual (and not at all convenient) time table, lacking free time to do much but pre-scheduled outings with friends and work on the business and blog. I’d given up attempts to exercise because I couldn’t find the time in my schedule.

When I was still working and dreaming of entrepreneurship I listed all kinds of activities as part of my “ideal day”. Do yoga, eat healthy meals, meetings where I’d collaborate with other creatives, couple-time with Ryan, time spent in the garden, business work, and lots of design work and playing at the Design Center. I think I even did a Dream Report several weeks ago where I talked about motivation and what my normal day was like.

Three months in, I’m still struggling to find a routine that works for me. I know it’s a partial trial-and-error process, but I’m getting frustrated with days that fly by and I still haven’t written a blog post, done laundry, or exercised. Where does the time go? How am I spending it?

I will admit that I think the initial joy of not being “at work” caused the rebel in me to flare up just a bit. Knowing I could do whatever I want led to sleeping a little later than I’d intended, getting distracted by Twitter and Pinterest, and other internet tools that I MEANT to use productively. But lately it’s more that I’m stuck in a routine of NOT having a routine. Sleeping in later than I want, getting sucked in by blogs or catching up on my own, tackling design work, eating breakfast at 11 and lunch at 3, working on marketing ideas or other projects that don’t “show” right away, then realizing it’s almost 5 and I haven’t had the slightest thought about dinner for when Ryan gets home and the apartment is a disaster from starting a project at 2:45 before realizing I was ravenous. After dinner and feeling crappy when Ryan starts cleaning after HIS long day at work, I’m an insomniac until 2 or 3 am. I can’t seem to catch up or get ahead.

Luckily I do think that this is something that can be remedied pretty easily, at least with a plan of action. Part of my floundering is because there isn’t a plan in place. Not saying I’ll always stick to the plan exactly, but I’ll either be able to recognize when I’m steering off course, or know that I’m altering the plan for a particular reason.

This is something I’ll be tackling in the next week. Identifying my priorities, satisfying my need for some structure, even setting specific time benchmarks (such as “If it is 9:30 and I haven’t had breakfast, I’ll eat it now.”). I know from working with Michelle, my life coach, last year that it helps me to set timers to focus on a given task. I think sometimes realizing just how MUCH I have to do to accomplish all I want is so overwhelming that I sit and do nothing or I distract myself (with something like Pinterest). Setting a timer that means I’ll only focus on this for fifteen minutes, then I can move on if I need to, keeps me from feeling that panicky “It’ll never all get done” and drifting off to Twitter.

As far as my sleeping habits go, well, I just either need to embrace the night owl (even as a kid I’d stay up into the wee hours and don’t get me started on my college years!) and make those hours productive, or force myself into a slightly more reasonable sleep schedule. I’m never going to be awake at 6 am and asleep at 9:30 but being up by 8 should not be a chore! And if a barista is getting up to go to work, I probably shouldn’t still be awake! (I could probably do a whole post on insomnia).

Entrepreneurs, do you keep a pretty regular schedule? Are you a night owl? Do you use a timer or other “trick” to keep on task during the day? Would love to hear! Wish me luck! I’ll report back next week on how my routine is going ; )

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Alana of SPARKLE

    What probably makes this more difficult is that design is a field where no two days are the same, which makes it tougher to establish a routine. However, it is important to come up with a basic routine that can be changed and/or flexed as needed. Maybe wake up an hour earlier so you can exercise before your day gets away from you. (Preaching to the choir on this one – I so need to do this!) Maybe devote the first few hours of work to blog/social media/paperwork (“officy stuff”) and afternoons/evenings to client meetings and design work.

    Best of luck to you!

  2. kelsey williams

    I am not working from home (yet), but this is my biggest fear of making the transition. Thanks for your honesty!

  3. Sarah

    Something that might help is setting specific priorities, like you said, based on your most productive times of the day. If you are at your creative best in the afternoon, make that the time you sit down and to design work. Or if you are too easily sucked in to email and social media first thing, maybe plan the night before and have something non-computer oriented out and ready to go for a project the next day to get you in the flow of things (like having a sketchbook and pencils/pens out to brainstorm, etc.). I know sitting right down to the computer to check my email in the morning wastes my most alert and productive hours of the day…

  4. Maddie

    Maggie, I love your honesty here. One tool I’ve discovered to fight procrastination is this application called Freedom…it blocks your Internet access (they might make a version that just blocks social media sites, too) for a specified amount of time. It was like $10, I think? Might be worth it to you, too!

  5. Lindsay

    It’s funny this was your topic this week, I just panicked over this yesterday. I even went home early, so I decided to write out every thing I was trying to get done with deadline dates, realistic ones. Estimated how many hours I thought they would take and went from there. Then I made a schedule on a calendar for when I would work on each. Including exercise, cooking dinner, and relationship time….I’ve been slacking in those areas lately. This helped ease my anxiety a little. Now if I can only stick with it

  6. Virginia

    I was the same way this summer, my first summer off as a librarian. I’m GREAT at writing up schedules and plans and ignoring them completely and wondering “what have I been doing all day??”

    If you’re like me, I recommend these books, with the awesomest at the top:

    “The Artist’s Way” – go-to book for creatives. Changed my life a little bit.

    “The Now Habit” – best book from my research on procrastination and motivation.

    “100 Ways to Motivate Yourself” – sure to find a few that click with you.

    “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Success”

  7. Erin

    Loved your honesty; I struggle with the same things. I always wonder how work-from-home ppl and SAHMs handle their schedules and to-do lists. I also get lost in the internet when I feel overwhelmed. I think my biggest mistakes are underestimating how much time tasks take (even eating lunch) and overestimating how many different things I can do in day – these two always lead to end-of-the-day guilt – which induces insomnia.

  8. Jenny

    When I first started working from home a few years ago (now I’m back at it) I had the same problems – I was all over the place until I came up with a routine. What I did was I woke up just like I was going into an office – which I was, just that this office was in my house – allowed myself the time to hit the gym in the morning, and then headed home to work. Treat it like a “regular job”. I’m in a creative field too where days are so different, but I require some form of structure to stay on task. Act like there is someone watching you and keeping track of your activities. That sounds weird, but when I did that I was more accountable and responsible and less likely to surf the day away. Have a loose “schedule” of what you need to do each day. Also helps to have a good radio station, podcast, music, whatever to keep you company during the mindless or unpleasant parts of the job – lol! I hope I’m making sense and don’t sound like a crazy person :o)

  9. Marianne

    I see a lot of myself and my habits in your post. Being a night owl all my life, I embraced it when I first started working from home. I stayed up pretty late because that’s when my creativity was highest. But I didn’t beat myself up about it because I got a lot done. Usually I’m a very disciplined person as far as time management goes, but lately I’ve started staying up late to do fun things like play with my iPad, and then I always wind up sleeping in too late like you. My friend Leslie calls it ‘time creep’. So this week I’m going to force myself back on a more normal schedule like the previous poster Jenny mentioned. I like structure too, so making to do lists and timetables will help reinforce that this is in fact a real job and I should treat it like one:)

  10. Mr. Lively

    I always love hearing about other people that struggle with mornings. It makes me feel a bit better about my daily struggle with getting up. I remember times in college where my sleep schedule would get so far off track I would pick a night to not sleep and force myself to stay up until a good bedtime the next night. Not surprisingly, this didn’t work very well. Thanks for sharing this, we’re not perfect, but we’re getting better. I just try be patient in the morning and realize that cloudy haze I wake up in fades quickly (coffee helps).
    Staying on task at work became a lot easier when I was doing things I was invested in, proud of, and happy with. Part of that is not being harsh on myself when I have a less productive day and making sure that everyday I do SOMETHING. Literally, I can be happy knowing I did one thing that day as long as it aligns with my long term vision. What am I trying to do accomplish? Did I get closer to that today? Yes? Today’s a good day. We’ve all had jobs where the answer was a resounding ‘no’ every day, so I’m happy to get a yes, no matter how small.
    Thanks for this post, it resonated with me in a big way.

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