Here’s a great question I’ve gotten a bunch recently — it gets phrased different ways, like…
What would a daily schedule look like for me as an independent artist? – K.
How to complete things and avoid being overwhelmed? – J.
Should you focus on one goal or several? – Daddio
Help! How to plan so I’m not just responding to the urgent?! – C.
Guidance on sticking with one project while so many new ideas call for action – K.
Here’s my answer: I wonder if this is actually a problem for you.
Or to put it another way….
What result are you seeking that you are currently not getting?
The thing is, creative people have a lot of weird ways of getting things done. Ways that look completely bananas to the outside world. It’s like we’re the rheumy-eyed uncles who drink and smoke and say rude things and somehow end up living healthy as a horse until the age of 102. We’re an anomaly.
Not knowing the details of your work or your habitual pitfalls, it’s hard for me to give you specific advice, so I’ll just pull back the curtain and let you in on what I do:
I don’t really keep a regular schedule. I work when I want to work, or when it’s needful for me to work, and I goof off the rest of the time. I spend an inordinate amount of time learning, reading, listening to audios, and a shocking amount of time just having conversations with people I find interesting. I’m not very good about setting time limits or about “balance” in my life — whatever that’s supposed to mean.
I often go through long weeks when, much to my frustration, it seems like nothing is happening. In those times I remind myself that every field must lay fallow.
At other times I’m scheduled up to my eyeballs and I’m an absolute whirling dervish of productivity.
I pretty much always DO do the following:
– no electronics on Sundays
– no electronics in the bedroom
– generally I’m done by 7pm and then I’m off all night
– walk or swim every day
– meditate every day
– make a list each morning of the THREE things that MUST get done that day
– keep a running list of the bajillion of other things that need doing
– keep a “genius” folder for great ideas that I’m not ready to move forward on yet
I find that I work better when I have a few big projects going simultaneously. But “a few” meaning 3-5… not 12-30, you know?
Otherwise, I’ve learned to trust myself and to go with the flow. Some days I’m craz-zay-zee productive. Some days I go back to bed at 11am. Some days I write, some days I do the money stuff, some days I plan long-term, some days I putter and piddle the whole day away.
Now, I know a lot of very successful people who lead far more regimented lives than this, and I admire them.
And if you are NOT getting the results in your life that you want, well….you may want to try imposing some more structure on your day. BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW YOURSELF TO BE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO RESPONDS WELL TO STRUCTURE. You know what I mean?
But make sure you do it in the way that works for YOU. So if you’re all energetic in the morning, schedule your hardest tasks for then. Eat your broccoli first, as it were.
And if you know that you only write well without interruptions, then for heaven’s sake, turn off your phone when you sit down to compose.
So my message is this: Put Down The Whip.
You don’t need to be better than you are.
You’re a strange bird, and you’re going to have to surf your schedule in whatever way seems right to you.
My guess is you probably don’t have to work any harder than you do already, but you may have to learn to work smarter. And that may mean saying “no” to people who are time-sucks, turning your back on household tasks and keeping your focus on your highest-income producing activities.