One of the things many of us realized, when forced to work remotely, is that our energy levels don’t always fit into the hours we are told to work. We also realized how much time is wasted in a commute, and how much time is frittered away at the office.
If someone prefers to work in the office, by all means, they should be able so to do.
But for those of us who are more productive, efficient, and focused working from home, we should also be able so to do.
Between the pandemic, the move, trying to get back on my feet after the multiple surgeries, and the fact that I am now older than I ever expected to be, my energy flows differently.
In order to do the best work for my clients within the deadline parameters, I found I need to adjust how and when I work, so that when I work, it’s high quality. Being a freelancer helps with that, because as a freelancer, I decide which hours I work on which projects.
(As an aside, let me emphasize again that being a “full-time freelancer” means you are putting in full-time hours for a variety of clients, and those hours are when YOU chose. If you are “full-time freelancing” for a single company, it means you allow them to take advantage of you, by making you work fulltime hours without benefits).
Back to the topic: I do my best creative work early in the day. I do my best critical work later in the day.
That means that I do my first 1K of the day on fiction or scripts as early as I can hit the desk. It means if I’m writing an article or a blog post or creating copy, most of the time, I will write it in the morning, and revise it later in the day.
If I’m stuck in morning meetings with clients, that means I don’t create until the following day. If I’m pushed to create same day, it’s going to have to be massively reworked the next day. If the material from the meeting is left to percolate while I do other tasks, I can create the next morning, and it needs much less revision.
I try to limit meetings anyway, to a small number per week (and if the slots are filled by the time you want a meeting, you get pushed to next week). Work isn’t done in meetings; it gets done in spite of meetings.
Afternoons are best for revisions. It’s creative, but it’s a different kind of creativity. Can I write in the afternoons? Yes, especially if it’s been a creative morning on other writing, or on research that fuels the creation. But, in general, the critical portion of my mind steps forward in the afternoon. I am more likely to catch the overused phrase, the typo, the incorrect name. Shaping, honing, sharpening works better for me in the afternoons. If critical reading with comments need to happen, it’s better for me to do them in the afternoon. Or I’ll read and take notes, and then write it up and fact-check the next day.
Different days have different demands, so I don’t force myself into a strict schedule. But I’ve noticed, over the past months, what types of work happen more easily and more creatively in which time periods. I adjust my schedule as much as possible to accommodate that.
Because when I’m working, I want it to be high quality. I don’t want to be resisting because it’s something that my brain veers away from at that point. I want to place the work when the energy is best suited to it, and still get it done on time and on budget.
By allowing myself to flow more, I get more done, and at a higher quality.
For me, that also means not having a detailed “To Do” list. I know loosely where I need to be on what each day, each week, each month. Instead of deciding that from 9-9:15 I will work on X, and from 9:15-9:30, I will work on Y, I decide I’ll start with X. X is going well, and hits the stopping point, so I stand up, make another cup of tea, and flow to Y. Y sputtered a bit, but I got what I needed to for this point in the process, so I can put it aside to percolate, and then work on Z, which I didn’t even plan to get done.
On the other hand, if I’d boxed myself in starting X at 9 and finishing at 9:15, I would have stared at it resentfully until 9:12, and then, by 10, I’d have had something done, but wouldn’t be happy with it.
It wasn’t always that way; in earlier days, I could drop down into whatever project was next on the list, pound it out within the time frame, and move on to the next until I fell off the chair from exhaustion. But I’m older, hopefully wiser, and not willing to work myself into the ground like that anymore. It doesn’t create better work. It’s more likely to create burnout.
Everyone has a different process, and processes evolve as we do. If strict schedules work for you, by all means, create one and stick to it. But, if you’ve been struggling and feeling chained lately, try placement flow, and see if that helps you focus and keeps you engaged and energized.