Do you need to change the structure and flow of your day? I did.

Now that I’m responsible for determining the details of my work, it’s on me to decide the structure of my day. I’ve thought about this for a long time. It’s not going to be standard. I hope it works.

Getting Going

I like to keep physically active, and I’ve figured out that at my age, I really need to get about 8 hours sleep in order to recover reasonably well. This means going to bed around ten most nights. Typically, I wake up sometime between five and six in the morning. I’ll start by saying that I’m not a morning person. But for more than 34 years, I’ve been married to one. Gradually, I’ve learned to adapt. And besides, ingrained tendencies aren’t a good enough reason to avoid change, especially when change is necessary. The old saying is that “the early bird catches the worm.” Well, the early bird can have it. I might wake up early, but the only thing I’ll try to catch for the next two hours is a greater focus on my morning ritual. This includes most importantly, stretching, a real sit-down breakfast, and during the season, tending to my garden. If the weather’s not terrible, my dog Jack and I usually will go for a walk. This early morning ritual is very important to me.

One key reason I can usually fit in my morning ritual is because I’ve always been very intentional about limiting optional time sinks, which for me means commuting time. There’s two reasons for this: First, I don’t like to drive, so I’ve focused on living within bicycle distance or a short bus ride from wherever I’ve worked. Second, when we were looking for our house, we did so with the intention of searching in the most centrally-located place we could afford, building our lives around that place, and not moving. We also decided to trade land area, and greater house square footage for much less space than is common now. The result is most days I realize the time advantages of opting to live with a two-mile radius of the vast majority of goods and services I’ll ever need.

Morning

My goal is start working at 8am. The time from 8am until noon is reserved for focusing on the creative aspects of the business. During this time, I’m at my creative best, so I want to make sure I don’t use these hours on something more operational. These morning hours are great for projects in the early stages of development when insightful sparks can make a huge difference in the ultimate direction, feel, and flavor of an idea. Keeping this focus isn’t always easy, since the connected world we live in is efficient at always finding a way to intrude. I try to stay keep focus in this part of my day by working to a soundtrack from my music collection. I find the music helps me stay above some of the little distractions, and depending on what I’m listening to, sets a mood that I find helpful when working freely is called for.

Mid-day Pause

At noon, I start my favorite time of the day, a mid-day, two hour pause. During this time I stop working, and I’ve scheduled all of my electronic devices to switch into do not disturb mode. For the next two hours I’m free to do whatever I feel like, so long as it’s not work. It’s funny, but after almost four decades working in the traditional American culture, keeping this pause entirely work free has proven quite challenging. Frequently, I find myself working past noon or clock watching for 2pm. Slowly, I’m starting to adapt. I’ve learned much prefer doing workouts later in the day than first thing in the morning like I’ve done for years. So, this time is great for a run or bike ride, a yoga session, or maybe taking Jack out again. Whatever allows me to clear my head. It’s amazing how frequently solutions or sparks of creativity flow out of this mental pause too. I’ll usually eat something during this break.

Afternoon

At 2pm, I get back to business. And for the next four or five hours I’ll work on projects that are more advanced in their development, and take care of ongoing business operational tasks, like budgeting, checking email, general communications, and handling things related to the website. Limiting email checking to only the afternoon takes real commitment for me. I never really noticed how much of a habit I had developed around mindlessly checking my email. I don’t really do social media, so thankfully I’ve no need to devote any time to that. Most important is remembering to shut things down before it gets too late.

Evening

Kel usually finishes her day around 6pm, so the remainder of the evening is dedicated to family time, and doing something like reading, listening to music or engaging in one of my many hobbies. Around nine, I’ll start getting ready for bed. Recently, I’ve become very consistent with reading during this last waking hour. I like a mixture of non-fiction and fiction, and I get a lot of ideas during this time. I make sure to write down the good or challenging ones. And have been trying to stick with paper instead of digital since I’ve learned about the negative impacts of ultra-violet light on quality sleep. Before bed, I’ll make sure to do another stretching session. Occasionally, I get lazy about this, and when I do, I feel it the next day.

While the details of each day with surely change, the basic structure won’t. I’ve always wanted my day to flow like this, and now that I’m more in control of my time, it’s starting to feel like me. My goal is to keep this going for at least a year, and see if it makes a difference in my work and health. If you have the opportunity, I encourage you consider re-thinking the flow of your own day too, rather than sticking with a century-old model that is anachronistic for so many now. I hope my example helps you think about how you could rethink your own day, and motivates you to consider what best aligns with what’s most important to you.

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