How do you work?
Sounds like an odd question right? But there are many ways to work productively. For YEARS, literally years, I've been filling out my calendar with small time blocks for everything, including meals and work outs and specifics about what I should be doing at which times each day. That type of schedule always worked well for me when I worked a full time job. It helped me fit in all the meetings, all the social obligations, etc. But I've been noticing that it doesn't actually work for me now that I'm my own boss.
For at least the past three years, I've been religiously filling out my daily calendar and religiously failing to meet all the requirements I'd set for myself. There are a few exceptions obviously. I mean, the kids have to get taken to school and picked up, doctor's appointments and meetings must be attended. But the "work blocks" that said either "Design Knit" or "Writing/Blog" were rarely met. And for years I've been feeling guilty. Guilty! Guilty that I wasn't meeting the demands of a regular workday. Guilty that I wasn't getting stuff done. Except that I actually was.
For years I've been slower and seemingly unproductive in the winter, with my energy picking up for spring and fall and waning again in summer. I've always blamed this on maybe being a little down, or uninspired, or ill health, and sure there was some of that. But what I've discovered, when looking at what I've ACTUALLY accomplished during each season of the year, is that I AM getting stuff done. I AM being productive. It's just not the stuff that I tried to regulate myself to do on my calendar.
This realization was an epiphany. I am not lazy and unproductive half of the year, I'm simply in a cycle that mirrors nature. It's real. it's natural and it goes against everything you read about how to be productive, especially if you work from home.
For many of us, those systems, "write for 15 minutes a day", "schedule every workout on your calendar", etc. not only don't work, but they make us feel like failures BECAUSE they don't work for us. We aren't broken, we just need a different system.
So this new found freedom has given rise to a new system for me. My calendar is SO much more functional for me now. Of course there are still the non-negotiables. I still have to walk my son to school every day. I still have to pick him up every afternoon. There are still meetings and sports and piano lessons. BUT, now instead of having 1.5 hours for this and 2 hours for that, I have a solid block each weekday between 9:30 and 2 that simply says "Work Block". What do I do during these work block periods? I do whatever I'm called to do. Do I feel more like writing today or would I rather spend the day scouring, carding and spinning wool? Do I feel totally uninspired to blog but my camera and nature is calling to me? I can do what I actually feel called to do. I cannot explain how liberating this is.
When there are deadlines, like for an article or pattern, or a lecture, etc. I can prioritize those things. I still practice the "Top Three" technique wherein each morning I pick three things that I really need/want to get accomplished that day. If those things are really crucial, they get done, if not, I give myself the freedom to push them off to tomorrow.
I still need a driving set of goals and I still set up the main goals for the year as well as goals for each quarter, but these goals are living, breathing things. They are malleable and can change and grow. What is almost more important than the goals are the action steps that get me there. At the end of each quarter I look back at what I've accomplished and see what I need to push harder on, what I can pat myself on the back for, etc.
I love this new way of working. It is more authentic to who I am. And most excitingly, it removes the guilt.
So how do you work? Is your method working for you? Are you a cyclical person or can you address multiple large tasks in a day in segmented blocks? What kind of changes have you made over the past few years that has improved the way your work?