No matter your age, as soon as summer hits, it’s like “School’s Out for Summer” becomes your personal theme song. You envision yourself running out of the office – wherever that might be these days – in slow motion, throwing papers into the air and your arms around your friends.
For many of us, summer is associated with deserved downtime, sunkissed skin, working from the closest pool or beach chair, and more ‘seltzers’ than you care to admit. If you’re like us, you find yourself quickly slip-sliding right out of your typical routine.
It’s ok to embrace the laid-back summer vibes. Most freelancers agree that “flexibility” is the biggest perk of being your own boss. But as the kids head back to school and the cooler weather approaches, it’s a good time to get back to a more standard schedule.
The benefits of having a routine
Generally speaking, a daily routine supports physical and mental health. Research reveals that having a regular routine helps you form healthy habits, such as consistent exercise, and gives you a sense of control, which may lead to lower anxiety and stress levels.
Routine also fosters organization and improves focus. A common trap we’ve seen, for new freelancers especially, is lack of structure, constantly switching between dozens of apps and tasks without really getting anything done. (We also know how easy it is to get sucked into crossing off daily chores and binge-watching every season of Stranger Things.) Before you know it, the work day is over. Establishing set times for work and set times for breaks helps limit distractions and boosts productivity.
“Having a daily routine and regular habits… allows workers to spend less cognitive energy on recurring tasks, which can support focus and creativity for more complex tasks.” In other words, structure actually gives you freedom to be more creative and innovative, which is especially important when you’re running your own business.
Three suggested ways to structure your days
Time Blocking. A time management system that breaks up your day into blocks of time that are focused on a specific task, or set of tasks, instead of starting your day with a simple to-do list. “With days that are time blocked in advance, you won’t have to constantly make choices about what to focus on.” Read more about time blocking, task batching, and day theming here.
Rounds. A way of thinking about your schedule in smaller ‘rounds’ rather than an entire day. You might have a morning round, afternoon round, and/or evening round, depending on your other commitments. The beauty of this mindset is that your work hours can easily shift when they need to in order to accommodate a morning doctor’s appointment or mid-afternoon lunch date. Read more ideas about structuring time for work and self here.
The Eisenhower Matrix. A time management tool that forces you to decide which tasks are urgent and need to be prioritized, which are important but can be delegated, and which can be addressed later, if at all. This system helps you unload your plate – learn how to use it here.
How to establish a routine that works for you
While all of the above are great ways to set up your day, they are just suggestions. The real flexibility freelance offers is ownership over your time. You can structure your work day around other responsibilities and according to your preferences. Here are some tips to help you create a daily routine that will work for YOU:
- Make a list of all the things you need to do each day. This would include responsibilities as a caregiver, home owner/renter, and business owner.
- Outline your ideal day and add at least 2 things to your list that you can actually do right now.
- Create a schedule that includes it all.
- Write down your schedule and post it somewhere you’ll see it everyday.
- Stick to it like peanut butter on a puppy’s nose.
It’s likely to feel like a giant jigsaw puzzle and may require several drafts to get it right. But keep going! It’s ok to give a schedule a trial run for a few weeks and revise it as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Though we hate to see the season end, it’s time to get back to your regularly scheduled programming. Until next summer.
If you haven’t yet signed up for The Inkling, our monthly newsletter offering tips and resources like this, sign up here.
- The Fractional Me – a look at what it takes to be a caregiver and a professional.
- Ideal Day Exercise: Turning your Ideal into your Real – why it’s important to pay attention to the small details that lead to the life you want to live.
- Ideal Day Worksheet – downloadable worksheet to walk you through an audit of your current day to compare to your ideal day.