How to schedule your day to get shit done
In today's episode, we're going to go super practical, I want to talk about how you should schedule your days. So a nice step away from the holistic stuff for today's episode.
Read on for the full transcription or listen to the podcast episode here
Okay, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking - Alex, how on earth are you going to be able to schedule my day? You have no idea what my day looks like, what my life looks like, what my responsibilities and commitments are. And that's true. That's very true. This is a subject where, of course, I'm not going to be able t, as much as I would love to, because I do love organising and scheduling things for people. And that's the producer side of my brain working there at the same time. Yeah, I'm not going to be able to do that for every single person, but what I can do is share with you the two key concepts that I structure, my scheduling around. And these two concepts have basically transformed my work life balance. They've transformed my relationship with my work, it's kind of like a system that has gotten me into such a better headspace with the work that I do.
So concept number one is time blocking. Any Tim Ferriss fans out there will already know what I'm about to talk about. The reason why this is really helpful is because it doesn't really matter when or what time you work, or if you do shorter days or longer days, or if your day is broken up by childcare, or
maybe a side hustle or whatever it is, it doesn't really matter. The concept of time blocking is really, really helpful regardless of the situation you're in. So the concept quite simply is exactly what it sounds like. It's true. Structuring your day, in blocks of time. So let me give you a bit of insight.
So my current schedule, and I've got three pretty big projects on at the moment. And plus, obviously doing the podcast and so the way I structure my day is:
I will have a set two hours in the morning. This is from the moment I wake up to the moment I have breakfast. I'm not like a massive breakfast person so like I'm quite comfortable to go a couple of hours in the morning without eating.I have a block of two hours, which is all about me putting me first, putting my mental health, my physical health, everything. Putting all of that first (and this has taken me years to get to the point where I realised that this is what I need) in the morning because I was absolutely the kind of person that used to wake up, look at my phone, start replying to emails, start replying to texts, and that I've realised now that that was just a horrific way to start the day because automatically you're in defence mode, you're in reactivity mode. So now what I do that first two hours,I grab a coffee and I go for my morning walk morning walk which will probably last anywhere between half an hour and an hour depending on what podcast I'm listening to. I always listen to something that gets me in the right headspace. Or I'll use this opportunity to listen to some voice notes from my friends or maybe have a bit of back and forth with them. It depends what kind of mood I wake up. If I'm a gremlin, and I need just some stimulus and some positivity in my life, I will usually put on a podcast or a YouTube video that is inspirational or motivational or something in the realm of business just to get me in that right headspace. If I've woken up and I'm like a spring chicken and I'm feeling myself and I'm just like all the good vibes, then maybe I don't need as much of that. So maybe I'll be more in the mood to interact with friends or whatever it might be. But either way, I have that morning walk. And then if it's workout day, do a workout. It's not a workout day, or use the opportunity to maybe just do life admin stuff, paying that phone bill or paying that person or whatever it might be.
Whatever it is, those first two hours is all about me me me me me me! Usually, without fail , this gets me in a really good headspace even on days, I would say that there's probably at least one day a week where I'm like, just a total bitch - I'm just in a vile mood. And you know, just not in a good headspace and even after doing this two hours of putting myself first and I'm still in a bad mood, I am still more focused than what I was when I first woke up. So that's my first time block.
My second time bloc is: project based work. I will try not to look at my emails at this point in case something urgent has happened, or I need to make a change or there's something that I've missed. So maybe I'll check my emails but I try not to and this is the key. Don't keep checking your emails, delete emails off of your phone, have set times where you check your emails every day. In this block, I'll be focused on that project. Do carve out a good chunk of time. I like two to three hours for this block but if doesn't work for your schedule, maybe you do like a one hour time block, and you commit to doing that task for one hour. And that means doing that task, not checking your phone, not going on social media, not flip flopping or like seeing those notifications from your emails coming in. And oh, well just reply to one more email. No, no, no, no, no, like, you stick to that project block, and you do it. If you don't have a project you can still use a carved out time block to respond to comments on social media, or to respond to messages or to send a load of bulk emails out to try and get some more clients or to use the opportunity to write that new draft of a script, or whatever it might be.
Then obviously, it's the afternoon so you have a little lunch, but then you have your second project block. Same story, right? What I'm saying here is by blocking out your time, what you're going to do is you're going to save yourself so much mental energy. There's like been loads of studies into this. But when you try and constantly task switch, when you constantly move back and forth between concentrating on things, when you're constantly interrupted by notifications, or when you're constantly being bombarded, your brain can't think properly. Your brain can't get into that flow state that you can get into when you just concentrate on one thing. Now I am terrible when I'm doing something I don't like or I'm not enjoying the process of. Interesting fact about me - although I love script writing, I love coming up with ideas and I love creating projects, I think I'm pretty good at it, but it is one of the most painful processes for my brain to concentrate on. I find it very, very difficult, probably because when I like to work, I like to have something on in the background and so it's not like I'm just sat in silence but I find script writing very hard to do with anything else going on. I have to be in silence when I'm writing a script. I can feel myself every 10 minutes, wanting to kind of come up, for wanting to check my phone wanting to, you know, pace around or wanting to do something else like get a dopamine hit.
But I've trained myself to recognise that that is what's happening and so I will fill that void putting the kettle on and this is probably a waste of energy and I'm trying not to do this as much but I would usually boil the kettle and by the time the kettle is boiled, I will be back in that state I need to be in because my brain just needed to do something else, just something different. Food is a massive comfort thing for me, so I would go and find a biscuit or something to eat. And then I'll come back to the task.
But the key is not to go to your phone. That's what I'm saying. Don't get distracted by other things. Before you know it, you've tasked switched and my brain is now not focusing on script writing. It's now focusing on whether or not I should invest in Tesla stocks. Ha. So be really, really careful if there's one thing that I would really massively challenge you to do even just this week, maybe just challenge yourself this week, or next week - to turn off notifications just for that one or two hour time block. See what a massive difference it makes.
I used to be one of those people like, what if someone needs me? What if like, what if I get an important
phone call or whatever. Bu you know, generally speaking, you're not going to get an emergency phone call. Or you could, you know how you can put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode, and then only certain contacts can get through to you? Maybe do that. If you're worried about that, because that was a big thing for me. I was like, especially when it came to clients. I was like, I want to make sure that I'm always available- what if they need me and then I realised you know what is not doing them any good? For me to be scatterbrained! It also builds the wrong relationship with clients, if you just jump every time they reach out. I mean, don't get me wrong for my bigger clients, I like to be readily available. But I'm still not going to stop in the middle of doing something important to get back to them, especially when I know that it's not urgent.
While this is already over 10 minutes, I thought it's going to be short episode. So scheduling your day -time blocking is a huge one. Blocks of time, cut down your email, the amount of time you're looking at email, turn off your notifications on your phone. This is why I always delete Instagram off my phone because I am like a rat with a cocaine addiction. I will go and my finger will automatically try and search for that Instagram app every single time I need a distraction. And the fact that I've taken it off my phone will mean that I'll go there but it's not there. And it will snap me back to reality and I'll know I was just looking for a distraction. I don't actually need to go on Instagram. So I'm going to go back to the work that I was doing. And so try that, you will feel so much mentally clearer.
So much of this is in the Tim Feriss iconic 'Four Hour Workweek' book, which, again, is basically my Bible. So so check that out.
Okay. The second theory that I just want to briefly touch on is similar. It's a similar idea. But if possible, this is a theory, a theory that they use at Google, which is about having different days of the week for different types of work.
I can't remember the exact study but I read it ages ago and it really stuck with me - this idea of having different days for different things. So Mondays for example, not the best day for creativity, not the best day to just dive head first into a really creative project, that could be different for you like you could do the best creative work on a Monday. This is why you have to kind of like trial and error and see what works best for you. I'll use Monday for my admin base stuff and more practical logistical stuff and by Tuesday I've gotten into a creative flow. I'm a little warmed up. Maybe Tuesday was creatively intense so on Wednesday I need a break, so I'll now look at a connecting with other people. I'm going to do my external facing stuff on a Wednesday, and then Thursday back into a creative flow, if I'm feeling it, or this might be the time when I'm recording more podcasts because, and I feel like I can be creative in my podcast. Then comes a Friday. Friday is when we're all winding down for the weekend, so maybe I just don't do much work at all. Maybe I finished some creative stuff, maybe I send my final emails. But the beauty of sending emails on a Friday is that you know, you're not going to get a response and that is why I secretly love to send emails on a Friday. But if you're sending emails that you want responses to definitely wait till the following week, as I discussed in my episode on the perfect follow up email and so yeah, so thinking about each day as its own theme.
Now again, this will totally depend on where you are in life, what your commitments are, whether you have the kind of flexibility and freedom to decide what kind of work you want to do on those days but especially if you work for yourself, maybe have a think about dedicating a certain type of work to a specific day because I found that that really helps me and keeps me motivated.
Another big thing which I wasn't planning on talking about but it is to have a clear goal for the week. So every single Sunday, I record myself, a little progress video, which will probably never ever see the light of day but I started that when I first started writing Bad News because the one thing that I think I forgot/ didn't do with Keyed Alike was - I didn't document the process. I didn't. I didn't talk to myself about what that was like every step of the way and I wish I had - so with Bad News every single Sunday, I record a little private video for myself about what I've done on the project that week or if I've not done anything why and where I'm at headspace wise. But anyway, so I do that. And then straightaway after that, I write down my goals for the following week. What is the big thing I want to get done this week? How am I going to do it?
The key is to be quite focused with what you're doing. So for this week, for example, my focus is podcasts. That's my main focus for this week. Last week, my main focus was finishing scripts. So I had two big scripts that I needed to finish. And so every week you should say, what is the most important task that I need to get done this week? What is the number one goal that's going to get me closer to where I want to be on a particular project? Make that your most important task for the week so that way, every day when you're procrastinating with all of these distractions, and you're using the fact that you're busy, and as an excuse for not taking, taking the steps to move forward on a particular project, actually, you can kind of put all of that into perspective and say, when you're setting up your schedule, when you are booking in all of those calls, when you are booking in all of the work that you're going to do for the week, you can say - actually, no. Because my number one goal this week is to finish editing that 360 project. And so that becomes the main goal. So I'm going to make sure I schedule at least two project time blocks on Tuesday and Thursday to dedicate to getting that done. Or maybe you say right, I'm going to schedule Tuesday and Wednesday purely dedicated to finishing off that and I will dedicate Monday and Thursday to client based stuff and then Friday I'll use my admin day.
So just experiment with time blocks first. I feel like that's the easiest one to get to grips with. And then experimenting with the different days can perhaps come later. When you get into a good rhythm, when you find something that works for you, when you find the schedule that works for you, and you're just like, boom, I am streamlined. This is exactly how I love to work. It's amazing how much you can get done. Oh my god, you realise that the whole time you were trying to do stuff, it was like trying to swim in the opposite direction to the current. And as soon as you find your schedule, and you find a routine for yourself, and a way of blocking out your time that works for you. It's like finally swimming with the current. Beautiful. Anyway, please reach out, let me know what you think!
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