After almost six months of very little work due to contract delays beyond my control, I now find myself in the position of having to cram all that work into a much lesser period of time, and also being in dire need of the cash flow that doing that work quickly would provide. I know from past experience that I’ll be working 8-10 hr days, pretty much non-stop (feast or famine). I also know that I can handle this for about 3 months, at which point I start to fall apart, physically and mentally.
Now I’m facing something like 7-9 months of similarly intense work, and I know I need to do something to pace this, every day and on a periodic vacation basis, or I just won’t make it through without some kind of meltdown. I’ve gotten a little trapped in the working-at-home, broadband dilemma in which you’re just constantly plugged in, every few minutes bringing more for you to deal with.
Multi-tasking distractions ultimately leading to getting less done – not to mention that my body just doesn’t last the whole day. I think I’m going to work all day and night, and I just can’t. Afternoons are mostly shot and pretty worthless, and then later I wish I had spent the time outside. All of my housework, chores, and other ancillary tasks get completely ignored, and that’s something that just won’t work out over 9 months.
So – a plan is needed. Given that one of the main reasons I work at home is managing a chronic illness (migraines), it makes sense to try to organize things around physical cycles. Mine are stranger than most – I am productive mid-morning until about 2pm, then everything seems to shut down for a while. Often I take a nap in the late afternoon to early evening. I get up, and have the most energy I have all day – I can easily work until midnight or beyond, and it’s hard to force myself into bed before 1am. Waking up around 9 or 10am is perfect, though it doesn’t always fit with my clients’ ideas of how to organize a workday :D
Given this, my plan is to use the morning until about 2pm to deal with all the computer-related stuff – dealing with e-mails and phone calls, doing paperwork, teaching online classes, doing tarot readings, managing discussion lists, making purchases, and any short-term relatively simple tasks.
Then, at 2 pm and for at least 3 hrs (until just after an early dinner, basically) will be non-computer time. This will consist of relaxation, naps, exercise, housework, yardwork, walking, errands, anything not involving computers or other technology. The little sound that goes off when you get new e-mail will be TURNED OFF during this period.
I get so bad during these critical work periods that I don’t even have healthy food to eat, because I can’t seem to make time to go to the store. And my body hurts because I don’t get up from the computer and exercise. Much time is wasted by thinking I’m going to work in the afternoon and not actually being able to. So, this daily time out for myself should help with all of this.
Then – 6pm to midnight is serious work hours, reserved for the work that takes the most concentration and thought. During this time I won’t fritter away time on e-mails or other mindless tasks, but will focus on the job at hand. This has the added bonus of being Evening Jazz and All Blues hours on NPR – my favorite work music. Then, I will try to get to bed by 1am and sleep until 9am.
While it’s a little scary putting off the main portion of my work until so late in the day, I just have to face the fact that this is by far when I am most productive, and frankly it’s when most of the work gets done anyway. If I don’t have to pretend I’m going to do it in the afternoon I can do lots of other useful things then and preserve my health and sanity. I’ll have to add into this week-long vacations every few months or so, to make a change in scenery (most likely working vacations, but still).
I’m going to start the test of my new approach today – so being that it’s 2pm, it’s time for me to make a grocery list and go sweep my deck! :)