Set a Schedule, Respect the Schedule
Cause no one else will. If you don’t hold firm to a schedule then anyone and everyone can walk all over it, your work and you.
Just as you need to make space for work, you also need to make time for work. Because no one else will if you’re freelancing. The bonus of going to an office is that you clearly signal to others you are now in work mode and shit’s gonna to get done, son.
Pants won’t save you at home. They may help you get into the work mindset, but they don’t work on others. So as much as you may need to carve out a workspace at home or find an office somewhere, you’re going to have to get stricter with everyone. Your partner, your pets, your kids, even yourself will have to learn to live with a schedule.
A schedule does more than tell others that you’re working. It sets rules for work, and also ensures you’re going to take breaks. Those rules may feel constraining but they are the very things that will make you more productive. In part because as Nick Keppler over at Vice wrote, There’s a Science to Finding Your Creative Flow, and a schedule is part of it because it’s taking away decisions. It’s saying “this is work time, and this is not.”
Much of what freelancers do is creative work. Even those doing web development or programming are problem solving, and problem solving requires creative solutions. The idea behind constraints, rules, limits, whatever term you want to set for having a schedule and sticking to it, is that it provides you freedom to work within a framework.
A blank page or empty screen can be daunting. So can the need to the brainstorm for projects. That’s why so many techniques for brainstorming focus on limiting your session in various ways. In effect, it’s treating work like a game. Not gamifying work, but giving yourself a paradigm in which you can test the rules and see how flexible you can be.
Rugby for example has the requirement that the ball never be passed forward from a player’s hands. That means players must pass to the sides and back, or kick the ball forward. The result is a huge variance in strategies employed by rugby teams all over the world. Each team and player figuring out what works best for them.
Setting a schedule is no different from rugby, everyone is going to do it differently. Your needs and personal demands are going to have to compromise with those of your clients and anyone you live with. And you may not find the perfect schedule from the very beginning. But testing and data will help you adjust your schedule, but more on that in a future post.
Once you have your schedule, share with others. It does you no good to have a schedule if people are going to continually interrupt while you’re trying to work. Case in point, when trying to write this very blog post my wife kept asking me for assistance with our five-month old daughter, because I was trying to work during unscheduled time. Ultimately this piece took longer than it should have. Not because of the needs of my wife and daughter, but because I didn’t communicate to them that I was working. Not that a baby is going to care.
And that’s the thing, some people just aren’t going to respect your schedule. Not that I can really expect a baby to even know what one is. It’s vital to have a schedule because it sets rules not just for you and when you work, but for others so they know you’re working and how they can interact with you.
While you set your own schedule, you may want to make some room for rugby in it. Finland’s full of rugby teams, which you can find out more at rugby.fi. But fi you’re in the Helsinki region and want to play for the best team, then come join the Warriors Rugby Club. We have men’s and women’s teams, as well as a new youth team. If you’re not interested in being tackled we also have a touch team which is a great way to get into the sport.