One of the hardest transitions to entrepreneurship for me was keeping a consistent schedule. I consider myself a pretty self-motivated person, but I still found it easy to waste whole chunks of time on the days I didn’t have workshops booked. Whether doing something actually unproductive, like scrolling through Twitter, or spending an inordinate amount of time on something that’s productive, but not directly related to my businesses, like photo editing for blogs or planning an instagram story.
I wanted to think about how I spent my days and figure out if there was a smarter way for me work. I decided I’d build daily itineraries for myself and be my own personal assistant for a bit.
I would schedules parts of the day for deep work like writing blogs, curriculum planning, and workshop prep. Other parts for meeting and communicating with clients. And still other parts for media work and less mentally intense effort.
But before I did that I wanted to know: when should these things happen? What’s the optimal time for each of those activities?
To help answer that question, I found this chart from UNC-Chapel Hill that would allow me to keep track of what I do, when, during the day.
While it starts at 8am, and I often wake up before that, I just tracked those first hours separately. It was a big time save for me to find a pre-made chart! If you’re adept at making spreadsheets and know all the short cuts, you could just as easily make your own with a broader time range.
I took a week to journal every half half, listing out everything did in that block of time.
What I found was really interesting! Admittedly, for the first two days I think just knowing I was journaling made me a bit more productive, but by Wednesday I had fallen back into old habits and the data I collected on myself proved useful.
For example, my most productive writing time is between 8am and 11am, so I decided I would front end my days with deep work in that morning slot and make sure to schedule meetings and client calls for the afternoon when, as my data showed me, I’m more restless and distracted so it’d be a good time for me to travel for a meeting or set up a phone call.
This is still very much a work in progress for me, but charting my habits has helped me optimize my days. Not necessarily to do more, but to respond to the way my body and mind (or attention span) prefer to operate and in doing so, ensuring that I’m doing quality work in for all the different aspects of Donnie Welch Poetry.
Try it yourself for a week and comment with any surprising results you find!