Friday, 11 January 2013

Onwards & Upwards: My Freelance Working From Home Schedule

How do you motivate yourself to get tasks completed when you work from home? 

Motivation is something that I think every freelancer struggles with, as it can be hard to tie yourself down to one activity; a long to-do list often leaves you feeling stressed out, wanting to complete every task on it all at once and feeling inadequate when you can't do so. I've written a bit about this before in my graduate advice post, but am of course terrible at following my own advice, especially regarding approaching one task at a time. Last year I sometimes felt like a rabbit in the headlights, almost paralysed by having so much to do and having to juggle so many roles, rather than embracing the variety in my business, tackling and enjoying each separate task. I love drawing, painting, crafts, writing, social media and even enjoy the organisational/admin responsibilities that come with running your own business, yet I have found myself on numerous occasions not enjoying doing these things as I felt that there was always something else more pressing that I could or should be doing. In the summer I briefly tried timetabling myself quite loosely by dividing my time into blocks with set breaks, and although it was effective in some ways, it went out the window after a few weeks thanks to life getting in the way and didn't get rid of the feeling that every task was constantly a top priority. 

To try to combat this I've made it a goal for this year to work out an effective routine and full timetable to help me work on everything that I need to be doing (but not all at once!) and see if it can work well for me. My hubby (slight cringe using that word, but then husband sounds weirdly formal, as did fianc√©.... I obviously have a problem with titles!) uses Google calendar every day for work to organise himself, so I thought I would take a leaf out of his book and schedule a full timetable on that with set days and blocks for different types of activities, as well as scheduling in proper breaks and exercise to give my poor eyes and legs a break from screen work. Just in case you happen to be unfamiliar with Google Calendar, it's a really useful and intuitive way of planning your time, and as it is all linked to your Google account, you can sign in to it using your phone, tablet or computer (or anyone else's for that matter) to access all your calendar details. Having it linked to my computer and phone means that whatever I'm doing, I get a little noisy pop-up reminder from both of them that it's 5 minutes until the next break/activity. You can set reminders whenever you like, or not at all, and when you set up the events you can choose whether they are one-off's, or every weekday, week, month, every alternate day etc. You can also have multiple calendars under one account (e.g. personal, work and important dates calendars) which can be toggled on and off for ease of viewing, and can give permission to someone else to view your calendar (e.g. If you wanted colleagues or a partner to be able to view or use the calendar too). There's also various features that I haven't quite worked out yet, like apparently being able to set up recurring events automatically just by using a [instructional?] title such as 'Meet ___ for tea at 11am every other Thursday' etc. Which is pretty damn fancy/clever.

Phew, that was a big spiel! Unbelievably, I'm not actually being sponsored by Google to write this post (but maybe I should be... hint hint). 

Anyway, I've divided my working time up into four main blocks within the day, namely 9-11, 11.15-13.15, then 14.15-16.15 and 16.30-17.30, with breaks in between each to take a screen break in an effort to avoid a repetition of last year's worrying eye health scare. (I do believe you're actually supposed to take something like a 15 minute break away from the screen every hour, but I could be making that up. I'll trial it every 2 hours for now anyway!) There's even a scheduled lunch-break (away from the desk for once!) to eat and do the things that are relatively necessary useful work-wise but often distracting, like checking email, catching up with my RSS reader and browsing Pinterest etc. On my personal calendar I've also scheduled in exercise etc to try to keep me motivated around working times.

Each block is for a specific different task; for example, Monday morning is set aside for scanning, editing and blogging my week's worth of 'A Dwarf A Day' sketches, followed by planning, writing and queuing up the rest of the week's blog posts. After lunch is self-promotional planning, sending out promo mailers and then updating all my online portfolios with any new work etc. Tuesday and Thursdays are exclusively set out for illustration; catching up with old ideas, new work and book work have separate slots to keep me on task. The other days include slots for product creation/development and a craft slot for trying out some new skills or rediscovering old ones like guitar and knitting. 

The main aim with this timetable is to pick up on a project/task in each timeslot, working on it weekly if need be until it's finished before moving onto the next one. I hope that in this way I'll be able to really look forward to different days/tasks and be able to approach the task with a fresh set of eyes each time I come to it. Hopefully I'll also be able to complete a lot more artwork, as although it sounds to me like more of a drawn-out way of working, I think the structure will help me to stay on task more than the usual never-ending working day on the computer from 9:00-19:00 which invariably ends up filled with procrastination. If unexpected appointments or commissions come up, then I can just swap out and add different blocks to the timetable in places where I'm ahead of time.

Fingers crossed that the new timetable will work well over the coming weeks - I'll keep you updated with my progress! I hope this might be of some use to you if you're also looking to shake up your working method in 2013.

Before I forget - this is an illustration I finished just in time for Christmas to give to one of my friends. I was intending to do a collection of motivational prints all through 2012 and, ironically, never got around to doing it as I couldn't really find the motivation to complete my initial sketches! Hopefully my new timetable will encourage me to complete the collection this year...! If you'd like to see more detail, have a peek at my portfolio site.


  1. Dear Bryony, what a fab blog and article! Thank you so much for sharing it with us as it's something I also really struggle with. I still work full-time and then run my jewellery business in what hours are left.... I constantly feel like I am chasing my tail - if I sit down making jewellery to put onto our website, then I see myself looking at the pile of ironing in the corner..... I also offer Reiki and Reflexology treatments which I love doing, but it's fitting it all in. I might also try using the Google calendar now I have a new phone.....
    Kindest regards,

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