My writing life…

What’s your work day look like? I have a “day job” (laid off July 2011) and my freelance work. I am supposed to work a regular schedule for my day job and somehow fit my knitting and writing in, but it just doesn’t work that way for me. I can’t follow a time clock and be productive without feeling stressed out all the time. Instead, I follow my energy. I quit my last 9-5 cubicle job over a decade a go. For the first few years, I tried to shoehorn my at-home work into the same schedule. But it never worked for me, and I was always frustrated. Since I’ve started going to Europe regularly, my alter ego EuroDonna has helped me find peace with not living by the clock. And guess what, I’ve fallen into a regular schedule. Isn’t that odd? Once I stopped trying to force myself to have a regular schedule, I discovered my natural schedule and it’s not a struggle any more.

Here’s an overview of my day:

I look at email (don’t reply), twitter, and facebook on my iPhone before I get out of bed. I don’t really get much else done in the morning most of the time. My brain is just like jello before lunch these days. I wake up somewhere between 7 and 8, depending on what time I went to bed and whether or not I was up with an episode of insomnia. I don’t set an alarm unless I am teaching in the morning.

Mid-morning I walk to the coffee shop. I bring work with me. Sometimes it’s knitting, sometimes writing or editing, sometimes attending to tasks from my day job. I choose whatever is drawing my attention that day and whatever I can handle with my morning energy level.

After lunch I have meetings, answer email, go through daily business tasks, blog, and so forth.

In the evenings I work on writing and editing.

Now I’m starting to swim again, so I’ll use my lunch break (probably at about 11, after I get back from my walk) to go to the pool for a swim. And we may swap our daily coffee shop walk out for a boat outing in the mornings during summer. Wouldn’t it be great to have your morning coffee out on the water?

On weekends I am off, or I teach. If I teach, I try to take Monday off because I usually have a physical collapse if I don’t get one full day off a week. Two is better, but a luxury.

So, for those who are curious, that’s a day in the life of this writer or, perhaps better described as, a plan from which to deviate.

  1. Hi Rosemary, yes. Exactly what I mean: we should follow our natural energy levels, not the clock. Sadly, the corporate world doesn’t recognize this. Of course, if you work in a store or service industry, you have to work when your customers want to buy from you so even if you are an employee, it’s important to find a job that works with your natural rhythm. Sadly, again, the ones that are a good match temperamentally may not be a good match financially. (One idea I like from communism is that all jobs should pay the same, so you can choose the job you are best suited for without considering the pay scale.)

    My freelance work is not a “job” to me and, in fact, my day job isn’t either. I am at a point in my life where I don’t think I could do something I didn’t find enjoyable and fulfilling just for money.

  2. Stacey, yes. I agree. It just took me a long time to find that a non-schedule suits me. That is, next month, I may start waking up at 5:30 am. Maybe it’s the time of life, hormone changes, etc. But as soon as I become attached to a schedule and try to formalize it, it doesn’t work for me any more.

  3. Leeza, go to Spain. Can anyone say “siesta”? Yay!

  4. Good post, Donna, and an important discussion for those of us who don’t work conventional jobs. My schedule is somewhat the reverse of yours because my energy level in the morning is at its highest and I feel excited and ready to go with whatever projects and/or deadlines are on tap. I used to think I was a naturally optimistic, energetic person–then I went off caffeine and realized I was simply another addict! I’m back to coffee and back to waking early, having coffee and a healthy breakfast and then bounding eagerly into work (most days). By mid afternoon, I have to turn to routine matters such as filing, posting, reading blogs, organizing, etc., that don’t require much creativity. I have to constantly guard against burnout, tho, because I tend to work 7 days a week if I don’t set some boundaries for myself. I love my work and it’s not a “job” to me, but an essential part of who I am, but, still, I need to veg at least one day a week, get outdoors, unplug.

  5. I don’t work from home, but I have found over the many years I’ve existed here that a nap in early afternoon makes me MUCH more productive for more hours. Unfortunately, I haven’t convinced an employer of that … yet.

  6. I love that you check email, but don’t reply… I have such a hard time doing that!

    I prefer working in the mornings, and I force myself to be ‘off of work’ at 6:00… I find that’s the only way I can relax in the evenings!

    The thing I love about working from home is that you can do whatever schedule suits you!

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