This month will mark eight months since I quit my full time job. Having daylight creative work time is what I dreamed of when I was working full time and I am still in awe that it's come true. Before I quit my job I thought a lot about how I wanted to structure my days when I had full control. I took the summer to decompress, organize, and tackle things languishing on my to-do list. Once the boys started school I switched into creative work mode. Currently I have days each week for work of my choosing. For example, I started work on a proposal for a nonfiction book for working moms and Erica and I no longer have to record our podcast at night (love this so much!). I love my calendar and to-do list and feel I'm doing a pretty good job structuring my time but always believe there is room for improvement. Now that I've been at my new schedule for a while it seems like a good time to check in.
How my creative work days go
We've settled into the pattern of sending Cedric to preschool on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays so on those days both boys are in school. These are my days to get writing, podcasting, and often some home administrative things (errands or appointments) done. On these days I'm home from dropping off the boys at school by about 8:30 a.m. and have until about 2:30 p.m. when I need to leave for school pickup. That feels like it should be so much time but it goes by so fast!
Mondays are when I try to sit down for focused book proposal writing time from about 9 to 11:30 a.m. or noon. By noon I'm out of creative energy and use the rest of my time for responding to emails, tidying up the house, laundry, or an errand.
Tuesdays are often a day for podcasting, either recording or editing or both. Erica and I have created our schedule so that once per month we record two episodes at once and once per month we have "creative club" where we discuss our writing progress or podcast administration. On weeks when Erica and I don't get together I often have a podcast to edit and schedule. That takes two to three hours in total so that's the first part of my day. Then, like Mondays, I use the rest of the day for housework or email or errands if I don't have something else planned.
Thursdays are a kind of catchall day and I have the sense I could be using my Thursdays more effectively. By this point in the week the house is often untidy from the living of the past few days and laundry might have built up. It's also become a day for calling my mom and friends. I try to talk to my mom once a week and we'll talk for an hour. I also have a couple of friends that I like to keep up with on the phone every other week or so and Thursday during the day often works (plus I try not to schedule calls for Mondays and Tuesdays so I can get more writing/podcasting done early in the week). I've also been doing a morning run on some Thursdays with my neighbor as a way to fit in an extra workout. Between my workout schedule and Chris's there isn't another early morning slot for me to work out which would be my preferred time. What seems to end up happening is that I try to fit in lots of things on Thursdays: maybe a little writing, some housework, some home administration, and talking on the phone, and end up feeling like I wasn't very productive.
How I could improve
Overall I have been feeling like I should be able to get more writing done, especially posting to my blog, if I have three days of childcare per week. And yet the weeks go by and I'm not doing it! Where I want to be is at a point where I'm maintaining a pipeline of posts: ideas that are percolating, a couple posts in draft, a couple that just need a photo or final edit, and having one or two already scheduled to publish. What will get me there is several hours of writing and prepping posts so that's what I would need to schedule for myself.
I'm also feeling like I could be more intentional with my Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Instead of leaving the final couple hours of the afternoon to email/errands/etc maybe I should take a lunch break and then work on a blog post for an hour.
What seems to really help me have feel like I have good weeks is not to schedule too many out-of-the-ordinary things and to think through my whole week on Sunday. Last week, for example, I stacked my week a too full with a dentist appointment, being interviewed on a podcast, a hair cut, and having a technician out to set up something on our house solar panels. Plus Erica and I recorded two podcast episodes on Monday and I had to quickly get an episode turned around in time for a Wednesday release. But luckily that is pretty atypical and just remembering that helps me not feel too frazzled or defeated for not getting writing done.
Last Sunday I sat with Chris to go over our calendars and walked him through my week. It really helped to look so closely at my commitments and see where I could schedule in writing and podcasting (especially on such a busy week). It helped me see that with everything I had going on I probably didn't have time to work on my book proposal. So instead of feeling like I wasn't productive or efficient enough I recognized that it was just a symptom of a busy week (and reminded myself not to schedule so many things in one week!).
Something else I'd like to improve is how I'm managing home administrative and housework tasks. Life constantly generates things to be dealt with, doesn't it? Returns to make, new shoes to buy for the boys, a medical payment to make, the boys art work to process. Not to mention laundry and dishes! If I'm not intentional these things nag at me all week and distract me from my focused creative work. To deal with to-dos and tasks (not housework) I'd like to schedule a weekly home admin power hour, inspired by Gretchen Rubin, or perhaps a monthly power day. The idea is that you set aside dedicated time to get through as many tasks as possible. Because isn't it always the case that annoying home admin tasks typically take less time that you think but it's just so hard to get started? Knowing that I have time upcoming to get these things done might let me put them out of my mind while I work. I think Thursdays are a good day for powering through home admin tasks so I'd like to plan more of those.
As for housework, it varies week to week how much housework there is and how much time I spend on it. I work better in a clean and tidy house for sure so I feel myself pulled to clean/do laundry when it needs to be done. But at the same time I didn't quit my job to do housework. (Thanks to my mom for reminding me of this.) When I was working full time I felt like we were rarely able to stay on top of housework and the state of the house stressed me out (admittedly I have a low tolerance for untidiness). Now that I technically have more time to clean and tidy I have to fight not to prioritize those tasks. Maybe when the house isn't clean I need to leave to work elsewhere (although I prefer working at home). We usually have the house cleaned professionally once per month and increasing this to twice a month is something we could work into our budget if it would make a difference. To be clear, keeping the house clean and the laundry folded is not something Chris is expecting me to do. This is coming from my preference for a tidy home and knowing the rest of our lives run smoother that way.
As we head into the holidays I'll have a break from my regular weeks so it'll be a good time to think about how I want my weeks to go in 2019. I'd love to hear any strategies that work well for you for making the most of your creative work time while balancing all the other demands of life.