When my kids started the school year in late July, I started my own new chapter of sorts with full days to myself. Now that we're about two months into the school year I'd love to share how I plan and use my weekday work time, and how I think about the kind of energy I need for different types of work.
Portfolio of work
I think about the work I do as a portfolio with different categories of work. Each type of work and associated tasks requires varying energy levels. For example, to write I prefer to have long, uninterrupted work time. But when I'm taking care of home admin tasks I can pop in and out of email, schedule something, hop up to make a snack, etc. Therefore, when I think about my work and the time I have to do it I consider the work category, associated tasks, and the energy they require of me. My current work portfolio includes:
Blog writing and other writing projects. Tasks include: writing posts (like this one); planning in my editorial calendar; editing photos; recording, editing, and preparing the audioblog narration; responding to comments, emails and Instagram dms (from sharing the post on Instagram); occasional graphic design adjacent work when I work with my wonderful graphic designer Emily to update or create graphics (such as my blog header and podcast cover art); and develop additional writing projects like online courses and/or books which I would love to work my way towards. Energy needs: For the bulk of the writing work I need deep work time which means being completely undistracted by my phone, appointments, and other tasks.
The Girl Next Door Podcast. Tasks include: preparing outlines to record new episodes; planning upcoming topics and our recording schedule; recording with Erica; editing and producing an episode; preparing show notes and graphics; creating and scheduling social media; responding to emails and our Patreon community (Erica handles most Instagram dms); and managing web or graphics projects. For example, we're currently having our entire website redesigned, woo hoo! Energy needs: I need focused energy to prepare outlines ahead of recording but not to the same degree of deep work that I need for writing. To edit and produce a new episode I need at least two hours of time but I can often multi-task on the computer a little bit such as grabbing links for the show notes while editing.
Managing our Eau Claire rental house. For now we have long-term tenants in our second home in Eau Claire, WI. We had hoped to be spending this very semester there while Chris was on sabbatical but it didn't work out which was a huge bummer. But thankfully the house is rented out and paying for itself. Managing the house is my responsibility (and a responsibility I wanted to have). During the first year we had different tenants and several stressful issues came up with the tenants to the point that I hired a property manager. I'm really glad to have the property manager in place and they helped to find new tenants when the previous lease was up. It's been smooth sailing since then but there are still tasks like touching base with the property manager, managing the finances for the rental house, and as needed coordinating for home repairs. Energy needed: For the most part these tasks require low to mid-level energy and I don't even need to "touch" this category each week. Usually the work I need to do is to write an email or make a phone call which is easy and quick. However, sometimes there are decisions to be made which requires some research or more thought, and occasionally a more stressful issue comes up and derails a work day (but hopefully we are mostly past that!).
PTSO. I'm no longer on our school's PTSO (Parent, Teacher, Student Organization) board but I still maintain the website and get questions related to when I was secretary. Tasks include: quarterly-ish website updates as needed, fielding the occasional question about the website or secretary role which I also held, and occasional volunteering (for example, I was in charge of the first day of school Boo Hoo/Woo Hoo reception).
Home and kid administration. Tasks include: making doctor's appointments; putting school events on the calendar (Chris puts all soccer events on the calendar); managing the kids' clothes (making sure they have fitting seasonal clothing, taking care of the clothes they've outgrown, etc.); requesting books from the library for the kids; putting systems in place (like morning chore checklists, a visible weekly menu plan and calendar, etc.); menu planning; making a grocery list, and grocery shopping each week; and making sure household consumables like soaps, body care, toothbrushes, etc. are stocked. And probably a few other little tasks like this but you get the idea! Usually little to mid-size tasks that I mostly enjoy but it can be hard to know when to fit them in, and then sometimes they have to be done right now and disrupt my work flow.
Housework. Chris and I share the housework but have slightly different approaches to it and time availability for it. So we each do what we can when we can and overall it feels equitable. We also have the house professionally cleaned once a month and so usually don't do much deep cleaning. I'll list the house tasks I aim to get done during my work days but many of these are also tasks that Chris does as well. Generally we each try to do whatever needs doing as our time allows and right now I have more flexibility in my days. Tasks include: laundry (I try to do one complete load every day which is working well), running the robot vacuum, cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, a quick clean of the bathrooms once a week, and changing the sheets on the beds (even one to two weeks). Most other housework like taking out the recycling and garbage, mopping, cleaning the kitchen after dinner, etc. is outside of my work day hours so I won't include it here. I try to do some housework tasks right after the kids are off to school, maybe a task when I break mid-day for lunch, and then in the final hour before the kids are home. I try not to let housework consume my day unless I intentionally plan it.
Because I need deep work time for writing I've found it helpful to block some of my days for specific tasks. I still use my Monday morning ritual of getting up early and listing my intentions for the week. When I do this I try to assign specific days and blocks of time to the bigger tasks. That helps me make sure I'm being reasonable in my expectations for the week and helps me mentally prepare for the work.
Since Maeve started going to daycare on Mondays (and now I can't remember how long ago that was!) I have made Mondays my writing days. On Writing Mondays I try to jump into writing without checking my email and ideally without even being on my phone. One email or text can pull my thoughts away to looking something up or scheduling something and I find it harder to stay focused after that.
Tuesdays are for podcast work. In the morning I'll edit an episode if needed. If Erica and I are recording we start recording at 12:30 p.m. and that usually takes us until 2 p.m. when I need to transition out of work mode ahead of school dismissal. I also try to keep all other podcast tasks on Tuesday like responding to listener emails and tasks associated with our website update, etc.
I don't have set work themes for Wednesday and Thursday but those may fall into place. If I'm going to schedule an appointment, haircut, or social get together I make them for Wednesday or Thursday. However, I have noticed that these can disrupt my work days more than I expect which is something to think about. Otherwise I use Wednesday and Thursday to wrap up writing or podcasting and often for home admin tasks, errands, and whatever else has come up. I also try to meal plan and make the grocery list on Thursdays.
I'm calling Friday Food Friday because I try to grocery shop first thing and often try to do some kind of food or meal prep after the groceries are put away. I don't usually do any writing or podcast work on Friday. Ideally on Fridays I want to stock the fridge, make something to snack on for the week for myself or the kids, and then check off any lingering admin tasks and ready the house for everyone to be home for the weekend.
From Monday to Friday my capacity for deep work time, both mentally and in my schedule, decreases until I don't have any on Friday. I find that as the week goes on more little tasks that need attention pile up, I'm more likely to be tired, and the house is more likely to be messy. None of those things put me in a good headspace for deeper work. So I schedule my days and work accordingly.
Reflections on my current weekday schedule
I love my current schedule and want to make the most of the time I have. Honestly I'd happily take more work time but I also really value being home when the kids are out of school. Blocking my Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays for specific kinds of work is working really well. My everyday cleaning routines are helping the house to stay pretty tidy through the week. Especially fitting in a start-to-finish load of laundry on most days and running the robot vacuum a couple times each week (or preferably even more).
Although I try to be very intentional about scheduling appointments and weekday socializing I think I need to be more militant about protecting my time. I've noticed that more than one mid-day commitment during the week (whether a coffee, counseling appointment, haircut, additional workout, etc.) can make my work time feel too fractured. We're about to head into the kids' two week fall break (ack! I think they schedule it too early in October!) but when they're back in school I want to have a general practice of only having one "extra" thing during the week.
The last thing I'd like to fit in more of during my work days are coffee dates with Chris. This isn't work related and I just said I want to prioritize work time, but not only is Chris more important than my work but it's much easier to transition back into work mode after a coffee date with him. Chris is working from home the majority of the time although his schedule varies and is busier with the semester underway. We need to set the day and time for a coffee date at the beginning of the week and make it happen!
That was helpful to reflect on! I'd love to know if you have any strategies for being productive during your weeks and making use of your best energy.