I’ve written before about how I track my hours on pretty much everything every day (originally in a spreadsheet, later just in a journal) as a means of spotting inefficiencies and opportunities to systemize and/or outsource, but this week I took it a step further.  Or backwards.  Not sure.  Anyway, I tried to log my hours for the week in advance.

Basically I wrote my schedule for whole the week on Monday and then tried to adhere to it.

Here’s what was awesome: my goals got a lot more realistic. Instead of just “complete project X, I’m sure I’ll come up with a way,” I had a look at how many hours I was actually going to devote to it.  I’ve done things like “spend 5 hours on project X” before, but actually assigning those hours to specific times and days brought me a new level of clarity.

Also, I really liked how much less I had to, for lack of a better term, think.  Each morning, I not only knew what I was going to be working on that day, but also the day after that, and the day after that.  So many “what ifs” and “potentials” and “just in cases” magically vanished, and I was a lot freer to focus on the task at hand. There’s a potential cure for “entrepreneurial ADD” in there, I think.

Now, what sucked? Actually following the plan.  The first two hours of the day were great, and the stuff I got done then made it worth it in itself, but things drifted a fair bit after that.  And that’s OK, it’s the first week I tried it, so there are going to be setbacks.

To do something like this successfully, it’s imperative to shut off the phone and email programs. And cover up the voicemail indicator.  I lost a good amount of time because I couldn’t resist answering the phone, which blew the whole schedule up.  That said, one of the calls was for a drop everything, last minute deadline opportunity to pitch for a lucrative project.  The kind of “what if” call that explains the entire tendency to want to answer the phone every time, but also the kind of call that really doesn’t happen that often.  For this kind of scheduling system to work, I need to decide if I want to pursue that kind of work.  Ever. (Still waiting to hear if I got this one…)

Basically, scheduling the week in advance isn’t normal behaviour, and as such it requires some abnormal changes.  I’m still not sold on whether or not it’ll be worth it, but it’s deep enough in the “don’t do what everyone else does unless you want to get what everyone else gets” category that I’m going to try it for another week or two, or maybe at least until I can get an 80% schedule match, so I might have some more insights to share soon.

Just don’t call me to ask about them.

(Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, daily posts are done, partly because I didn’t schedule them in, but also because I think the practice was more valuable for me than for you, so I’ll stick to my journal for that and work on different content here.)

One more day (off)

by Jason on December 28, 2011 · 0 comments

Vacation sign by Dan4th Nicholas

A one day break from, well, anything can easily become a two day break, which leads to the few days break, which leads to the “why not make it an even week” break, which quickly and nearly effortlessly can become an indefinite hiatus.

It’s true of fitness, habits, and yes, business.

One of the challenges to running your own business is that the hours are defined by you.  There’s no boss looking over your shoulder, no card to punch at the start and end of the day, just you.  Sure, your workload might dictate your time, but that’s a workload that was chosen by you as well, and when you get to, oh, I don’t know, Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus/etc where in most cases the workload eases down while the rest of the world takes a break, it’s easy to take a few days off and then watch that time expand slowly.

In my case this year I took the 24th to the 27th off (yes, I’m aware that covered a weekend and two statutory holidays) with today, the 28th, being a slow “ease back in” day where I let my mind and body purge some of the excesses from the past few days.  But it very nearly became a full week, because I made the critical mistake of not actually scheduling a return date.

There are some who say that year end is the perfect time to double down and work straight through to gain an edge over your (presumably) slacker competitors.  I think there’s greater value in planned rest and recovery, but beware if it’s not strictly scheduled or you might find the time off was a lot longer than you thought it’d be.

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas