Today’s topic is how to schedule your life when the time demands of your profession change on a regular basis.
Artists! Actors! Musicians! Creative people! These are my tribe. Unfortunately, as a general rule, they’re also broke. Public speakers are also my tribe, but some of them are pulling in millions. So I guess it all evens out.
Two of the members of my current Get-It-Done Group are professional singers. Their lives are in a constant state of chaos. We tried setting up a standard weekly schedule for them so they would be sure to spend time on everything it takes to keep them moving forward.
It worked like a charm! Until it didn’t.
If you have a regular 9-to-5 type job, you can create a standard weekly schedule. You can predict where you need to be often enough that you can make it a routine.
But in the case of a professional singer, life gets unpredictable. They have travel, they have performances, they have prospecting, they have studio recording, they teach lessons. Many of their professional demands are inflexible. Performance dates are set in stone. Studios are rented for specific days and times. Backup musicians have their own schedules that need to be accommodated. And around all of this, a professional singer needs to be do their networking, bookkeeping, website maintenance, prospecting, and everything else it takes to run a business.
When they’re at home, it makes sense to have regular prospecting hours, administrative days, gym time, cleaning time, and so on. But a regular 9 a.m. meeting with an assistant, which might work when working from a home office, work won't work when they have to be in a recording studio at 8 a.m. every day for a week. It’s a constant struggle.
Plan multiple calendars
Toss in a little advance planning, however, and this problem melts away like pancake makeup in cold cream. (Don’t ask how I know this.)
Singer Kathy came up with a brilliant solution—have multiple master calendars.
By planning you calendars in advance, you have a template to fall back on to make sure you’re meeting all your needs.
At any given time, her life is running in one of three modes: traveling for live performances, recording in a studio, and working from her office. Rather than having a single schedule that she tries to impose on her whole life, Kathy’s has developed a calendar for each phase of her life. She makes sure that the calendar always provides for as much of what’s important as possible.
For example, in her working-from-home calendar, she plans an hour at the gym at 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
In her traveling-for-performances calendar, she knows that isn’t feasible. But it is feasible to do an in-room 30-minute workout shortly after waking up. So she allocates 7 to 7:30 a.m. for a morning workout.
In her recording-in-a-studio calendar, she needs to be totally focused on her voice from the moment she wakes up—7 to 7:30 a.m. is slotted for vocal warmups. But there’s time for exercise in the evenings, so her studio calendar reserves 8 to 9 p.m. every night for a workout.
Don’t sweat the details
These calendars aren’t set in stone, of course. If you create calendars for different phases of life, you’re always free to change the details. But by planning the calendars in advance, you have a template to fall back on to make sure you’re meeting all your needs.
Many professions can use this!
It’s not just artists who have a crazy life.
If you’re a consultant, workshop leader, or professional speaker, you may also have major phases: prospecting and administrative mode, traveling to conferences or trade shows, and traveling to client sites.
If you’re a student, you might have one schedule when classes are in session, one schedule for your summer job, and one schedule—or lack thereof—for holidays and time off.
If you’re an architect, you might have one schedule for when a project is being designed and developed and one for when construction is under way.
The value here is in doing all of your thinking up-front. You make sure you do everything that needs doing, no matter which phase of work you’re in.
You can vary the time period
We’ve been discussing a weekly schedule, but you can create a monthly calendar, too, or a daily one. In the episode From Schedule Overload to Clarity, we learned that grouping activities into focus, admin, and spirit days can help you get in the zone and stay there.
You can have a standard daily schedule for focus days, or for days when you have focus activities. That schedule might block out 9 a.m. to noon for focus work, noon to 1 p.m. for admin activities, and 1 to 5 p.m. for the unstructured thinking and brainstorming that focus work may need.
The value is in doing all of your thinking up-front. You make sure you do everything that needs doing, no matter which phase of work you’re in.
You can have a standard daily schedule for admin days: 9 to 10 a.m. for consolidating the day’s admin tasks into a daily to-do list; 10 to 11 a.m. for reading and responding to email; 11 a.m. to noon for any urgent focus work cleanup that might be waiting; and the rest of the day to work on remaining admin tasks.
Your spirit days schedule might resemble mine. It has only one item: “9 a.m. – Put away all schedules for the day.”
When your life or job has natural phases that draw you in, you can still keep a semblance of control. Identify the different phases that need structure. Then create a standard calendar that gives each phase structure and insures you’re making progress.
Instead of interrupting all your habits and plunging you into the chaotic current of life’s next thing like Odysseus into the whirlpool (can you tell I wasn’t a lit major?), you’ll be prepared. You’ll know how your time constraints will change. You’ll be able to interrupt your home habits and switch right into a different set of habits that still meets your needs. And that’s a powerful way to work less and do more.
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I’m Stever Robbins. Follow Get-It-Done Guy on Twitter and Facebook. I help overwhelmed executives get everything under control. Their control. If you lead an organization or a large movement, think big, and plan to change the world, hire me. Learn more at SteverRobbins.com. Listen and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Want to get productivity tips delivered straight to your inbox every month? Subscribe to the Get-It-Done Guy newsletter.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!