In 2015, I published this post about how I organize my days to stay on top of my to-do list and get a ton of work done. The post not only went viral the week it was posted (and pissed off some people), but it’s still the top traffic referrer to my site.
Since my business and my workflows have evolved over the past 4 years, I thought I’d give you an update!
Here’s what my daily schedule looks like now:
Wake up at 6 – 6:30AM
I now have a dog who is 10 months old instead of 10 years, so he’s decided we get up at dawn to go for walk or he chews every shoe and sock he can find. I do my best to stay in bed until the sun is up because I haven’t quite turned into a morning person yet.
Breakfast, TV, gratitude list, reading
I’m still adamant about starting my day on a positive note and allowing myself a slow morning to relax before I jump into work. I make breakfast and then (depending on how alive I feel) watch tv, watch videos, or read – whatever I need to get into a positive and productive mindset.
Start work around 8AM
First up is the Most Important Task (MIT) for the day. This is generally something like: writing an ebook chapter, emails, or a blog post, or updating course lessons. The first MIT is always something that helps grow my own business and move me toward my goals. Sometimes this task is big and takes up an entire day, but generally I have 2 or 3 MIT’s scheduled and knock this out in a couple of hours. Today’s MIT was updating The Productive Solopreneur sales page.
After the MIT is finished . . .
I check email. Now, I have some inbox rules – I do not have email on my phone, I do not get alerts, I do not look at email before I have eaten, caffeinated, and finished a task for my own business. My inbox is hella organized (shared my secrets in a Productive Solopreneur training) so this doesn’t take terribly long.
This is also the time I hop on Instagram to respond to questions + comments and, some days, schedule posts for the next week.
The dog is generally a little nutty around this time so we play for a while and then I work on the second MIT for the day.
Lunch also happens somewhere around here. Taking actual breaks is important to me + my brain function, so I try to completely stop and cook lunch (instead of grabbing what’s convenient – though that still happens sometimes) and not work while I’m eating.
I work on the third MIT (or sometimes I workout or take a nap because getting up at the buttcrack of dawn is not really my jam) and then the dog needs another walk.
Sometimes the third MIT is a full 2-hour task (today it’s writing the final draft of this blog post) and sometimes it’s a bunch of smaller tasks like filling in TailWind, bookkeeping, or creating social media graphics.
My workday ends around 4PM
Post-dog walk I come back and finish up any extra tasks + check email one last time (if you’re counting, that’s only twice/day). This is the time I take care of all those tiny 2 minute tasks instead of stopping throughout my day to check them off. Studies show that every time you switch tasks it takes 20 minutes to reorient yourself and I am not about wasting time.
I do my best to be completely finished with work when the boyfriend comes home so I can make a full switch into my personal life since both occur in our one-bedroom apartment. Putting a deadline at the end of my day has been very helpful in focusing on knocking out the big stuff early and being finished on time. This is also the time I tend to shower and get ready as it further helps to make space between biz and personal stuff (and if I spend all day writing it’s a good way to de-fry my brain).
Bedtime is around 10PM
I read A LOT so I’m in bed with a book for an hour before I go to sleep (in the middle of China Rich Girlfriend right now).
→ I wrote more about how I plan + conquer my daily tasks in my ebook 7 Productivity Hacks for Solopreneurs.
Now, when I left my corporate job (almost 7 years ago) one of the things I was most excited about was creating my own schedule and experiencing that self-employed freedom. I’m not sure if it’s my age, the fact that I live with someone who works 9 to 5 (actually he coaches before work, so it’s a superhuman 5 to 5), but I’m a total self-employed 9 to 5-er now. Some days I go out for lunch, run errands, or take a break at the beach, but mostly, I enjoy getting a lot of work done early and being finished well before dinner time. #whoami?
Just like the previous version of this post, planning my tasks in advance and prioritizing what’s most important keeps me focused throughout the day. The major difference is that I’m now using Asana (a project management system) to plan my projects and goals by quarter instead of keeping a never-ending lists of tasks.
The less I have to think about and the less random decisions I’m making every day, the easier it is for my creativity to surface and my brain to stay focused.
Another perk of using a project management system – when urgent tasks or personal stuff pops up – I can see my whole month so it’s not an issue to juggle tasks around. This exact thing happened when I had to fly home for a funeral a few months ago. I had that entire week planned, but because it was all set up in Asana I had no problem shuffling tasks into the week after and moving the less urgent ones into the following month.
→ Ready to upgrade to a project management system too? Watch my Asana training over in The Productive Solopreneur
Being realistic about how much I can accomplish is also still very important. After years of writing blog posts and emails, recording and editing video, designing graphics and worksheets – I know exactly how long these tasks take. I’m able to add the right number of tasks into my days so that I’m able to hit my deadlines.
Lastly, I’m a major stickler for boundaries and do my best to avoid spending time on things that don’t serve me. I take a fair amount of pleasure in cleaning out who I’m following on Instagram (to ensure if I am scrolling I’m getting something out of it) and I’m excellent at saying no to offers that just aren’t a good fit.
Now, on my original post I got lots of comments chastising me for waking up at 9am . . .
for taking naps or watching TV during the workday, and lots of people saying they get way more done by 9am than I accomplish all day.
To which I say – that might be true, you do you!
And also – today I totally woke up with the dog at 6:30AM, went for a walk, and then came home and fell asleep on the couch until 10. And I’m still gonna be done working by 4pm.
Part of the reason I’m sharing this is that when I started my business I DID work until 8pm or 9pm or midnight.
I’ve worked through my weekends, and felt like I was working non-stop and never getting enough done. But because I DO NOT like feeling busy, I created a schedule that allows me to be efficient and effective.
The reason I can wake up when I like (or nap if I’m woken up when the dog likes) is that I have a plan in place ahead of time, I’m prioritizing what’s important, and I’m extremely focused while I’m working.
Aside from the occasional dog bone tossed onto my laptop, I don’t have distractions. One of the reasons I despised working in a newsroom was that I was stopped 500 times by other people and THEIR stuff, which turned 3 hours or work into 8 every single day.
If you like rocking your to-do list before 9am, go for it. But if you’re pissed because you really don’t or you have a day full of distractions, leaving a crabby comment ain’t gonna change that! (It’s also not going to change what I’m doing either.)
What will help is figuring out what you want and taking small steps toward it consistently. Everyone’s situation is different so I can only tell you about the changes I’ve made. But I know that someone in YOUR situation has done what you want to do and you can absolutely make it happen too. Don’t use my story or the differences between us to hold you back from getting what you want!
That said, if you have any questions – feel free to leave me a comment!