I’ve been lacking a lot lately. Not just at home, but in work, in hobbies and in life. I have my reasons, namely going back to work on a gruelling schedule (for me), good and bad days with CRPS (more on that in another post), and just general laziness. I have found I’m quite capable of sitting in front of TV all day without doing anything. “Nothing new there!” my family would say, but it’s really bugging me. I don’t like waking up in the morning with plans to do XYZ and ending up doing ABC or, even worse, nothing.
I have tried not to be stuck in neutral and doing nothing all day, despite my brain screaming at me to do something. I’ve tried to use to-do systems like Get Things Done (GTD) as well as many programs which swear to banish inactivity, but these systems and programs all rely on one thing: Discipline.
Many years ago, when I was about to finish School, my father had a frank discussion with me in which he felt I wouldn’t do well at University, but would gladly support my choice of going or not. When I asked why he didn’t think I would do well, he said that it was totally different from school, in that it was all self-discipline. No one would tell me to go to my room and do my homework, it would be off my own back. Looking back, I can’t thank him enough for giving me that advice, as I do think I would have been too ‘busy’ doing other things (basically excuses to keep me from going to class or doing work) to actually do any university work.
Now, the same problems have resurfaced. As you may remember, last year alone, I wrote two 50,000 word novels. I haven’t looked at them since. Why? Partly because I was letting them simmer, so that when I came back to them, they would be fresh and errors would leap off the page. Every good book, blog or advice about writing tells you to take a break from a long stint of writing, not to go straight into the editing. That doesn’t mean I leave it for a year!
The (hopeful) solution:
I have therefore decided that starting September 2nd, I will start a whole new regime of discipline which should mean more writing, more coding and more time with my family. This involves a whole new filing system, new to-do system and new work ethic.
On my new shift at work I work 4 days out of 9 (call it 5/10 for simplicity). That means that 50% of my time should be taken up with work, and 50% should be taken up with home.
If I split home into four unequal parts, I should take 5% for resting (from work), 15% for family time (which means time with the boys, doing ‘daddy’ things), 10% for coding, 10% for writing and 10% for reading/learning/chores/more resting/anything else. I think this is a pretty good way of splitting my home time with my work time, without compromising my health or any part of my life.
I also intend on using a new routine for my down days (days when I’m not at work) to use my spare time more effectively. As of now, I’ve been having breakfast in front of the TV, watching my favourite show (whatever my favourite show happens to be at that time) and, when I get bored, either moving on to the next thing on my list or, more likely, the next program I can find that grabs my attention. The majority of time I spend coding or writing is usually round bed time, when I seem to have the most energy (ironically) and not fall asleep at the keyboard the minute I open up the laptop.
From now on, I intend on using a more rigorous routine which will allow for a more timetabled schedule throughout the day. I haven’t ironed out the plan, but at the moment, that looks something like:
- Eating breakfast whilst reading latest articles/blogs etc
- By 9am, start with writing (blog posts, freelance articles, novels), using the Pomodoro technique of time management to work in 25 minute blocks till lunch
- Lunch (I don’t tend to have lunch on my own at home), reading any new articles/catching up on twitter/emails/phone calls.
- By 1pm, start work again, this time on coding (at the moment, still learning), still using the Pomodoro technique till the boys come home.
- Spend time with the boys, engage with them, play with them etc.
- Spend time with Lorna once she comes home, making her tea/coffee and letting her recover from work (she lets me do the same when I work, so it’s only fair).
- Bed, at a reasonable hour, not 3am (which is often the case at the moment).
Why the ‘Family Time’ Block?
I have been asked, or can imagine it being asked, why I need to divide time to spend with the boys/wife, surely this is an obvious part of being a family man? Yes, of course it’s an obvious part of being a parent and husband, but I have to admit, I’ve been dropping the ball lately on that, not spending time with the boys when here, or being on the compute all night instead of spending time with Lorna. It’s not because I’m being antisocial or because I don’t want to spend time with my family, it’s because I’m generally playing catch up to all my other commitments. Being a part-time worker, part-time freelancer, I have a great gift of time (the 5/10 days) to spend on my hobby/business of freelancing. Most starting freelancers don’t have that luxury. I now need to use this time effectively. Doing so will mean I’m not furiously trying to type up an article whilst looking after the boys, or half-heartedly trying to learn HTML whilst ‘spending time’ with Lorna.
Seeing as this post has gone on longer than I’d planned, I will outline what tools I intend on helping me to carry out this feat of remodelling behaviour. This will be released tomorrow, so don’t forget to come back and read the follow-up.