I might be making less money since I started freelancing, but the ability to set – and rearrange – my own schedule is well worth the pay cut. Unfortunately, hand in hand with my utter hatred of routine is my tendency to lose interest in things.
I’m get bored really quickly. The “Distracties” can creep upon me a third of the way through a movie, or ten pages into a new story I was oh so passionate about just the other day. Like any good thing, you can have too much unstructured time. In my case, this has slowly, stealthily oozed into a general inability to sit and work for more than 15 minutes at a time.
And so, I am forced to admit that maybe some sort of routine isn’t the worst thing. For instance:
1. Stuff gets done.
Low and behold, when you make yourself sit down and do something, said something actually gets completed. Who would have thought?
2. You don’t oversleep.
Some people need six hours of sleep. Others need nine. Whatever your essential physical requirement, lacking a reason to get out of bed (and I don’t mean existentially) is a really good way to get more sleep than you need. If you don’t set a specific start time in the morning, you might remain in bed for ten hours, with the well-meaning plan to do your work “later” … that is, until you stumble across that Friends marathon.
Additionally, the more active (mentally, physically, whatever) you are throughout the day, the better you’ll probably sleep, and the less drowsy you’ll feel the next morning! Bonus!
3. You eat healthier.
Are you one of those people who will lie on the couch snacking on chips half the morning, then binge on work for four hours, during which time you completely forget to eat? The bag of mini marshmallows sure is tempting when you’re in the middle of a looming deadline, and salads are notorious for taking a long time to prepare.
But if you factor in lunch and a couple of snack breaks, you can make yourself use that 45 minutes to throw together a sandwich containing actual veggies, and maybe get an appropriate amount of protein, too.
4. You give a good habit a chance to form.
They say habits take about 40 days to form (and, at least in my opinion, about 3 days to break). If you lay out a routine for yourself – even something as simple and loosey-goosey as completing a certain number of tasks per day – eventually you might find you’re missing the work when you haven’t done your daily allotment.
5. You appreciate your free time more.
This is definitely something I’ve noticed since I started freelancing. I know I can sit and watch Scrubs reruns for hours (you know, if I don’t worry about paying rent), or read endless chapters of a novel, whenever I want. But after a few weeks of this, even those exciting, traditional “evening off” activities become lack-lustre. After all, something you always have time for isn’t quite as rewarding as something for which you chiseled out precious spare time.
6. Time-wasters don’t seem so tempting.
I’m on level 1235 of Candy Crush. Oh, that’s right, people still play that game (or maybe just me). It’s far past the point where the game is actually fun anymore, but I keep playing because (shrug) it’s a great way to avoid doing work.
But when you have a routine, either perseverance or guilt can finally help you kick your own lazy, zero-productivity time-waster. You’ll find you don’t even want to play Candy Crush anymore. Granted, you might not want to do your real work either, but at least your immediate go-to doesn’t result in three hours lost and burning eyeballs.
7. You can still make room for variation.
If you’ve recently started working from home or developed your own business, establishing a routine might seem like a totally ridiculous thing to do – isn’t that exactly what you set out to avoid when you quit that mind-numbing desk job?
As I hope the examples above illustrate, there’s a place for routine in every job, regardless of what your office space looks like. And once you’ve settled into a set of daily to-dos and are back to being your amazing, productive self, the glory that is self-employment means your routine doesn’t have to be set in stone.
Want to hit up that Tuesday matinee at the theatre? Split your workday between the morning and the evening.
Feel yourself waning around 11 am? Schedule your jog at that time to bring a bit of energy back into your day.
Absolutely incapable of dragging your butt out of bed before 10 am, but feel raring and ready to go at 9:30 at night? Bump your schedule down a few hours and keep the midnight oil burning when you’re at your most productive.
It’s all easier said than done, of course, and I still have a ways to go before I take my own good advice. But every step forward is a good one, and before you know it, you’ll be raking in the self-made dough and drowning in excellent client reviews!