Like many artists, I like my freedom. I value the freedom to do what I want, when I want. And there are certainly perks to that kind of freedom. However, in reality that “freedom”, which was really just a lack of structure and direction, wasn’t all that freeing, as I’ve talked about the past few weeks. The “freedom”, combined with a lack of clarity about my values and priorities, left me in a position in which I wasn’t accomplishing all that much. That defeated the purpose.
It’s often said, and it’s true, that parameters and constraints in any creative project is helpful because it provides greater clarity, direction, and encourages problem-solving within the constraints. If someone hands you a blank canvas and says, “paint me a masterpiece”, you would correctly start asking questions. It just doesn’t work as well when there are no constraints. The same is true for one’s schedule and productivity. If you look at your daily (or weekly or monthly) schedule as a blank canvas and someone says, “Create, or work, or accomplish something,” it would understandably be hard to know where to begin.
So I decided to flip things upside down and, rather than keeping my schedule wide open in the name of “freedom”, I decided to schedule each day of the week in blocks of time dependent on the activity. Every Sunday evening I revisit my values and priorities, along with my daily checklist of items to accomplish (see last week’s post), I open my Calendar app (on Mac), and for the next Monday through Friday I enter every activity that I’ll be doing between 6am and 10:30am. See the example below.
Is the schedule fixed? No, the reality is that meetings or photo shoots, or other necessary “distractions” come up during the week that I didn’t anticipate on Sunday evening. I do actually still have my “freedom” to adjust my schedule as needed. In fact, I feel greater freedom since I’ve eliminated the paralysis felt when trying to decide what to do next. At any given time I know what I should be doing, and I focus on that. But if something comes up that fits the list of higher values or priorities, I make a conscious decision whether or not to shift my schedule.
Scheduling out my week has been one of the most helpful actions I’ve taken for my maximizing my capacity and productivity. The Sunday evening planning time has provided a birds-eye view of my upcoming week, and the daily schedule has provided a helpful reference point for any specific time of day.
How about you? Do you find it helpful to schedule out your day with greater specificity, or do you find yourself more productive when you keep your schedule more open? What other tips do you have for maximizing your capacity and productivity on a day to day basis?