Time has come to enter one of the most difficult topics that I know about myself. Being both a freelancer in several fields and attending school, there is quite a lot to fit together into just 24 hours (including the well needed sleep). Some would say that I myself take on a lot (you know who you are), but in the end, if you just learn to plan it out in a good way, it can work out. Today, I’m going to share my experiences in the field.
Background: What I do!
Perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea to start by sharing what I do on a daily basis so that you know what I try to plan into my days. My normal week includes five days of school, pretty much 8 in the morning to 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There needs to be quite some time for homework on top of that as well. Now, that is school. As you perhaps have gathered, I run this blog and also MacAppZone (in Bernskiold Media Group) with two podcasts (one per site), as well as my design business XLD Studios. As if that wasn’t enough, I also play the Pipe Organ and the Flute (now that I write it out, it does sound like a lot!).
All that needs to go into my daily routine, coupled with a good nights sleep. If there is one thing I’m especially determined about, is not to let my sleep suffer. I know it’ll just make me stressed, tired and grumpy.
Solution: How I Do It – Planning Methods
The key for me, to plan it, is to force myself into become an excellent planner. I’m nowhere near excellent at the moment, but I am getting better at it. Almost by nature, you’re a bad planner in this age and admittedly, going against this is necessary.
I rely heavily on two systems. My calendar and my to-do list.
In my calendar (iCal, syncing with my iPhone as well as Google Calendar and Mobile Me) I have all fixed things that take up a fixed amount of time. I have all my classes in there, all other activities that have fixed times (organ practicing times, meetings etc.) as well as some general sweeping things that applies specifically to a period of time.
As a to-do list I use Things both on my Mac and my iPhone. In there I keep all things that I need to do and try to do this according to the Getting Things Done method. Say I get Maths homework. I immediately enter that in my calendar, right from my phone while I’m in class. It then shows up on my computer when I get home and sync the things libraries.
Managing the Blog/Sites
I’ve got a fixed writing schedule on both of the sites (this and MacAppZone). I write all articles on Friday/Saturday and post them up and schedule them on Saturday, the one exception being the Wednesday News (which may sometimes be cancelled due to my workload on Tuesday evenings, as I am sure you’ve noticed). By having the articles written, I can completely take my mind of these, rather stressful parts, the rest of the week.
I also try to record my Appthroughs every two weeks, if not every month, when I’ve got a little less homework to do. These I do any time during the week when I get time over. I try to record in batch so that I have a few to select from. The same goes for the now monthly Creative Suite Tips and Tricks. I record all in batch so that I don’t need to have the burden to record every week, which never seem to work out anyway!
Managing the Business
After consolidating the blogs and sites to Friday evening and Saturday, I actually have quite a lot of time to focus on the design business (I guess it varies on the definition of a lot of time…). After making sure I’ve got school and homework covered, I have got time to work on client projects.
Putting It All Together
The hardest part can be putting all these separate practices together. Fixed events like school and my organ practice times are fixed and I want to make sure I can have my best attention at these times, to save me time in the long run!
Doing homework efficiently and trying to do some things in advance, helps me keep busy weeks organized. Speaking of busy weeks, when I know there is going to be a busy week, I make sure to blank that out for client projects and try to write an extra article or two per week the weeks before, so that I don’t have to stress with that.
If you can push yourself into working before deadlines, instead of just at them, this can work out. I am by no means following my practice fully myself, but I try my best to improve this every week, and as school is just about to start. Now is the best time to make sure I do it, and save me a lot of stress!