December and January brought more freelance coding and database work than expected, but now I’m in a quiet stretch. It’s given me the opportunity to experiment with my ideal schedule. That is, working on writing and music as much as I want to, without a heavy load of client work. For the moment (and as long as I’m comfortable with how much I have in the bank) I can pretend I’m a full-time artiste.
It’s fun! I’ve been writing fiction in the mornings (with more optimism these days–I recently had another story accepted for publication at a pro rate, bringing me that much closer to SFWA active membership). In the afternoon I head to the studio and make beats, or work on Loöq Records, or do whatever needs to be done around the house. Pretty much my ideal weekday schedule.
But large swaths of unstructured time can be dangerous. I’ve had similar opportunities in the past, and squandered them, losing whole days to video games or trying to read the entire internet. Those of you who are self-employed may be able to relate.
A few years ago, in response to my own “Where does all the time go?” question, I ran an “activity audit,” a detailed analysis of all the activities in my life that require work/effort. After listing all the major activity areas (database/coding work, fiction writing, music production, household/parenting, etc.), I asked myself a series of questions about each activity.
Honing on in the what, why, and how for each activity gave me a great deal of clarity. It also improved my focus throughout the day (especially my ability to resist distractions), and helped me decide what to do each day, and in what order.
In the long run, the activity audit was more effective than any other productivity technique I tried, like locking myself out of certain internet sites, or depriving myself of coffee until I’d started writing. If I’m clear on my purpose and intended direction in life, and how the things I spend my time on fit into that picture, distractions are less of an issue. I still use quotas and have production targets, but I don’t rely on those for motivation.
Here are the questions I asked myself in regards to each activity: