I struggle with schedules. It feels good to plan a daily schedule, but for me, it quickly falls apart in reality. I start to resent the structure after a while, and feel hostage to it. I don’t want to get up precisely at the same time everyday! What if I need a nap? What if I want to go for a long walk because it’s sunny today?
Daily schedules don’t accommodate my whims. I guess that’s the point of a schedule – to eliminate the whims – but I do need flexibility in my life to feel alive.
Daily Rituals: the book
Because I struggle to stay focused on my personal projects, I picked up the book Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey.
The book is organized into short snippets about the work habits (or lack thereof) of different artists, writers, composers, and thinkers. A range of artists are featured: Franz Kafka, Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, Jane Austen, and more.
Currey captures a specific peek into people’s lives – how they structure their work day. The variation in routines is fascinating. Of course, there isn’t one ‘right way’ to produce good work, except maybe to show up and do it.
One’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism.
One of my favourite examples in the book is Benjamin Franklin’s daily scheme:
Rise early, work half the day, take a nice two hour lunch break, work the rest of the day, and have the evening ahead to ‘Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion…” If only!
My weekly scheme
The book made me ask: what am I really trying to do with a routine? Easy: I want write regularly to explore ideas, practice writing, and produce a body of work.
So I made myself a weekly scheme. It’s still broken down by day, but it’s oriented towards a simple goal: one blog post a week. It’s not about the hours or minutes in a day.
Here it is to give you an idea:
Monday: IDEAS. Compile all my ideas from the week, organize, and refine. Take notes.
Tuesday: 1ST ROUND DRAFT. Write out a draft, or two, or three. By hand, on paper, no distractions.
Wednesday: 2ND ROUND DRAFT. Write out the final draft on a computer.
Thursday: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. Make it shorter. Get images. Get links.
Friday: FINAL EDIT. Maybe show it someone else.
Saturday: POST. Put in HTML and post. Feel good.
However long it takes each day, is however long it takes. My restriction is how much time I have in the morning, and my goal is to work until my daily goal is done.
This seems like a realistic schedule, and it forces me to confront some aspect of writing everyday. I’ll lapse – I already did on Wednesday this week – but this schedule has enough slack in it that I can recover. The end-goal mindset is working so far, but let’s see how it goes!