La règle des deux minutes [fr]

[en] I write a weekly column for Les Quotidiennes, which I republish here on CTTS for safekeeping.

Chroniques du monde connecté: cet article a été initialement publié dans Les Quotidiennes (voir l’original).

Après deux chroniques un peu méditatives, je me permets de vous servir cette semaine un petit truc pratique: la règle des deux minutes.

Elle est très simple: si quelque chose prend moins de deux minutes à faire, faites-le tout de suite.

Puis, pour égayer votre journée, je vais vous donner un peu de contexte et des recommandations de lecture (anglophones, donc sortez vos dictionnaires ou filez vite faire un petit séjour outre-Manche pour rafraîchir votre anglais!)

Chez les geeks et les gens bien connectés d’aujourd’hui, il y a un grand amour pour les méthodes dites “de productivité”. Allez savoir si c’est à force de vivre dans un monde numérique où le temps ne se déroule pas à la même vitesse que dans le monde extérieur (“Quoi? Ça fait trois heures déjà que je suis devant l’ordi?!”), ce qui ne manque pas d’avoir des conséquences parfois désastreuses sur la gestion du temps, ou bien parce que le cerveau cyber-compatible est excité à l’idée de systématiser la gestion de sa vie, mais toujours est-il que la productivité ainsi que la lutte contre la procrastination et la désorganisation sont des thèmes récurrants dans le monde connecté.

A coups de blog ou de Twitter, on se refile en effet les adresses de sites comme 43folders ou FlyLady, et les livres tels que “The Now Habit“, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, et surtout “Getting Things Done” (abrégé GTD, disponible en français sous le titre “S’organiser pour réussir“) finissent immanquablement par se retrouver dans nos bibliothèques, ou du moins sur nos listes de lecture.

La règle des deux minutes est tirée directement de GTD. En très très résumé, un des éléments importants de GTD est de séparer la réception d’une tâche à faire ou d’une demande (on la met dans la “boîte de réception”), la décision quant à ce qu’on va en faire (jeter, classer, déléguer, mettre sur une liste la prochaine action concrète pour avancer), et le moment où l’on fait les choses.

La seule exception à ce processus, ce sont justement les tâches très courtes. S’il me faut moins de deux minutes pour accomplir une tâche, la mettre dans mon “système” et l’en ressortir le moment venu prendra en fait plus de temps que ça. Autant donc s’épargner du travail en évitant tout simplement que la petite tâche en question se retrouve sur une des ces maudites listes de choses à faire!

Une remarque toutefois: l’utilisation de la minuterie s’impose, afin de ne pas se retrouver encore à la tâche trente minutes plus tard…

Quatre points de départ en français sur GTD pour creuser un petit peu:

Similar Posts:

Weekly Planning: Third Week (Learning Steps) [en]

Here we are — I’ve completed my third “planned” week since I started looking a bit further ahead than the current day (first week, second week, passing thoughts). Gosh, it was a busy week. I had only two office days, and I realize that it is not quite enough.

Around me, I’m faced either with people who are used to planning their weeks and find it normal, or people who could never dream of doing it, so busy are they putting out fires day after day.

I was like that for a long time. How did I get where I am now? I’ve been thinking a lot about which were the “first steps” on the road from chaos to “planning”.

Oh, before I forget: when I say I plan my week, I mean that I have a rough outline of what I am going to accomplish during the week, and on what day. It doesn’t go any further than that. Like when I “plan” my day, I don’t decide “I’m going to spend between 9 and 9.30 doing this, then do that for 20 minutes”. I know what I want to accomplish in the day, and go from there.

So, back to what brought me here, let me mention a few landmarks or “important steps” you might want to meditate upon if you are currently too busy putting out fires to even dream of planning your week. They’re in no particular order, because I think I haven’t quite finished figuring this out yet. If you spot one that seems doable, then start with that one.

  • Protect yourself. Set a very high priority on keeping “downtime” aside for yourself. Of course there are very busy periods where you won’t get much, but this shouldn’t be your “normal” week. Don’t answer the phone during lunch break, for example. Book an evening a week for yourself, and tell people who want to see you then that you “already have something planned”. Learn to become more comfortable about making people wait. If you always put others first you’ll just burn in the fire.
  • Set maker days and manager days. Yesterday evening, Claude pointed out to me that this was one of my first obvious steps towards weekly planning, back in April. It’s obvious: once you start having a clearer plan of how much actual time you’re going to have in the office to work on projects, it helps you not overcommit.
  • Under-promise, over-deliver. I can’t remember who recommended this, but it stuck with me. It helps me fight against my natural tendancy to underestimate the amount of time I need to deliver something. So I figure out a reasonable estimate, and then add a lot of security padding to give myself space for bad planning and other emergencies.
  • Everything takes more time than you think. I think David Allen says this somewhere in Getting Things Done, but I could be misquoting. It could be Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan, too. Or Merlin Mann. Anyway: the unexpected almost always adds time to things. And in the cases where it doesn’t and actually reduces the time you need for something, it’s no big disaster (OMG! I have too much time to do this! I’m going to die!). So, add a lot of padding to any estimation of how much time something is going to take you. It’s always more than you think. Try doubling your initial estimate, for starters, and see if that improves things.
  • End your day by looking at tomorrow. This is something I got from FlyLady when I realised it was important for me to have a “getting started” (=morning) and a “winding down” (=evening) routine. She recommends including 10 minutes in your evening routine to prepare the next day: check the train timetable, know what appointments you have, etc. It’s easy to do, and it means you’re not diving blind into tomorrow anymore.
  • Learn to say no. This is the really hard one for most people. I’ve become pretty good at saying no, but I’ve come a long way: initially, I was somebody who said yes to almost everything. I was both enthusiastic about all sorts of things and terrified of hurting people by refusing their requests. So I didn’t say no. I’ll probably blog about this more extensively at some point (I already did in French), but the important thing to remember is that as long as you have trouble saying no, you will not escape fire fighting. One thing that really helped me learn to say no was to start by never immediately accepting anything. Say you’ll answer in 24 hours. Then I used that time to have a long hard think about how I keep saying yes to stuff I want to do to help out, and then end up procrastinating, not doing it, feeling horrible because deadlines slip, etc. That usually gave me enough courage to say no.
  • Have a list. You can go all GTD or only part-way, like I have, but you need some kind of system or list to capture the things you need to take care of. Learn the difference between a project and a next action, and list only the latter. To start your list, just write/type down all the stuff that’s bubbling at the top of your brain and stressing you out. If you think of something you need to do while you’re working, add it to the list. Ask a friend to hold your hand (it can be through IM) if your list gets too scary. Trust me, it’ll be better when it’s written down — anything is better than being an ostrich.
  • Learn to prioritize. I have huge problems with this (in other areas of my life too). When it comes to work-related stuff, here are a few rules of thumb I use. Invoicing is high priority, because it’s what brings in the money and it’s not very long to do. Anything really time-sensitive is also high priority (if I don’t announce tomorrow’s meetup today, it won’t be any use, will it?) Responding to potential clients. Paid work for clients with deadlines, of course. Asking questions like “what is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this today?” or “on this list, is there any item which is going to cause somebody to die if I don’t do it?” (start with “to die” and then work down on the ladder of bad things — thanks Delphine for that tip) also helps. This doesn’t mean you need to order your lists. It’s just to help you figure out where to start.
  • Admit when you’re in over your head. If you over-promised, said yes when you really should have said no, and basically find yourself incapable of keeping up with your commitments, tell the people involved. And use that safety padding again. If you told the client it would be done by Wednesday, and on Monday you already have that sinking feeling that it won’t be possible, tell the client. Apologize. Say you messed up if you have. If you’re pretty certain you can get it done by Friday, tell them that it’ll be done Monday. See? Safety padding. Under-promising. Of course this doesn’t work in all situations, but you might simply not have a choice — and it’s better to be upfront about a deadline slipping than keeping it silent. Not just for the relationship with the client, but for your learning and growing process. Same with money: if you need invoices paid earlier than you initially asked because you have cashflow issues, ask. If you can’t pay the bill, ask for a payment plan. Somebody might say yes.
  • You can only do so much in a day. At some point, you reach the end of the day. Either it’s time, or you’re tired, but at some point, the day is done. Pack up and go home. Watch TV. Eat. (Maybe not in that order.) Do something nice. Take a bath. First of all, it’s no use working yourself silly until ungodly hours, you just won’t get up the next morning, or if you do, you won’t be productive. Second, doing this will help you “grow” a feel for what can be done in a day.
  • Plan your day. At the beginning of the day, look at your list, and think about the 2-3 important things that you want to accomplish today. Rocks and pebbles might help. Forget all the rest and get cracking on those. You’ll be interrupted, you’ll have emergencies, of course. That’s why it’s important not to plan to do too much — or you’re setting yourself up for failure. I started doing this regularly this spring, first with index cards, then with a list in Evernote. At the beginning you’ll be crap at it, but after months of practice, you get better. And this is one of the building stones you’ll need to be able to plan your weeks at some point.
  • Save time for the unexpected. When I was teaching, I did quite a bit of time planning — I knew when I was in class and when I had “downtime” to prepare courses and mark tests. Doing that, I realized that I could not perfectly plan my time. There was always “unexpected” stuff coming up. So I started making sure I had empty time slots of “surprises”. At some point during the last year, I calculated that roughly half my time was taken up by “unexpected” things and “emergencies”. Now, it’s less, because I’m better at planning. So, depending on how deep in chaos you are, you want to make sure you leave enough “free time” in whatever planning you’re doing to accomodate everything you didn’t know about or hadn’t thought about. As organisation increases and stress goes down, the “things to do” will get more under control and there will be less and less emergencies — but it’s still important to leave “breathing space”.

This is more or less all I can think of for the moment. Is it useful to anybody? I like to think it would have been useful to me, but one can never know… would I have listened?

Similar Posts:

Weekly Planning, Two Weeks [en]

[fr] Après deux semaines de planning hebdomadaire, je vois que j'ai été un peu trop ambitieuse cette semaine. Ça va s'arranger!

So here I am, at the end of my second “planned” week. As I suspected, I was a little ambitious this time around. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • writing a blog post for a client takes up the better part of half a day; sometimes it’s way less, but I mustn’t count on it
  • sorting through 300+ photos also takes up the better part of half a day
  • I need to remember that days with judo are short, as I need to leave the office around 5pm

As I planned “too much”, I ended up giving priority to client work and things others were expecting from me over my personal projects. It sucks, but it’s kind of normal. If I have too much stuff to do “for others” in a week, it means that

  • either I have been saying “yes” too easily
  • or I have not done enough of it over the previous weeks (lack of foresight).

Learning to say “no” more (when necessary) is an ongoing process, and I’m pretty proud at how far I’ve come. It is just not a viable option to say yes to everyone and everything, or you disappear in the process. (Merlin’s time and attention talk, which I’ve started watching, touches upon this.)

As for foresight, it requires longer term planning. Having a view of one’s month, or of the two weeks to come. However, I’m not there yet. It’s no use trying to plan further ahead until I’m at least a brown belt in weekly planning — just as it would have made little sense for me to try and plan my weeks when I was still struggling with the idea of planning my days somewhat. It’s an incremental process, step-by-step.

The fact that I’m not planning beyond the week right now also allows me to relax a bit about the stuff I haven’t got done this week. It’s not like I already have a plan for next week and it’s going to be all disrupted by what I didn’t do this week. I’m going to put the “undone” things back in my master lists, and reevaluate if I’m doing them next week or not.

Similar Posts:

More Thoughts on Weekly Planning [en]

[fr] Planifier mon travail sur la semaine me rassure sur le fait que je vais faire le travail "obligatoire" qui est sur ma liste durant la semaine, et que je peux donc me permettre de prendre du temps en cours de route pour des tâches qui me paraissent moins cruciales (mais qui, au fond, sont tout aussi importantes à mon activité professionnelle que le travail payé).

So, enter my second week with a weekly planning, after the first. I spent a good part of my Monday morning getting organized.

I’ve understood how having a weekly planning is helping me make progress in the neglected departments of my “work”: bizdev, research, more writing, etc.

When I work as I normally do, day-by-day, I am only digging into the pile of “things I must do for others”, or “urgent things”. I do not feel I can afford to devote time to less urgent tasks, because there is always this feeling that I should be doing more important things.

With a weekly planning, laying out my week means that I have an overview which reassures me that the “urgent/important” stuff can and will get done, and that it is in fact OK for me to stop and read an interesting publication for an hour or two even though I still need to upgrade some WordPress installations for a client or write a blog post for another. That’s why it works.

The challenge, for the moment, is that I still overestimate what I can do in a day. Or I underestimate the amount of time I need to set aside for the unexpected. And I still have trouble prioritizing, which means that I spent yesterday morning agonizing in front of the rather long list of client work which absolutely had to be done this week.

Yesterday worked out well, but today is being a disaster. Too many rocks, and one task in particular that I completely underestimated: it took me the better part of the morning (granted, there were interruptions and emergencies) to sort through my 350 photographs of Troyes — which I needed to do as I’ll be using some in an article I’ll be writing for a client.

I’m starting to see how longer-term planning (it’s not for straight away, mind you) will come in to help me be better at determining how many projects or how much client work I can take on for a given time period without getting “swamped” in the end.

Similar Posts:

Weekly Planning, First Attempt [en]

[fr] Cette semaine, pour la première fois, j'ai réparti mes tâches sur la semaine au lieu de travailler au jour le jour comme j'en ai l'habitude.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I felt the next step to take in my “work life improvement” series was to plan beyond the day, and start looking at my weeks so that I can start building in time for long-term projects. I’ve done this for the first time this week, and overall, the result is pretty positive. Here’s roughly how I did it and what I learned.

1. Define office days and meeting days

This has to be done in advance, obviously, or the calendar fills up. I usually have either two or three of each in a week (minimum one). Every now and again exceptions slip in and an office day turns into a half-baked errand/meeting day, but I try not to. I think I can still improve the way I plan and manage these days (for example: errands vs. meetings, laundry days, exceptions for “immediate” paid work…).

2. Define “areas” that next actions fall in

I’ve refined the list I brainstormed in my “balance in the office” post and come up with these four areas:

  1. things other people expect me to do (paid work, projects involving others, getting back to prospects…)
  2. longer term business development (taking care of my sites, creating documentation, direct marketing…)
  3. stuff I want to do more of (blogging, research, fooling around with cool toys, write ebooks and fiction…)
  4. admin and daily business (personal and professional, checking e-mail, emptying physical inbox, accounting…)

These are my areas — yours might be different. Suw and I chatted about this on Skype on Monday and hers are slightly different from mine. Just find something that makes sense to you.

Looking at my areas, it’s easy for me to see that “bizdev” and “stuff I want to do” are the two areas which will easily be left aside if I just work day-by-day doing things as they become urgent (in bad cases, call this the “Fireman Syndrome”). If you don’t do stuff people expect you to do, sooner or later they nag you or you get in trouble. Same with admin: forget your taxes or invoicing long enough, and you’ll get in trouble.

As there were almost no tasks in these two areas, I realised that to fill them up, I probably need to do a little longer-term planning. For example, what are the things I want to do in the “bizdev” department over the next 6 months? Over the next month? That will help me generate next actions. Otherwise… I’m just flying blind.

3. Sort upcoming next actions in those defined areas

The way I’ve worked these last months I would have one “master” next action list (in EvernoteI love Evernote) and I would regularly “pull out” the 3-10 next things I was going to deal with, under headings like “today”, and then “next”, or sometimes a specific day.

What I did this week is that I first sorted this “master list” into the four areas I defined. I just made four big headings in my list, and that was that.

4. Plan the week!

This is the fun bit, actually. I just made another 5 “day” headings at the top of my list (Monday to Friday) and then started moving items to given days, making sure the urgent stuff was in there, as well as a certain amount of less urgent stuff (specifically from my two “left aside” areas, bizdev and stuff I want to do more of). Two things to pay attention to:

  1. don’t plan to do stuff on errand/manager days, even if you see you will have some office time (a weekly plan is for the “minimum to accomplish” — if you have too much time you can always grab things to do from your master list or even… take time off!)
  2. remember that a fair amount of what you do in your week is going to appear during the week, so leave plenty of buffer time for the unexpected and the unplanned.

5. As the week rolls on…

One of the reasons I like having my tasks in an Evernote note is that they have these neat little “todo” checkboxes (keyboard shortcut: alt-shift-T) that I can check as I go along. Sometimes I’ll do something that wasn’t planned for precisely this day, or that is still on the master list. Well, I check it, and it feels nice. It’s also nice to see a day with a list of completely checked tasks by the time I leave the office.

My Tuesday was a meeting day, but I made the mistake of planning quite a lot of stuff to do on that day because it looked as if I was going to have enough time in the office. Big mistake. So halfway through my Tuesday, I grabbed nearly all the items I had placed under the Tuesday heading and dumped them under Wednesday (a full office day).

On Wednesday, I didn’t manage to do everything I had planned (unsurprisingly, as I shifted the “Tuesday problem” to Wednesday). So I checked the actions I did accomplish and left the others unchecked. This meant that Thursday, in addition to the rather modest list of things I had planned to do (buffer time, remember? specially at the end of the week) I was able to go back and check tasks that were leftover from Wednesday. But I didn’t move them over to Thursday — somehow it felt better to be able to start Thursday with a “clean slate” and catch up when I felt like it.

So, Monday morning, I’ll be wiping the slate clean and planning next week — looking forward to it!

Similar Posts:

Finding a Balance in Office Work: Long-Term Projects [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur comment je m'organise pour mon travail "de bureau", et la difficulté que j'ai à avancer sur les projets "long terme, pas urgents".

Here is an umpteenth post about my journey figuring out how to “be the boss of me” — getting work done and still having a life as a freelancer.

Honestly, I have not been doing too badly this year. It’s even been pretty good. 🙂

The other day, when I was catching up with Suw, I told her that I was now pretty competent at managing my days, but not that good at looking beyond that. What I mean is that I have a system to keep track of the next things I need to do, and I’m much better than I used to be at evaluating what can get done in a given day. I still tend to be a bit ambitious, but overall my “day plans” are pretty realistic.

Proof of that, in my opinion:

  • I now very rarely have a day where I’m “running” or “scrambling”
  • I rarely have to work during the week-end or the evening to do stuff that “absolutely needs to get done and I haven’t managed to squeeze it in yet”.

So, the next step is the week. I’m still using maker days and manager days (it’s not perfect, sometimes I give in and sacrifice a maker day, but overall I’m getting increasingly better at sticking to my plan). What I’d like to think about here (you read me right, I’m writing this post to think something over) is what I do (or try to do) during my office “maker” days.

Here’s what I’ve identified so far:

  1. daily business: checking e-mails, taking phone calls, hanging out on Twitter/IM, responding to prospective clients, journalists, people who want to pick my brains, dealing with little emergencies, reading stuff online
  2. “regular” paid work: these are gigs that are long-term and require a little work every day or every week at least, and therefore fall in the “daily business” category too, but are for a client who is paying
  3. my projects: taking care of eclau, Bloggy Fridays
  4. my “promotional” stuff: blogging, keeping my websites up-to-date (technically and content-wise — ahem), writing, planning ebooks but not writing them, preparing general documentation to promote what I do to prospective clients, research
  5. accounting and administrivia: personal and professional, including writing to the gérance to ask them to change the windows so we can save on heating
  6. support network: I have a bunch of friends I’m in regular contact with to talk things over (their things, my things)

OK, the list is a bit messy, but it’s a start. I know that one thing that can usually “kill” an office day is when I’m asked to do a one-off, time-limited gig by a client: for example, a 2-4 hour WordPress training/coaching session. The reason for that is that this kind of gig pays immediately: shortest path to money. So usually, when I make exceptions and kill a maker day, it’s because there is immediate money at stake (as long as it doesn’t compromise the work I need to do for my “regular” paying clients, of course).

Items 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the list above are not really a source of trouble right now. I mean, that’s what I spend my time doing.

Items 4 and 5, on the other hand, are problematic: I keep falling behind. In the case of accounting and administrivia, as they are something I get in trouble about if I don’t do them for long enough, every now and again I go “gosh, am behind, gotta spend a day on it” and I get it done. But I have trouble with regularity (less and less though, to be fair with myself).

The big painful one is what I call “my promotional stuff”. It’s long-term. If I don’t do it, there are no direct consequences. It does not involve other people. Summary:

  • it’s for me, so it tends to end up less high priority than all the rest that is “for others”;
  • no time constraints, so it is less high priority than emergencies and deadlines;
  • some of it is actually difficult for me (preparing promotional copy for example).

So, here are some of the items that are on this long-suffering list of things I want to do but never get around to doing because there is always more urgent stuff to take care of:

  • upgrade WordPress and plugins on a bunch of my sites
  • do something about the horribly out-of-date content on my professional site (organize another WPD?)
  • get a proper lifestream up and running (as Nathalie aptly put it earlier this morning, “FriendFeed is nice and all, but I never go there”)
  • start writing the blasted ebook 😉
  • write more fiction
  • write up shiny material explaining what I do (including “terms and conditions”) that I can send or give out to my clients and prospects (including sending stuff to schools saying “I give talks” and “looking for somebody to teach a few hours on social media over the next academic year?”)
  • catch up with my photo uploading on Flickr (in a way, yes, this also ends up being a “promotional” activity)
  • blog more (you’re getting tired of hearing it, but look, it’s working).

I’ve tried a few times to state (to myself, that is) “Friday afternoon is for administrivia and accounting” but weeks are so short that my resolve usually falls down the drain. I’m thinking that I should firewall time to work on these “longer-term” projects each week — but again, I look at my calendar and think “ugh”. A day a week? Sounds like a minimum when I look at the list right above, but quite impossible when I think of what my usual weeks are like. On the other hand, I do have (what feels to me like) quite a relaxed workstyle, so maybe if I did firewall a day off I’d discover I’m perfectly capable of dealing with the rest of my work on the other four days.

So, the questions for me remain:

  • how many office days vs. meeting days in a week? (right now I try to have three office days, but don’t always manage)
  • what’s the best way to build in time for long-term projects which tend to stagnate at the bottom of the priority list? (firewall a day or half a day off each week, or every two weeks, or something else…)

Dear readers: your insight is much appreciated. How do you do this? Do you do it? What have you tried? How did you fail? How did you succeed?

Similar Posts:

I Need to Blog! [en]

[fr] Ma vie a pris une jolie forme cette année. Par contre, j'ai un peu négligé mon blog ces derniers temps (je ne dis pas ça par culpabilité, mais parce qu'un sentiment de "j'ai besoin de bloguer!" vient de me prendre aux tripes).

Here we are again. Another long break on CTTS (unplanned, as always) and another “OMG I need to blog more!” post.

But this isn’t a “I feel guilty, my poor readers, I’ve abandoned you” one. I don’t do those, you should know by now.

No, it’s a cri du coeur: I just sent this tweet a few minutes ago, and immediately after was overcome by an urge to blog — 140 characters just didn’t cut it.

I’ve been working too much these last weeks — enjoying life, too, though. I honestly have a very good (happy) “work-life” balance (yeah, I know the expression is loaded, bear with me). But I miss writing here, and I’ve only just realized to what extent.

Once before — OK, maybe more than once — I took the decision to start my work day by writing a blog post. I did it for some time (my excuses, I can’t dig it out of my archives, see the sad mess my blog still is). But then stress shows up again, and emergencies, and… I stop.

I think that the problem with writing a blog post to start off the day is that it can be pretty quick (this one is only taking maximum 15 minutes or so of my time) but it can also take half a day. So, maybe I need to do it this way:

I will start my workday by writing a blog post, but if after an hour of blogging I have not hit “Publish” I will save my post and continue it on the next day.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is that I need to build in time for research and fooling around online into my weeks. At this stage, I’ve successfully managed to:

  • have a morning and evening routine and regular sleeping hours
  • exercise 30 minutes on my bike every day (give or take one a week, roughly)
  • take lunch breaks
  • have an end to my business day
  • separate maker days and manager days
  • plan regular mini-vacations (a few days at the chalet)
  • have a social life (yes!)
  • have “downtime” for myself at home
  • unclutter the worst parts of my flat in 15-minute increments
  • clean the flat roughly once a week
  • keep my inbox regularly empty, or at least under one screenful
  • set up a “next action” list system, which, whilst not kosher GTD, works pretty well for me
  • keep my accounting up-to-date and my finances in order.

Two years ago, none of this was working. I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come! So, next missions: blogging and research.

Similar Posts:

Getting Back on the FlyLady Wagon [fr]

[en] Après un peu de relâchement dû à une période de gros stress, j'essaie de me remettre en mode "FlyLady". Routine du matin et du soir, 15 minutes de débordélisation de l'appart, etc.

Earlier this year I discovered FlyLady and immediately started following some of her advice, quite successfully. I went through a phase of feeling really on top of my life: I had an eye on my finances, I was sleeping, eating, and exercising sufficiently, I had quite a lot to do at work and I was doing it well, and my flat was getting uncluttered, 15 minutes at a time.

Then I went through a hectic few days applying for a consultancy at the UN, being interviewed for it and completing an assignment (which I overdid). I dropped everything to get it done (the deadlines were short) and I realized recently that I never quite managed to regain my balance after that.

I’ve been feeling an itch to get things back in shape these last weeks. I still clean my sink every evening (almost) and make my bed in the morning, but a lot of the rest of my morning and evening rituals has gone through the window.

Here’s my plan:

– morning: get up, 30 minutes on the exercise bike, shower, get dressed, breakfast
– evening: clean sink, plan the next day

Next things I’m going to add are:

– 15 minutes of uncluttering per day
– regular book-keeping (have to figure out what frequency is good, but I suspect once a week or a fortnight)
– plan my laundry days better to include time to put dry clothes away the next day
– regular creative writing slots (50 word stories etc)
– regular “self-promotion” project slots
– weekly “quick flat clean”

(Not all in one go, of course, but those are the next goals on my radar.)

Similar Posts:

Maker Days and Manager Days [en]

A few months ago I wrote an article called Office vs. Errand Days, where I explained that I had started grouping my errands on certain days and making sure that I had meeting-free office days on others.

I’ve just finished reading Paul Graham’s excellent essay Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, and realized that what I have been doing is separating my days into “manager’s schedule days” and “maker’s schedule days”.

As a freelancer, I am both: I’m the manager who meets people, has speculative meetings, receives new clients or gets interviewed by journalists. But I’m also the maker: a whole bunch of what I get paid for has to be done quietly in the office. And a whole bunch of what I need to do to get paid work also happens in the office.

So, if I’m not careful, I let the manager’s schedule take over my week, I’m super-busy but I don’t really get any paid work done, or proper prospecting.

So, here’s to grabbing my calendar again and making sure I put enough “maker days” into each of my weeks. And here’s to saying “no” firmly but gently when asked to interrupt one of my “maker days”. Even if I’m the person I need to say no to.

Similar Posts:

There is Work and Work [en]

We freelancers know it: there are many kinds of work. Non-freelancers probably know it too, but let’s stick to the freelance way of life for the sake of this article.

There is work that gets you paid. There is work that doesn’t get you paid, but that you need to do in order to get the work that will get you paid.

There is also work that you have decided to do and planned, and work that you just happen to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last distinction lately.

Three years ago, I had a big client project and was going through a slow procrastinative summer. At one point, I decided to stop worrying and embrace my summer days: I would work from 9am to noon and then would be free to do whatever I wanted.

It worked really well. I made quick progress on the project and got to enjoy my summer.

This year, I’m having a slow summer too. The weather is nice, people are on holiday, I’m learning to sail, and I’m not swamped with work (I am busy with lots of things, though, I think that’ll never change). And honestly, when I look at my productivity certain most days, I might not be working less if I had decided to do the 9-12.

Deciding to work 9-12 does not mean that I stop myself from working in the afternoons. It means that I don’t have to work in the afternoons. And this is where the work you plan and the work that just happens comes in.

I rediscovered this when I started working in my coworking space, eclau: office hours started to be devoted to “things I had to do” for work, and sometimes, in the evenings or week-ends, I would do some light work that I felt like doing (work that doesn’t feel like work). Blogging, for example. Fooling around online. Sometimes, even doing my accounting because I felt like it. But nothing because I felt I ought to do it.

So, next year, I’m thinking of trying the 9-12 during the summer months. Work well three hours, then do something else or allow myself to be completely unproductive in the afternoon.

Hell, why wait until next year? I’m starting tomorrow.

Similar Posts: