I’m naturally a pretty structured person and function the best when I stick to some kind of routine.
Since I quit my day job last summer, I’ve been trying out different daily routine to see what works best for me.
When I first started working for myself, I was pretty hard core about making the best out of every waking minute and was working long hours every day. I’ve loosened up a bit since then. Some health issues have also forced me to reevaluate how I’m taking care of myself, too. I’ll share more about that in the future.
Anyway, I wanted to share what my day to day looks like currently in case you’re looking for some ideas on how to organize your work day!
5:30am – Wake up
I use the Sleep Cycle app on my phone as my alarm. The app tracks your movement throughout the night and wakes you up when your sleep is naturally shallow during the time period you set so your wake-up alarm feels a bit more gentle.
I feed our kitty and drink a glass of water when I get up. Our kitty’s VERY excited to see me every morning and starts meowing very loudly as soon as I come out of the bedroom. I’m afraid all our neighbors are getting the wake-up call when I get up 😀
6:00 – 6:30am – Workout
I go to the gym in our neighborhood for a group kettlebell class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s a great way to wake up your body and mind and get the energy up for the day.
I love how I can work out my whole body in half and hour with the kettlebell workout! Being in the group workout class is also great because inevitably I’m pushed more than when I work out alone. And you get to know the instructor and the other people in the class, and that helps me with accountability.
Alternatively, on the days I don’t go to the gym, I start my day with writing. I work on my blog or newsletter until 7:30am or so and then have breakfast.
6:30 – 9:00am – Shower, breakfast & miscellaneous morning chores.
I’ve never liked being rushed in the morning. It sets the tone for the whole day, and I try to start my day with plenty of space and calmness.
After my workout session, I take shower and make myself a good breakfast. I have to eat breakfast every morning to stay well. I don’t eat a lot of sweet sugary stuff, especially in the morning, and it helps with the overall energy level throughout the day. My current go-to breakfast is this Buckwheat Porridge. It’s very easy, satiating, and packed full of nutrients.
After I finish my breakfast, I quickly skim my email and social media on my smartphone. I respond to quick or urgent issues and delete junk mails. I put anything that needs a follow-up on my calendar to take care of later.
Then I do the dishes and take care of pets (we also have two parakeets) among other daily chores.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t work in my pajamas 🙂 I don’t dress up fancy or anything, but I still get dressed and do my make-up and hair every morning. It’s one of the routines that get me in the work mode!
9:00 – 12:00pm – Morning work
My husband and I share a small office in our tiny apartment, which is also shared by our parakeets. I just can’t focus well in that environment so I’ve been working in our dining area for quite some time. Although I can still see/hear them from the dining area, it helps to be in the separate physical space.
I bring my laptop and other materials (like my sketchbook and pens) from the office to set up on the dining table. It’s a very small table but big enough to have all my essentials.
I make myself some tea or pour a glass of water and get started on the tasks at hand.
I usually spend about 15-30 minutes posting an unscheduled visual piece on my social media in the morning. It’s usually a drawing I made the day before. I also check my email again at this time and address quick issues.
The first thing I do after getting the small stuff out of the way is writing. I typically write (blog, newsletter, other contents etc.) for 2 hours every morning. I find the morning time to be the best time to work on my writing. My mind is still clear of information clutter and I can sustain my focus longer more easily.
I write until I’m at a good stopping point. Depending on how much time I have until lunch, I usually go back to the “follow-up” list I made in the morning or the day before and work on that.
I may prepare a package for my Etsy shop sales or respond to inquiries from potential clients in the morning. I also try to use morning time to take care of things I’m not totally excited about, like doing my finances and analyzing my email service data.
12:00 – 1:00pm – Lunch
I take lunch break every day.
Some days I cook myself a simple lunch, and other days I just eat leftovers. I have a tendency to productively procrastinate when I feel stuck or unmotivated to work, and cooking is one of those things I escape to. So I need to pay attention when this is happening and not indulge too much!
I don’t read email or check social media during lunch. I just try to enjoy my food and take a break while I eat.
After I finish lunch, I do the dishes and make more tea to get ready for my afternoon.
1:00 – 5:00pm – Afternoon work
I usually try to tackle tasks that don’t require as much mental focus in the afternoon. As the day goes on, my brain gets filled with more information and thoughts and just doesn’t function as effectively when it comes to focus.
Often I start my afternoon work with a quick drawing in my sketchbook. I find it helpful to refocus my energy and warm up my creative muscle.
My typical afternoon may be filled with tasks like editing and organizing product photos, designing new products, and working on new art pieces.
I also reserve 1-1.5 hours on Tuesday and Friday afternoons to read an article or watch a webinar to learn. I use the Pocket app to save things I want to read/watch later during the week.
At the end of the afternoon, I check my email and social media one last time to tie any loose ends for the day. I respond to questions and comments as much as I can, and anything that requires more thoughtful follow-up, I just put it on my calendar to take care of later.
I also review my calendar for the following day before I close everything up to remind myself what’s coming and if there is any appointments I need to be aware of.
5:00pm – Dinner & rest
On days I cook dinner, I usually start preparing the meal at around 5-5:30pm and we eat at about 6:30pm. We typically watch a couple of episodes of our favorite Netflix shows while we eat.
I used to work after dinner but don’t do that very often any more. I was not being very productive anyway, and the stress tended to get carried over to the next day if I didn’t have enough down time every day.
This is also a great time for me to doodle in my sketchbook!
9:30pm – Bed time
Ideally, I’m in bed by 9pm so I have some time to read before going to sleep. Lights off at around 9:30pm so I get enough sleep and wake up refreshed at 5:30am the following morning.
My husband often makes fun of me for having such an early bed time, but it works for me! 🙂
Other things to note:
Breaks & snacks
Throughout the day, when I get to a natural stopping point for whatever I’m working on, I take a quick break. I get up and get something to drink or eat as needed. I try to have handy snacks, like cut fruits and veggies, ready so I don’t have to spend a ton of time preparing them during a work day.
I also check my social media and email when I have break from my focused time.
Music & podcast
I often listen to music or podcast while I work. I wear earphones as it helps to create my own “quiet” space in our somewhat noisy household. It also sends my husband my “do not disturb” signal (though it’s not always effective…)
I listen to music when I write. I’ve heard this from other non-native English speakers too, but songs in English don’t seem to bother me when I write. It’s probably because English is my second language and the words don’t automatically enter my brain or something. It’s a background sound to me if I’m not intentionally listening to the music to really get into it.
I usually play my “Laid Back Beach Music” station on Pandora exclusively when I write. I made this station when I was in San Diego last spring. It just seemed so perfect there, and I wanted to have that relaxed beach-y feeling with me at all times. I like how mellow and no-drama this station is. I can’t be on an emotional rollercoaster when I write!
Podcasts, however, are reserved for when I’m not writing. I definitely can’t focus on writing and listening to a podcast at the same time!
I alternate listening to business-focused podcasts like Seanwes podcast and Lambo Goal and other more story-focused shows like Serial, This American Life, and The Moth when I’m making art or doing graphic editing work.
Do you have a routine that you stick to? How does it help with your focus and productivity? Tell me in the comment! I’d love to hear 🙂