The world of work is different today. It’s not a 9-5 daily sprint, it’s an always-on, always connected, all-out communication MARATHON. And like any athlete preparing for an intense and extended effort, it takes preparation — some mental, some physical, and some conditioning that only gets easier through discipline and practice.
I carry a heavy workload. Throw my commitment to the social web on top of it and I’ve had to make adjustments to the way I mentally, and even physically, approach work every day. Here are a few tricks for handling this new world of work.
1) Schedule every important task. One problem I had was having only a vague idea that I had to work on certain important projects — You know, “get it done by the end of the week,” for example. But then some distracting snowball would start, it would roll down hill, gathering all my client time with it. So now I schedule almost everything I do. I set aside time for blogging, planning, administration, and projects, and then I schedule less important phone calls and meetings around those blocks of time.
2) Don’t apologize for being “on.” I grew up in a world where dad worked 8-5, five days a week and mom was a homemaker. There was a time for work and a time for family and it was highly compartmentalized and predictable. That type of schedule is impossible as an employee within a global, digital 24×7 world. I still strike a balance between work and play, family and customers, but it’s not my father’s Oldsmobile. I rarely have a day when I don’t work to some extent. I still have a twinge of guilt when I squeeze in a little work on a Saturday but then I realize how lucky I am to be flexible to take time off in the middle of the week because the digital world doesn’t care when I work. As long as it all balances out in the end, forgive yourself for not being your dad (or mom). It’s just the way it is. P.S. My kids are grown. That helps with the flexible work schedule!
3) Get a virtual assistant. Yes, there is a way to get more than 24 hours in a day. Instead of getting mired in routine administration I can push some work to my friend, a talented stay-at-home mom who is appreciative of a little extra income. This keeps me focused on strategic work and also affords me the luxury of “dead-ends.” What I mean by that is when I have a wild idea for something, I can have my VA do some research on it before I waste too much time on a concept that ends up going no where. My challenge is to be disciplined to delegate and buy myself more time!
4) Shift perspective. It is not unusual for me to spend 12 hours or more each day in front of a computer. This is not healthy in any way. So I take frequent breaks, I shift positions, I may work standing up or in different locations to provide some ease to the body and energy to the mind.
5) Write ahead. Over the past two weeks I have been absolutely slammed with extremely important, intense client work. But I was still able to keep up a a high-quality blog with consistent posts because I write ahead. I am constantly writing posts or parts of posts as the ideas come to me so when that slam time comes I can draw from the pool. I currently have 45 posts in the “draft” pile. Some of them will never see the light of day but I am constantly adding to the inventory of ideas, even if it is just a sentence or an inspiring quote. This is an essential survival skill for anybody who hopes to keep up a blog if it’s not your job.
I don’t have time management down perfectly and never will. Here’s where I still struggle:
- I tend to schedule myself with too little rooom for error. When a computer failure hits it can really throw me for a loop. As a solo entrepreneur, I sure miss the IT department.
- While the flexibility of my schedule is great, I have a hard time shutting my mind completely down. I am always twitching with ideas. It takes me at least two days of digital de-tox to begin to relax.
- I need to jog more than I blog.
As I re-read this post I realized like it might seem that I work all the time. I don’t. I have lots of outside interests and activities. And my life is a ball. I do work a lot but it is more like fun than work … most of the time!
How are you running your marathon? Where are you still struggling?