A while back I announced an attempt at changing around my schedule. Specifically I was hoping to take advantage of the idea of “Maker Time”, a focused block of time without breaks when I would work on a single project.
Towards that end I blocked out four hours five days a week, with the following designations:
- Blogsday: Working on posts for this blog as well as other client work.
- Bookday: Steady progress on my Defining Moment book and the new e-book on meditation I’m creating.
- Bizday: When you work for yourself, you gotta be the boss sometimes.
- Talkday: Improving, creating, and booking presentation work.
- Podday: Creating and developing podcasts, both my own and for clients.
The rest of the day was scheduled for other projects – improving my sketching, an hour of writing (either for myself or for work as needed), time to do “urgent” tasks that might not have gotten done earlier in the week. Time to exercise. It was a full day, but on paper, at least, it looked like I’d have a relatively normal day between the hours of 8am and 5:30pm. Just like normal people! I thought, perhaps a bit wistfully.
So, did it work? Well…
The Hidden Cost of Maker Time
In terms of productivity, yes, it did, amazingly. In the first week I outlined and rough-drafted a new book, created a brand label, joined a virtual biz development group with weekly meetings, and booked two high-profile interviews for the podcast. And that’s just the highlights; I also had things done ahead of schedule for a change, which did wonders for my stress levels.
At the end of that four-hour flow? I was exhausted. Often I would end up feeling too tired to do the things in the rest of my schedule with any kind of enthusiasm. Far too often I fell into what Gretchen Rubin called “the Moral Licensing Loophole“: I worked for four straight hours this morning, and got all that stuff done! I can skip my workout…
It also was hard to keep the four-hour block sacred. I’m a grandpa, I’m an entrepreneur and a frequent traveler. Things come up. If I get back from a trip on Monday (often a travel day due to prices being lower) then I try to take Tuesday off as a recovery day – and that means I have to scramble to make the posts on time, and lose momentum on the books.
Don’t get me wrong: I did love the flow of those four hours. But doing them daily just didn’t feel sustainable.
Pomodoro to the Rescue
I’ve tried the Pomodoro Technique before. Basically it’s working in 20-minute focused spurts with an enforced 5-minute break in between. I haven’t liked it because I get into a flow and get annoyed at the idea of “taking a break”. I’m much more inclined to work myself into exhaustion or worse (which is why CrossFit is not for me).
However, by fitting Pomodoro into my maker time, I seem to have hit on a flow. It goes like this:
- I set my Pomodoro timer for three twenty-minute intervals.
- The first two are broken by five minute breaks
- After the third, I take a fifteen-minute break.
- I then set the timer for one hour and get into a deeper flow of work.
- After another fifteen-minute break, I work the rest of the way to lunch (about 12:30). No work allowed during lunch.
This has seemed to work well. If my morning is interrupted, I can still slot in a few Pomodoros and feel like I’ve put in a decent day’s work. The breaks keep me from overworking so that the rest of the day feels doable, but the one-hour unbroken time gives me that lovely flow of getting deep into a project.
Don’t get me wrong: I still find Pomodoros annoying, especially since my computer keeps wanting to correct them to “Comodoro” (what the heck is a Comodoro?). When the buzzer goes off and I have to interrupt what I’m doing, I often swear and whine about having to stop.
But I do stop – well, ok, most of the time I stop – because it will help the rest of the day. It’s kind of like yoga. Don’t wanna, did it anyway.
How about you? Any tricks for getting good-quality flow into your workday?