30 Days of Schedules

Using limits to increase effectiveness

By Sol in Blog

There is a great sense of freedom that accompanies being self-employed.  However, to paraphrase a well known wall-crawler, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

When there’s no one else breathing down your neck to get stuff done, you have to be even more attentive to how effective you are with your time.

I work on projects that I am passionate about and have a deep interest in.  Nonetheless, momentum is incredibly important as any project worth doing will have it’s share of hard work.  Therefore, when I am working on a project and making good progress, I will generally continue to work on that project until I reach a milestone of some sort.  Stopping short of that feels like a waste of all of the momentum I’ve built up when the end could be just around the corner.

The Problem

It may be obvious what kind of problem this way of working may present– by focusing all of my attention on a single project, all other projects fall by the wayside.  If I was only interested and passionate about one thing at a time, this would not be a problem, but alas, I am usually working on several projects concurrently.

This leads to the dreaded “should be’s”, where I think about how I should be working on one project while I am working on another.  The longer that I don’t get back to working on a project, the stronger the feeling that I should be working on it gets.

The end result is a feeling of dissatisfaction with what I’ve accomplished and a sense that there’s always more to be done.

A Solution?

Though I plan out what I will be working on next, I have always been of the belief that there wasn’t much point in creating a rigid schedule because I wanted the freedom to continue working on a project into the next day (or week), should the current task require it.  Creating a fixed schedule would either stop all momentum cold, or cause me to feel guilty because I wasn’t sticking to it.

But was it true?

I decided to put my assumptions to the test, and so for the next 30 days, I will be working on a fixed schedule where my projects change on a daily basis.

The Details

  • I will be working on 1-2 projects (maximum) per day.
  • I will work on different projects each day of the week.
  • The schedule repeats on a weekly basis.

Here is my weekly schedule for the next 30 days:

Monday

  1. Simple Lightbox
  2. Business development

Tuesday

  1. Cornerstone
  2. Site maintenance

Wednesday

  1. Art (design, photography, etc.)
  2. WordPress in the Classroom

Thursday

  1. Video (Shoot)

Friday

  1. Video (Edit)

I’ve grouped projects together that are either related somehow (e.g. Cornerstone is used heavily on this site, so it will play a role in the site’s maintenance), or where one project will present a refreshing change from the other (so that I don’t get burnt out during the day).

The Rules

As always, I like to keep things simple, so the rules are deliberately brief:

  • I can only work on the projects scheduled for the current day.  If I finish the tasks I scheduled for the current day’s projects, I can work on other tasks for those projects, but it would probably be better if I called it a day.
    • Exception: User support for my software/plugins is exempt from this as waiting a week for an answer to a question or bug report is unreasonable.
  • No adjustments. At least for the initial 30 days. I want to see this schedule through to the end to see how bad (or good) things get if I rigidly hold myself to the original schedule.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t begrudge structure, in fact I love it.  I’ve just never felt that a rigid and predefined schedule lends itself to creativity.  However, one of the questions I’d like explore over the next 30 days is if adding more structure to my schedule will free me to be more creative in other areas (e.g. in my projects).

Update: A review of the results of this experiment has been posted.