Four Ways to Make the Most Out of a Flexible Schedule

Sure, as freelancers or full-timers who work from home, there’s a benefit of flexibility but with that flexibility comes the challenges of self-discipline. Especially as warmer temps are here to stay, it can be particularly challenge to create structure and of course, stick to it!

According to a piece on The Daily Muse, there are several ways to become more productive when you create your own schedule. For starters, the piece recommends giving yourself a hard stop to officially create an ending to each and every day.

Adelaide Lancaster writes, “Try giving yourself an official end to the workday. If you’re tempted to burn the midnight oil, try working with your computer unplugged — when your battery is dead, you’re done.” Others have recommended setting a kitchen timer. It can also serve to instill short 20-minute breaks (Facebook, anyone?) and when the buzzer rings, it’s time to get back on task.

With an open schedule that can pretty much begin as soon as you wake up and not end until your head hits the pillow again, Lancaster recommends putting everything on your calendar. Whether it’s an e-calendar or your old-fashioned written to-do list, it’s all good.

In the piece she indicates, “Not only will it force you to budget the amount of time each task should take, but it will also help you plan a more realistic day for yourself.” Plus, it could be self-defeating and deflating if you bite more than you can chew and realize you only tackled two items on your list instead of ten.

This applies to the job search as well. Whether you’re gainfully employed right now or seeking work around the clock, sticking to a schedule and giving yourself breaks are still important. After all, a job search may begin to feel like a job in itself!

For another tip, Lancaster points out assigning one project task for each day. So, instead of feeling overwhelmed by a monster to-do list with a range of items like invoicing clients, cranking out a book proposal and picking up dry cleaning, if you assign one task to each day, you’ll “approach each day with clarify of focus, and end each day with a sense of accomplishment of progress.” Sometimes it’s fun to create a separate list (a “ta-da” list) to literally keep track of all the big things you were able to check off that lofty list!

Lastly, one way to make the most out of a flexibile schedule is to know when you’re at your peak (maybe it’s at 8 a.m. in the morning right after your first cup of coffee), and also when you start diving into the snooze zone. Lancaster indicates most of us can become unproductive with a sense of predictability so the key is knowing your triggers.

“Maybe your trigger is online — Facebook or a sale email from J. Crew — or maybe it’s the unfolded basket of laundry. Either way, we get off track and we become entranced, only to “wake up” 40 minutes later having accomplished nothing,” she writes in the piece.