This post follows on from Wednesday’s What I Do In A Day: Ideally.
It’s 11.20am, and I’ve only just started work.
There are a bunch of reasons for this. I had to get up at 6am, as I do every day this fortnight, to feed chickens and feed the dog. I slept badly both before that and in the hours that I scrabbled for after it. I have generally, this week, been very exhausted and struggling with my mental health.
This happens frequently. Sometimes I’ll have a bad week, sometimes a bad day, sometimes just a bad morning. But in the several months that I’ve been working to a schedule I’ve only had maybe one week where I actually did 100% of the schedule. It’s an ideal, one that it benefits me to work towards – but it’s not the real story.
So here are some of the ways and reasons that I miss things out or don’t quite do them right, and more importantly, here’s why it’s okay.
I skip my writing sessions when I don’t have ideas. This mostly happens when I am at the start of a new act (like I am right now). It’s like with any project – starting is much, much harder than keeping going.
When I’m in the middle of something I wake up knowing what the next bit I want to work on is and I’m generally excited about doing so. When I’m not in the middle, that’s harder. I’ve got a plan, sure, but it’s not like I know I was halfway through a scene when I stopped yesterday. It’s a lot tougher to motivate myself.
The important thing is that I keep trying. I think about siting down and writing every day, or at least the vast majority of them. I often make myself open the document and look through the plan. And if nothing happens – well nothing happens.
I finish a session early if I run out of things to do. This most frequently happens with my social media hour. Sometimes it takes the whole hour and sometimes I do all of it in fifteen minutes. If the latter happens, I just move on – generally to lunch.
A better thing to do would be to find other things to do, but sometimes I just don’t. Sometimes I concede that I may, in fact, be human after all and accept that what I would like is a lunch break that’s half an hour longer than usual.
The thing I remind myself when I do this is that there are kinds of break that you just don’t get when you work from home. I’m rarely disturbed by someone walking past my desk and asking for something. I don’t smoke, so there’s no natural break that way. Getting a drink doesn’t take long because it’s just downstairs.
So when a break presents itself, I take it. Because I don’t normally take them otherwise.
If I’ve had to work at a strange time, I make the hours up to myself.. For example on days where I’m streaming, I generally don’t do anything in my Patreon/Twitch hour. I know I’m going to spend an hour working at some point, so I just let myself have that hour back. I don’t do this 100% of the time but I’m trying to do it more, so that things even out and I do actually work a sensible amount of hours.
This is especially important because when your job is many jobs – like mine –
it’s very easy to lose track of how much work you’re actually doing, and just how many hours you’re sinking into it. I need to ensure for my mental health and general wellbeing that I’m not working too much.
That’s a fight that everyone who’s self-employed or works from home – no matter their industry or job – has to take on. Effectively, it’s the flipside to ‘I can give myself a bit more flexibility to deal with [thing]’.
Sometimes I do a ‘bare minimum’ day because it’s all I can manage. I get up whenever I’m able (which is a lot earlier than it used to be), write the relevant blog or Patreon post, and do my social media. Then I stop and take the rest of the day off.
Often when I decide to do this I then manage to do some work later on, but most of the time it’s what I need. It’s one of the main reasons this job works so well for me. When my brain is especially bad, I can – generally – stop.
Yes, sometimes I have deadlines and this isn’t possible, or I’m in the middle of something when it gets too much and I have to keep going. But every single job has that, and I’m never going to escape that responsibility entirely. I can’t tell you how valuable being able to walk away is.
And sometimes, I just can’t do the day at all. I’m getting better at recognising when this is happening. It’s a lot rarer than needing to do the minimum, but it still happens.
I don’t like doing this, because it normally means actually cancelling things that are meant to be happening. But I would be lying if I didn’t include it, because it does happen and it has happened.
This is all worth it, because scheduling my work day is the best thing I’ve done for my mental health in a long time. Habits are so important. They mean more for your wellbeing than, I think, any of us really understand.
The main reason I’d never done it before is that I knew I wouldn’t ever achieve 100% perfection. And I haven’t. But it doesn’t matter.
Even on the days where all I can do is the minimum, I’m still doing better than before I tried this at all. I still have that rhythm of regularity, and more importantly I truly understand at last that the next day I can try again.
My version is obviously tailored towards being self-employed, but does that mean it couldn’t be used in a traditional job? How do you structure yourself to benefit your mental health? I would love to hear from you – comment, tweet, email or more to let me know!
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