Looking at the calendar today I noticed that January is rapidly coming to a close. As is the case with almost every late January, I can still clearly remember New Year’s day—sitting on my couch amidst empty champagne bottles and half-boxed up holiday decorations, brimming with enthusiasm about how tomorrow was going to be the first day of the rest of my newly organized, focused, and efficient life. But it’s now almost a month later. If I’m being honest, I’ve spent most of those weeks just recovering from the holiday season and getting back into the groove of a regular work and home schedule.
Which is why—although new year’s resolutions sound great—I typically find myself at the end of January without having made any significant progress. Normally I look at this as a personal failing, get discouraged, and give up on my new year’s goals entirely.
But this year I’ve decided to take a different approach: Rather than succumbing to the post-holiday fog and looking at one slow month as an excuse to trash the rest of the year, I’m looking past immediate results in January and seeing the next six months as a process toward renewing, refocusing, and reinvigorating my work life. And so—in hopes of serving up some inspiration for your own post-January game plan—here’s a list of four things I’m looking forward to implementing over time, starting now.
Hi! My Name Is Structure
One of the perks of freelancing and/or working remotely is that you aren’t tied down to a hard and fast work schedule. Sure, there are times when you need to be on the same scheduling page as your team or a client, but, unlike a conventional office environment, producing work is more important than being seen in an office during specific hours. This kind of flexibility can allow you to fit your work around the rest of your life in a way that’s more efficient and productive than sitting at a desk from 9-5, but there are times when getting too flexible can tie you up in knots. It can be tempting to put off work for house cleaning or dentist appointments just because you can. That’s fine once in awhile—and it comes with the territory when you’re a remote freelancer—but if you let your flexible schedule get to a point where there’s no schedule at all, you can quickly find yourself in a work wasteland where you’re working all the time but not really getting anything done.
This year, as I recover from the fast and loose scheduling chaos of the holiday season and the dip in motivation that comes with late January, my plan is to embrace structure with open arms and reintroduce some dedicated scheduling to my work life. I’m redoubling my efforts to carve out regular, dependable blocks of work time that fit around the rest of my day (instead of cobbling together piecemeal, unsatisfying work sessions at random, unplanned times).
One of the biggest steps I’m trying to take is to stop treating my schedule like it’s a mystery. While freelancing from home isn’t as clockwork as a 9-5 office schedule, it’s still pretty predictable. I know I have to drop off and pick up my kids from school at the same times every day, I know which days they have after school activities, their (and my) appointments are usually scheduled weeks in advance, etc., and so—with just a little bit of proactive Google Calendar consultation or help from productivity hacks—there’s no reason I can’t plan my work around these known constants, versus waiting for convenient work times to magically present themselves.