I try never to glorify my busy schedule. By that I mean, I know I’m pretty lucky to live the life that I have, flaws and all.
But the freelance life combined with a full-time job is not all wine and roses. (It’s not digging ditches or fighting fires either. See. I have perspective.) What it is though is a life determined by ambition, energy and intuition.
It’s also a life riddled with exasperation, doubt and procrastination. The best way to tackle this seesaw is to find your balance. And the best way for me to find my balance is to create a set, but flexible schedule.
Those who know me, know I love to make lists. And since the “schedule” is the posh Cathy Lane to working class Patty Lane’s To-Do list, scheduling my day, week or month is just an exercise in all things awesome. To give you an idea of how I manage to
scramble schedule a week of productivity out of a calendar full of unending To Do’s, let me take you on a journey through a day in the life of me.
Any Given Weekday
Hit the alarm clock’s snooze button. Get 30 more minutes of sleep in where I’m really just waking up slowly.
Wake up and get ready for work.
Review email drafts written last night for missed words, typos and inconsistencies. Send out emails to European or Eastern Standard Time US clients, potential clients or magazine editors.
Leave for work (well, 7:30-ish).
Work as a proofreader for a local design agency.
Break to check email, reply to anything needing immediate attention or take a walk around the building to give my eyes a digital break.
Eat lunch while I write a rough draft to a blog post, edit a freelance article or send out emails to Asian, Australian or Pacific Standard Time US clients, potential clients or magazine editors.
Back to work. Proofreading is fun! Detail-oriented fun!
Break to check email or take another walk around the building to give my eyes a digital break.
Head home. Along the way I may make a stop at the local library to pick up/drop off items or Target to buy whatever I forgot on my list from Saturday.
Sit down to relax while opening mail, set my phone to Wifi to initiate uploads, and determine what To-Do list items to tackle before and after dinner. Say hi to my cat, Callie.
Sit down at home office desk and work on any number of projects: assigned stories from my clients, pitches for magazines and applications for bigger and better opportunities. All of this could involve calling, writing, editing, re-writing, emailing, blogging, researching or marketing on social media.
Cook dinner. (I like to either listen to music or a stand-up special on Netflix while I cook.)
Eat dinner, watch TV, live tweet to the chagrin of my West coast friends, and ignore the implications all this has on my attention span. Feed Callie too if I want to eat in peace.
Watch TV while folding laundry, paying bills, updating my calendar or twisting my hair. If I have a looming deadline, go back to work.
Go back to work. Continuing writing, editing, re-writing, drafting emails, researching, blogging and nitpicking over my work until my brain cries “Uncle.”
Pack leftovers for lunch. Straighten house. Get items together for (day job) work.
Hit the hay!
Notice how I didn’t schedule exercise into my agenda. Yes, I’m inconsistent with that like most freelancers, but I’m working on it. I try to exercise at least once during the week and again on the weekend, but it keeps shifting due to deadlines and willpower.
Regardless, this is my schedule for most days of the week. I like having the flexibility that allows me to move priorities around should I have an event in the evening, such as a lecture, concert or birthday party to attend. Although, I prefer to maintain the schedule as closely as possible unless given a reason not to.
So is my weekend any different? Very.
My Saturdays and Sundays are essentially spent juggling the responsibilities of writing, editing and planning my freelance workload in between necessary errands, household chores, volunteering, reading for pleasure, and goofing off. Although I never seem to accomplish more than 50% of the items on my weekend To-Do list, I feel productive if I know that I’ve tried to do as much as I can without feeling guilty.
It’s important to not feel guilty if you want to stay productive. The human mind functions best when it’s not limited by fatigue, especially the creative mind. Some call it procrastination, but I call it being human. I’m not afraid to nix TV when the deadlines are looming, but I also know that burnout isn’t pretty. Thankfully, my full-time gig keeps the lights on and the peppermint tea flowing.
Sadly, some people view part-time freelancers as a red-headed stepchild in the entrepreneurial world. They don’t take us seriously, and wonder if we’re just hobbyists trying to keep ourselves busy in the face of boredom. I know I have more to learn if I wish to expand my business, yet I try to remember that I’m a sole proprietor and a full-time employee.
And I’m not alone. Kurt Vonnegut worked at a car dealership while he wrote some of his greatest stories and essays. Jack Kerouac was a railroad worker. Charles Bukowski was a mail carrier. O. Henry was a pharmacist, rancher, draftman, bank teller and newspaper reporter — to name a few. Some of these jobs were held before, during and after each writer published some of their most renowned work.
I’m by no means on their literary level, but it’s important to remember that there’s no shame in having one job to feed your belly and another job to feed your spirit. The part-time and full-time seesaw is not for the timid, but if you find balance, you’ll learn to weather any period of feast, famine or uncertainty with charm and resiliency.
Are you a part-time freelancer?
How do you schedule your day/week?