Schedule Your Day For Success

In my last post, I gave a general overview of what you'll need to restarted yourself and your career. Now I'll get more specific and deal directly with planning and executing your day.  The same concepts from the last post still hold. I'll give you examples of what has worked for me along with some changes I've made over time.

Getting Up and Moving

I get up at 6am on a regular basis. Regardless of the day, be it weekday or weekend, I've made the decision to wake up at the same time. I do this because I need structure and discipline. It goes back to the framework I talked about in my last post.

Getting up at 6am doesn't mean I leap out of bed and run enthusiastically to the shower and attack my day. I know I need about 30 minutes to get my body going each morning. I lay in bed and read news and emails from the previous night to prepare for my day as my body wakes up.

After a shower and dressing, I pick up my 4x6 card with my plan for the day. I'll get to how I create it at the end of the post. I realize life is a dynamic disaster of evolving events. This schedule is not set in stone. Rather it's a list of priorities for my day. I get to decide what gets done.

I eat something of substance. By this I mean more than a cup of coffee and a muffin. Eating is what makes our bodies go. The first thing you put into it will have a major impact upon your day. Think fruit, bread, and juice. I'm diabetic so orange juice first thing is not something I can handle. I prefer milk or a less sugary juice.

Making The Day Work

Usually my first task in attending to my Treehouse courses. I'm learning how to build HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. I decided it's the skill to learn so I can be productive and valuable to someone eventually.

I spend about 25 to 35 minutes working before I pause for something else. Here's where the magic of getting stuff done happens. While I'm processing what I've discovered in my courses, I'm doing dishes and starting laundry. These are mindless yet necessary tasks for everyone our age. I spend the next 20 minutes getting a batch of dishes done and gathering dirty clothes for a load. 

Then I move back to my courses for another 20 to 30 minutes. This works best for me and is one of the best ways to get multiple things accomplished during the day. Focusing on a single task for more than 30 minutes leaves me frustrated and lost. You might call this multi-tasking. Science has shown multi-tasking is actually counter-productive

Instead, intensely focusing on a single task for short periods of time is the best way to get things done. What this also implies is you make time for everything. There will be situations that will require your undivided attention for extended periods of time, This should be an exception and not a rule. 

Posts like this take me about an hour to complete. I rarely finish these in one sitting. Instead, I type like a mad man for a few minutes about a topic, get up and answer a few emails or do some dishes while what I just wrote festers in my head, and then I return. Once I write a draft, I go back through it and read for flow and syntax.

Then I walk away from it for at least an hour sometimes overnight. This allows for the noise in my head to filter out. Once that is gone, I can get to a place where I know I'm making sense to you.

What This Means For You

You won't learn the skills you need to get back into the professional world in one day or one week. It will take time. Meanwhile, you have life to handle. If you are going back to school like I did and get a degree or certification, you have to make time for it and everything else in life.

This means at some point you have to stop and move on to more important life stuff. For me, this looks like the times when I must travel out of town for a basketball game. I have to leave by 2pm. So I must pack and be ready to meet my crew before I leave the house. I tell myself I'll walk away from courses or writing for and here by a certain time. 

Sometimes I get more done than I planned, and sometimes I don't. That's the reality of it. Along with that, life jumps up and grabs you by the shirt demanding you do something more important with your time. There are always little distractions that get in the way of what we have planned. That's OK. It's part of reality.

Shutting Down For The Day

After a full day of learning, writing, and blowing my whistle, I'm tired. I make time to wind down before crawling into bed by watching funny videos or reading something worth pondering. I also plan for the next day.

This is where I create my 4x6 schedule for the following morning. I utilize all my tools like my planner and digital calendar. I figure out what's coming, and what I need to make time to egt done. I write it down and set it on my computer before I shut down for the night. 

Then I shut it down. I walk away from everything. That means I don't answer emails, texts, and sometimes phone calls after 10pm. I lay quietly in my bed with my wife and laugh about stuff. I read quietly about positive things, pray, then close my eyes.

Making this process repeatable took time. I got distracted by the next shiny thing that could put me on a faster track toward a job. Sure, you can fill in a time card and grind out a paycheck anywhere. I made the choice a long time ago I would do this on my terms and for my purposes. I want to create value for myself and others not just sit at the same desk for the next 10 years wondering what if.