The shape of a day

After a decade of working from home, I have no daily routine to speak of.

I have always wanted to have a routine, but I have never managed to keep one up. The main reason is because of the way my mind works. At least this is how I have come to justify my, in the eyes of an outsider, rather haphazard way of life at home.

I need inspiration in order to spring into action, whether it’s for work or for mundane things like cooking or drinking tea. I can’t keep to a strict timetable because if I’m not feeling it, then I don’t want to be doing it. This is especially so for my work, which is creative in nature. And also for writing — if I’m not feeling it, I can’t write it.

Having said that, I do have a list of things I want to make sure I do throughout the day. I have a document titled “The Shape of A Day” in my Evernote that outlines how a good day at home looks like. It serves as a reminder for me, a constant point of reference.

A good day is when I wake up early, drink plenty of warm water, find time to meditate, exercise, read and do work that needs to be done. A good day must also allow for exploratory, non-essential creative work. In other words, I must have my play time. I must have the freedom to let my thoughts meander, to feel bored, to learn new things, etc. A strict timetable will not allow for this sort of flexibility and anything-can-happen-ness.

Often I cannot check all the items on this list, but as long as I can hit 75% I consider the day a win. (Sometimes I cut myself some slack and ignore this list entirely.)

One thing that’s really important for working at home successfully is the ability to focus. It’s really hard to get meaningful work done at home if we can’t focus. So sometimes I resort to deleting my social media apps. And I like to switch on the airplane mode on my phone. It’s crucial that I work in a state of utter disconnection.

What role does discipline play in all these then? The truth is that to have a reasonable amount of creative output, we must also be reasonably disciplined. As much as I love the freedom of doing things only when I’m inspired to do them, I don’t think I can produce anything meaningful without a measure of discipline.

So yes, I navigate daily that tricky territory between inspiration and discipline. Writing is a good example. I am not always inspired to write, but I do have a desire to do it. This is where discipline comes in. I make myself sit down and write, and this often leads, miraculously, to moments of inspiration and flow.

I don’t think I can ever hit peak productivity with my haphazard way of working, but then I also think we have to stick with what works best for our individual personalities and inclinations. For now this is what works for me. But who knows, things can change on a dime. I’ll update when they do.

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