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In Theory, My Work Day

Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022.

8am – 9am: General crawl out of bed time, and also take care of any emails/other messages that have to be addressed immediately (otherwise they can wait). Check Whatever comments to make sure no one made a fool of themselves overnight. Take the dog out if necessary. When writing, look over the writing from the day before and make adjustments to it. Post any Big Idea pieces. When all that is taken care of, turn on blocking software to clear out social media and news sites.

9am – 12pm: Write new stuff. “Write” in this case means typing actual new words, but can also include research (like today, when most of the day was spent on Google Maps and various realty sites looking at commercial real estate prices). I have a general goal of 2,000 words a day, most written in this time block, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t reach that word goal.

12pm – 1pm: Exercise, shower and lunch, usually but not always in that order. Take the dog out for a longer walk. Check the mailbox. Turn on social media again but try not to spend long stretches of time on it until the end of the business day. Avoid news if it can be avoided until the end of the business day.

1pm – 5pm: Any other business-related tasks, other writing (including blog posts) and email, and any phone/zoom meetings or out-of-house errands. If work is not pressing, read something that is not social media or news. If there’s time left over, practice music. Probably some photography in there if I feel like it.

5pm – onward: Work day is over so, really, whatever I feel like doing. Check out the news (or maybe not if I don’t feel like bothering), spend time with family, watch movies/TV, read, nerd out of social media, write more on Whatever, etc and so on. More dog walking! And then, because I’m old now, usually in bed by ten.

So that’s the theory!

How will it work in practice? As with so many things, it depends. The most dependable part of the schedule is the 9am – 12pm block, since it really is the part of the day when my creativity and energy levels are at their highest. I really need to protect that part of the day if I’m going to, you know, get anything done and make money and whatnot. Everything else is movable — I might exercise later in the day if I have a meeting that needs to be scheduled at noon, or decide to read but not practice music, or vice versa, and so on.

Also, it’s possible that if I crawl out of bed before 8am, and as I get older this happens more often, then I’ll shift my day backward a bit: Start that 8am-9am block at 7am, for example, and then do the 9am – 12pm block from 8 to 11. The amount of time is more key than the exact hour.

One thing I am really working on this year is ratcheting down the time I aimlessly spend on social media; I have the ability to endlessly scroll if I’m not paying attention. My new guideline for the year, during 1pm – 5pm business hours, is to limit myself to five or so minutes an hour on Twitter/Facebook and then ask myself if there’s anything else I could be doing with my time. The answer is usually yes (see: reading and music). I don’t think people on social media will notice if I spend only five or so minutes an hour there rather than endlessly scrolling, but I will notice it on this end. I’m 52 now; there’s more I want to be doing with my time than staring glassily into Twitter all day long.

(That’s not entirely true: experience tells me that I am actually delighted to stare glassily into Twitter all day long. It’s more accurate to say I have other things that I want to do, and the time to do them will have to come out of the time I spend, slack-jawed, on social media.)

This is the work plan for 2022, and probably beyond. Let’s see if I can stick to it.

— JS

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

14 replies on “In Theory, My Work Day”

Color me intrigued about this:

“most of the day was spent on Google Maps and various realty sites looking at commercial real estate prices”

I am looking forward the novel that comes out of this research…

Take the dog out if needed? The dog has been holding it in for a good 8-12 hours. There is no “if needed” involved, it’s more of a “you wanna stay comfy in those 5 layers of blankies,, or you wanna clean the carpet?”.

This is why I have a cat.

Though I am not published, writing is a hobby to me.

As such, I find that the words don’t flow when I try to force them, they sometimes march, but I am not a military sci-fi kind, so that isn’t what I want.

Good luck with the schedule, I have one too, if I can find it.

I suppose it depends on how you use that social media… It’s my means of staying in contact with humans (and dogs) I care about and work with, who are strewn out across 9 time zones, along with a hand full of trades to stay abreast of industry events (film/TV). Responses of encouragement, gratitude to post, jumping over to articles that interest me, runs the morning. Hadn’t realized it, but my days are somewhat regularly assigned… Mornings to take care of the overnights, then focused writing noonish ’til around 6pm, then food + reading, film/TV. Most nights I skip the nightly news… Thank you for the more mindfulness of my day you post inspired. I do enjoy dropping in to Twitter to catch the latest sunset/Smudge-Charlie pics. Have an extraordinary year!

I really like your time blocks. They generally reflect my own daily plan (emphasis on ‘plan’) that seems ever so hard to implement, even though I am no longer tied to a so-called day-job. I like the idea of simply postponing exercise/shower sequence to the lunch hour. That’s probably more doable and easier to accomplish without the previously mentioned day-job commitments. Good luck to us both!

A gloomy thought: Every anti-vaxxer is a believer in social media…. I guess the trick is to have balance in life.

As for balance, John, I like how (from memory) you read enough of the sports section to be informed about sports, without needing to watch any.

About 10 days before Xmas, I decided to stay off Twitter at least until the end of the year. Still off, largely. For me, it is a time-sink and stress-elevator big time. Haven’t regretted it. Facebook is different, as much of my online friendship is there, moved long ago from Usenet groups. I have carefully edited my group of FB friends, and will sleep people for 30 days if they get too political or 1-issue obsessed. So FB isn’t a stressor in the same way Twitter was.

I work for myself too, and that motivation to get work done is some days hard to come by.

I like that awaking hour. I use the alarm on my iPhone, which I plug into a charging stand that has an extension to hang/charge my Apple Watch. It’s cool setup as all I have to do it tap anywhere on the bedside table and the watch illuminates with the time in big, readable numbers I can make out even without my glasses.

I have the alarm set for 8:40am and hit snooze twice to provide an extra 20 minutes of sleep/drift/doze time and then pop up (or crawl) out of bed at 9:00. I’m a late night person though, so even though I’m 65 I generally stay up until 11:30-12:00.

My wife is generally down by 8:30-9:00pm so that last two hours on my own is used for football or TV shows and movies I watch that she does not. She’s retired from AT&T so we get a great deal on the full-blown Uverse U420 package which includes nearly every channel, including all the premium/pay movie channels including HBO, Showtime, Encore, MAX, The Movie Channel, Starz, etc…

Plus, were that not enough, we’ve got Amazon Firebox and Apple TV streaming devices with subscriptions to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, AppleTV+ and HBO Max all pumped into the house via 500Mbs AT&T fiber. (Note: we don’t pay for all those subscriptions – some are free because of product purchases and some are shared within the family.)

Add in our primary TV, a 55″ LG C8 4K OLED TV and the question becomes: why the hell would I ever need to leave the house? And other than local news and NFL, I do not watch anything on traditional network TV (ABC, NBC and CBS) but we do watch PBS. Can’t live without Nova!

The other thing is the rule that – except for Sunday football – the TV is never turned on before 5:00 pm. I know, I’m a lazy, television addicted freak. Just wish we’d had all this tech back when I was in high school. Imagine Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert with a setup like this!

I have a somewhat similar schedule. I as well drag my ass out of bad around 8 am, brush my teeth while still half asleep, check my email inbox and weather forecast, then get dressed and go for a walk or do errands. I can only do menial, functional stuff in the morning, yet physically I feel fairly active.

Mental acuity seems to come in after lunch, around noon, when is my best time to write and respond to email correspondence. By 5 pm I need a short nap, but I bounce back after dinner, go for another long walk.

My real creative time is at night, once it’s dark and quiet. Somehow that’s the only time I can write, record, and edit my music. And when I’m really inspired, I stay up too late, and of course the cycle repeats.

As for “mental acuity seems to come after lunch,” ex-president Harry Truman was always best for being interviewed before lunch.

My own equivalent of Albert Einstein’s getting his best ideas while shaving is when I lie awake on a non-work morning: Ideas, old memories, insights… it’s as if my subconscious saves it up to shovel it at me then.

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