I owe you an apology. Usually I’m pretty good about letting you know when I’m not going to run a regular issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, or at least sending a brief note when it won’t be a full essay.
Yesterday, I didn’t do that.
For those of you in the US, you probably didn’t miss it much, because you were celebrating the 4th with family and friends. (I was in the neighborhood pool getting a sunburn about the time the email would have gone out.)
For those of you outside of the States, that was why I was silent yesterday.
Since I missed a Monday though, my mailbox is calling.
We’ll do a Mailbox Monday today, and resume our regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow!
Since I joined your list, I have to resist not spending ‘hours’ sucking up the wealth of info on your blog. A try to stick to your (and Mark Ford’s) advice about prioritizing, meaning writing ‘first,’ email later.
Some days it works, others, not so much. I have this need to ‘catch up’ on what I’ve been missing all this time.
Do you mind giving me a brief account of a day in your life?
For example, what time does it start? What ‘writing’ comes first? Then what? Do you work much on weekends? When do you designate family / husband time?
Hopefully, I’m not getting too personal. Thanks again, nonetheless, for your time and consideration.
What you’re about to hear may astound you…
Many people who read my daily emails assume I work all day, every day, cranking out this much content.
Instead, I’ve focused on fast. How to churn out maximum high-caliber writing in minimum time.
I actually don’t work that much.
In February 2010, when I walked out from my full-time job for the last time, I said sayonara to full-time work weeks, at least for a long time.
You see, my wife and I made a decision around then.
We wanted to be around for our kids while they were in their youngest years (really, until all of them are in grade school).
At the time, our oldest son wasn’t even 1 yet. We’ve had two more kiddos since then. The youngest turned 2 in March.
My wife is a psychologist — she has a private practice. I have my consulting and copywriting business, along with my publishing. We’ve both worked very hard building our professional lives to a point where we have maximum flexibility. And we’re taking advantage of it.
I haven’t worked a normal full-time week since 2010. Her, since late 2011 when she officially finished school.
Sometimes, I work a lot. I also do a lot of thinking when I’m not officially “at work.” I almost always work hard. I demand a lot from myself. But I don’t remember the last time I spent 40 hours at my desk in a work week.
So… What does a “normal” work day look like for me?
Depends on the day of the week!
(I should note here: this is NOT necessarily my recommendation. It’s simply an honest answer to the question. Which I think is illustrative, and why I’m happy to share.)
During the summer, I actually have the kids for two days per week, while my wife is in her office seeing clients. Monday and Wednesday. So most of the day is family time. During nap/quiet time, I grab a little bit of time to knock out a quick essay for Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
I’ll occasionally check my email at other times during the day. And if there’s an URGENT matter (most matters aren’t), I will shoot off an email or make a quick phone call to address. This is exceptionally rare.
I prefer — as much as possible — to not be tethered to my phone when I’m with the kids. Instead, we’re doing fun summer activities, and various projects around the house.
Tuesday afternoon (after about 2:30) is much the same as Monday and Wednesday. I’m with the kids, and my wife is seeing clients at her office.
When I work, I work hard — and try to be planful about it…
Tuesdays are a big phone day for me. I try to schedule most of my phone calls on Tuesday. That gives me Thursday and Friday (where I’m working nonstop all day) to be mostly focused on big projects, uninterrupted.
Every day, I try to block out my calendar. I set beginning and end times for important tasks that need to get done. These come from a bigger list of projects and tasks that I’m working on (kept in Asana).
I’m not perfect about it, but I try to get to my desk by about 8. I know that’s a lot later than a lot of productivity gurus tell you, but I value having breakfast with the kids while they’re young. (Every day I recognize trade-offs. I would have more financial success at this point if I was a workaholic, but I choose not to be. Sometimes, that’s a painful choice — as I’m naturally driven. Sometimes, it’s incredibly rewarding, too — money comes and goes but my kids’ childhood only goes so I’ll embrace it while it’s here!)
When I’m working, my family knows to leave me alone. It’s a rule the kids learn early, and are very respectful about. My office is downstairs below our kitchen, so occasionally I’ll hear what sounds like an elephant parade above me, but mostly it’s quiet. And when I need to get work done, I will often put on the headphones so it doesn’t matter what noise is around.
Thursday and Friday, I try to have big uninterrupted blocks working on my most important projects.
I find that the longer I maintain focused time, the faster I get everything done.
In this regard, I recently picked up the book The Myth of Multitasking. Pretty much just to confirm my suspicions. But the author, Dave Crenshaw, makes a really valid point.
Our brains don’t really multi-task. At any given time, we can really only focus on just one thing. If we’re doing multiple things, what we’re really doing is switching our attention back and forth. Back and forth, back and forth. Crenshaw calls it “switch-tasking.” And focus is far, far more productive than switch-tasking.
Of course, some people are much better at switch-tasking. And some jobs may require it. But I suck at switch-tasking. Each switch can eat up 10 minutes in the best of circumstances. Hours is the worst case scenario. The problem is my ADHD brain loves the act of switching. And it will keep switching from new thing to new thing to new thing.
However, if I minimize the number of switches I make in the day, it uses that energy instead on focused activities. Which can be incredibly positive and productive.
And what about off-hours?
I definitely use them.
My most consistent off-hour activity is learning. Reading, yes. But just as often, if not more so, I’m consuming all sorts of audio content. Podcasts. Audiobooks. Seminar recordings. And so on.
I’m a non-stop, life-long learner. Not just about marketing and business. Also, history, psychology, people. I like to stay on top of science news. I follow some music-related things, as well as very select entertainment news. And, I spend a lot of time staying on top of financial and economic news, since I’ve done so much writing in this area.
A ton of this is done in the off-hours. While other people might spend a lot of time doing this during business hours, I can’t afford it as much, with my limited work week. So I’ll read on my phone or elsewhere, and make myself a note when it’s relevant to business.
This gives me a lot of “work” time that’s not done at my desk. But because so much of it is relevant, it contributes to maximum productivity and effectiveness when I actually am working.
What about prioritizing tasks?
One of the things I’ve learned about myself is I often do best writing Breakthrough Marketing Secrets on a really tight schedule. So often I only give myself the hour before publication to do it. Or, the last hour of my work day.
While others may say you should do it first thing in the morning, I find that an issue can consume far more time if I don’t constrain it with the clock.
With regards to prioritizing other tasks, it’s a never-ending experimentation process with a goal of self-improvement.
Sometimes, I’ve prioritized my personal projects first. Other times, I’ve prioritized client work. I usually have to look at the big picture. What am I working on now? What deadlines are coming up? What do I need to get done this week? How does that all impact what needs to get done today? What other things do I have scheduled in the day? And so on.
Taking the big tasks and priorities, and breaking them down. Remembering that I do my best work in long, uninterrupted chunks.
Another “hack” I’ve been experimenting with recently, with my coach, is defining one or more priority tasks for the day. Determining at least one thing that I MUST get done for the day, to move forward on my biggest priorities. I decide that at the beginning of the day. Then, if I don’t get it done by the end of the day, I have to make a small donation to a charity of my choice. I’ve found that I’m as motivated by fear of loss as I am desire for gain, so this is an effective little trick I can play on myself to make sure I’m getting the important things done.
Finally, what about weekends?
I almost never work weekends.
You know, I actually saw a study done once on a high-end business consulting firm. They analyzed productivity based on work weeks.
They actually found something that may seem counterintuitive to a lot of workaholics.
What they found was that there was a sweet spot for productivity.
All the way up to about 35-40 hours per week, your productivity increases. Work more, get more done. Then, after 40 hours per week, it starts to drop off. The more you work beyond 40 hours, the less productive you become. People who work 60 hours get the same amount of quality work done as those who work 30.
Rest and recharging are critical.
So I spend most of the weekend with family. Sometimes, I get up early or stay up late working. But weekends are mostly for rejuvenating so I can get a fresh start at work the next week.
(Also, incidentally, I try to get at least 6 good hours of sleep per night. Most nights, closer to 8. I find that I’m at my best when I’m well-rested. And even coffee doesn’t make up for missing sleep — as much as I love it!)
Take this all for what it’s worth…
This probably is not an ideal schedule for most folks. A lot of entrepreneurs and business builders will make different choices.
When the school year comes around, I’ll go back to working more, but still not a normal 40-hour week.
Until the kids are quite a bit older and don’t want to see me in the afternoons, I probably won’t keep a normal 40-hour work schedule.
But in the context of all the choices that I’ve made and that my wife and I have made together as a family, this is what we’ve made work best for us.
And I think that’s the biggest lesson. If you can make it work for you, why not? Why should you shackle yourself to the rules and norms of society when they may not be the best fit for you?
You don’t even have to listen to the productivity gurus. You don’t even have to listen to me!
Make your own choices. Find out what works for you. And make that happen.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
P.S. — Remember, every Monday (or, occasionally, Tuesday or another day of the week), I answer YOUR questions. About marketing, copywriting, selling, business, life, whatever. All you have to do to have your question answered is to send it to me at Roy@RoyFurr.com.
So… Whaddya waiting for?
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