My coffee lens mug

My coffee lens mug

“Time, the saying goes, is money. It’s something we spend, save, and sometimes waste. But time is unlike money in at least one crucial respect; it is resolutely democratic. We all get the same amount – 168 precious hours every week. Yet despite time’s democratic distribution – or perhaps because of it – there’s one aspect of time on which we all seem to agree; nobody has enough of it.” – Daniel H. Pink, Free Agent Nation

When I left a corporate career, one of the things things I began to struggle with (and still do) is how to manage my time. Many of you, who work for yourselves or are entrepreneurial in spirit deal with the same issues.

How early each day should I start working? Then how late in the day should I work? I no longer have a time I have to show up; yet I feel that if I’m not working then I am missing out on an opportunity. There is no longer a predefined boundary of working from only 8-to-4 or 9-to-5. Instead many of us feel like we are always “on-call.”

We check our e-mails as we lay in bed. We update social media while the coffee is still brewing. We eat our lunch while either buried in a laptop or in between sets during a photo shoot – that is assuming we left time to eat at all. We allow ourselves to be available to our clients nearly 24 hours a day. And as a result our clients have begun to expect this of us.

I’ve been a fan of Daniel H. Pink’s books A Whole New Mind, Drive and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. I recently decided to go back and read one of his early books; Free Agent Nation and am really invested in the discussion of how we as free agents divide up our time and how we can be more efficient in the use of that time.

If we each have those 168 hours – how will we utilize them and compartmentalize them? Which hours will be for work? Which for rest? Which for play?

The book points out that when we worked in a corporate environment – we had regular rituals or routines which kept us on track. The time we showed up. The time we went to lunch. The time we took a break to walk and get coffee or to talk to a co-worker.

So the idea is that we aim to establish routines in our freelance lives to establish these boundaries – albeit flexible and changeable boundaries. These could include:

– Starting the day off with something for you, not work related. Perhaps it is reading a chapter from a book, or going to the gym. Why fire up your e-mail first thing in the morning and run the risk of getting an e-mail which is going to require hours of your time to deal with?

– Try to eat around the same times every day, away from from. Whether it is walking away from your computer to enjoy your food or leaving the house to go somewhere for a coffee. This allows you to return a little refreshed and refocused.

– Work smarter, not longer. There is no sense working slowly for 8 hours getting little done because you are exhausted and cannot think straight, when you can rest for a few hours and get just as much done in 3 hours.

– Know when not to work. Once a week I have dinner with my family. I almost never taken projects on that day and don’t even check e-mail or take phone calls during that time.

We as freelancers have the ability to create and tailor our own routines to help shape our days in efforts to maximize our productivity without working ourselves into an exhausted and diminished state.

As part of this exploration I decided to catalog a snapshot of my life as a means of a personal audit on how I spend my time. On three days I wrote down everything I did on ever half hour of the day (getting the idea from the Pink book). Below is my re-cap on how I spent one of my days. It is interesting, if you do this exercise, how you can see the need for established routines to segment the day. If you were to audit your own time, what would you see the need to change?

5:00am: Woke up to an annoying phone alarm. Had breakfast and fired up computer. Posted a new tear sheet on Facebook and answered a few e-mails.5:30am: Finished getting ready and packed up rest of the photo gear.
6:00am: Got on the road to Phoenix. On the way listened to Queen’s Greatest Hits.
7:30am: Arrived at my first photo shoot in Downtown Phoenix early. Sat in the lobby listening to classical music on the builder’s intercom system.
8:00am: Met my first photo subject of the day, a lawyer I was doing an editorial portrait of. Not having much time with him I worked quickly to set up lighting and create the image.
8:30am: Walking back to my car to head to my next appointment.
9:00am: Feeling drained I stopped for a quick bite to eat.
9:30am: Arrived at my second photo shoot, a pair of financial managers for another editorial portrait shoot. Set up the lighting and proceeded to do the shoot.
10:00am: Headed back to my car and noticed I had an hour before my next meeting.
10:30am: Stopped off at a Starbucks to grab a coffee and to spend a little time reading.
11:00am: Had a lunch meeting with a colleague and client talking about new ventures.
12:30pm: Wrapped up meeting and decided to head to another coffee shop.
1:00pm: Set up my mobile office in a coffee shop and began working on my e-book as I enjoyed a latte. During the next four hours I worked on the e-book, answered a few client phone calls, a personal call, responded to e-mails and Facebook messages, sent off a few inquiry e-mails to prospective clients and began feeling like I was going to fall asleep.
5:00pm: Shaking the tiredness off I decided I needed a chance of scenery. I gathered my items and headed to a Paradise Bakery for a salad dinner (and a cookie). I called a friend for a quick chat and enjoyed a little down time. Also took a few moments to read a little more from my book.
6:00pm: I left for my last shoot of the day.
6:30pm: I arrived at the shoot location for a magazine cover assignment and unloaded my gear.
7:00pm: Model was in hair and makeup and Jason Black and I began testing the lighting set up we created.
7:30pm: The model is ready and the lights set – we began shooting and created a variety of images in the next 90 minutes.
9:00pm: Wrapped the shoot and packed up the gear.
9:30pm: Jason and I enjoyed a small late meal and a convo before we had to turn in as we had a shoot early the next day.
11:00pm: My head finally hits the pillow.

James Patrick