Managing my day-to-day

Managing my day-to-day

Since the beginning of the calendar year, I’ve been meaning to tackle a daunting item on my to-do list: create work hours.

I have a loose schedule in place, but I want a firm one. I want to know what times were for which tasks: when do I write first drafts, when do I take photos, when do I process email?

Like so many people, lately I’ve been letting the urgent-seeming things (email) crowd out the important things (writing) and it’s exhausting me. I’ve also been a (willing) victim of technology creep, checking my phone too much and taking it places it doesn’t belong (like my nightstand).

I’ve been wanting to create structure, and build  hard stops into my day, and Lent seemed like a wonderful time to do this–not for abstention, but for renewal. I used to have these two things, but they got away from me. I need them back.

Coincidentally, on the second day of Lent, I finally picked up the book I bought six weeks ago and have heard raves about: Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind.

It was a serendipitous choice. The title says it all: this little book is about about building routines and regularity, about playing to your creative strengths and natural rhythms, about tapping into transitional moments and curating connections.

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.

The book gave me the push I needed to make a plan for the next six weeks.

First, the hard stops: working backwards, I’m turning off my laptop at 9:00 p.m. I’m not taking my phone into my bedroom, and I’m definitely not using it as an alarm clock.

I’m stopping to read for a full hour during rest time. This feels so indulgent, and it is, but it’s also a huge source of renewal for me.

I’m writing first thing in the morning and I’m not checking my email before breakfast. (Quote that made me say ouch: “It’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox. Otherwise you’re sacrificing your potential for the illusion of professionalism.”)

I want to work hard, but I’m also building renewal into my days. For Lent, yes, but also because it’s just good practice, and I’m sorry I’ve put it off this long.

How do you do at managing your day-to-day? (And, if you’d like, are you doing anything differently for Lent?)

PS: the checklist you need to have, and you get what you measure.

managing your day-to-day: the importance of rest, renewal, and hard stops

quote via 99u

Books mentioned in this post:

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

The title says it all: this little book is about playing to your creative strengths and natural rhythms by building daily routines. Twenty-plus luminaries from a host of people who work in creative professions—Gretchen Rubin, Steven Pressfield, Teresa Amabile, Seth Godin—weigh in on the importance of their personal habits for email, solitude, social media, multitasking, and more. This inspiring and practical guide will spur you to evaluate your schedule, create better habits, and rethink your priorities.

Order Now!
About the Book

Publisher’s description:

Stop doing busywork. Start doing your best work.

Are you over-extended, over-distracted, and overwhelmed? Do you work at a breakneck pace all day, only to find that you haven’t accomplished the most important things on your agenda when you leave the office?

The world has changed and the way we work has to change, too. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, Manage Your Day-to-Day will give you a toolkit for tackling the new challenges of a 24/7, always-on workplace.

Featuring contributions from: Dan Ariely, Leo Babauta, Scott Belsky, Lori Deschene, Aaron Dignan, Erin Rooney Doland, Seth Godin,Todd Henry, Christian Jarrett, Scott McDowell, Mark McGuinness, Cal Newport, Steven Pressfield, Gretchen Rubin, Stefan Sagmeister, Elizabeth G. Saunders, Tony Schwartz, Tiffany Shlain, Linda Stone, and James Victore. Plus, a foreword from Behance founder & CEO Scott Belsky.

Series: Books for new routines and fresh starts
Genres: My Favorites, Personal Growth
Length: 211 pages
ASIN: 1477800670
Order Now
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  1. Breanne says:

    I feel like you read your mind in this post and recommending this book. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately- following the natural rhythms and being brave to say no to more then I do.
    I’ve given up IG for Lent and already took all other social media apps off my phone, I feel both free and lost (if I’m being honest) without it. But mostly free.

    Thanks for this.

    • Anne says:

      Breanne, I hope as the 40 days go by you begin to feel a lot more free and a lot less lost! (My iPhone won’t charge and I am missing instagram today! What does that mean? Hmm.)

  2. Leanne Penny says:

    Just bought it and THEN realized it was free for me to rent. Oh well, I think we can handle $3.99. Thank you for always adding helpful insight to my day. For realsies my life is better for your work in this space.

    • Anne says:

      You can return Kindle books! (I’ve returned more than one my kids have bought for me.) But I’m glad I own this one because I should be re-reading it REGULARLY.

  3. I keep telling myself that once this crazy period that we’re in slows down a bit and we find our new normal I’ll sit down and make a schedule again and won’t just fly by the seat of my pants, but I guess that crazy periods like this are sometimes when you most need the structure.
    Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants I’m flying by 🙂

  4. Anna says:

    Funny-I’m actually in the middle of this book right now. It is a good one so far. I struggle with spending more time doing the social media/business side of working than creating and I too am trying to implement a new schedule. Good luck to us both!

  5. I’ve been thinking about this too. I work in an office environment, but I have a lot of flexibility within the 9-to-5 and I often end up spending it on email. I want to take charge of my days. Thanks for the book rec, Anne – and let us know how your scheduling experiment goes!

    • Anne says:

      I do the same thing with email! It’s sooo easy for me to plunge into unhealthy habits with that tool. Good luck with “taking charge”!

  6. amber says:

    This is so precisely where I’m at right now. I need to make work hours, I do. And I also need space to get lost in thought. I love the decision to read for an hour at rest time… and think I’ll begin tomorrow. Thanks!

  7. Betsy says:

    Oh Anne, it’s 9:15 p.m.already here in Turkey, and right after this comment, I’m snapping my computer shut and picking up a book. 🙂 I think turning off media early and reading before bed area great ideas, ones I’ve been MEANING to implement…

  8. Tammy says:

    Anne, I finished Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD last night. It was everything that you said that it was. This morning, I passed it forward to a friend who has a teenage stepdaughter with ADHD, and she is sort of like me – very NFP (not sure if she’s E or I, but there’s no doubt about the NFP). I know this book will help her in the ways that it is going to help me, even if she’s not able to get through to the stepdaughter. So when you wrote about another get-your-act-together book, I didn’t stop or Pass Go – I went straight to Amazon and ordered it!

  9. aimee says:

    I started reading The Power of Habit and it just so happened to occur during this season of Lent and one of the habits I am trying to change is not checking my email, social networks etc first thing in the morning…not until the kids are gone to school etc. It’s been such a hard habit to break, but yet I feel so much less stress first thing in the morning!

  10. Molly says:

    I just downloaded The Quotidian Mysteries this past weekend and have begun reading it. So far, I love it. My Lenten journey has less to do with giving up (though that will be a result) and more about connecting with Christ through daily reflection and meditation. The main theme of these will be on practical Christianity in the everyday life events. I need to create some meaningful routines and rhythms in my life. Everything seems so up in the air. Will I get called to teach or won’t I? If so, what quick and healthy dinner could I whip up? If not, will I work extra hours at my second job? And who will get the kids? And which meat should I thaw in the event that I could actually be home to make a home-cooked meal? Now if I don’t get called to teach, which part of the house needs the most attention? Or should I be running errands? How about if…you get the idea. I am putting this book on my amazon wish list for later. In addition to Quotidian Mysteries I have another book of reflections I am reading. So what is the first thing I’ve given up to make time for this? All social media games that drain away so much of my time. Social media itself is fading into the background.

  11. Meredith says:

    Thanks for the book recommend, it’s a good one and nice to have the borrow option 😉 I am enjoying getting to know you and your blog, have a very blessed Lent!

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Isn’t this book awesome?! These passages are hitting me like a ton of bricks.

    I’m reading it a little more slowly than I usually read other books because it’s giving me *so* much to think about and I really want to implement these tips into my life. Right now I’m working on the super focused work blocks. It astounds me how difficult this can be. It’s as if my brain is saying, “Focus on one thing? This is odd and feels weird. Distraction time!”

  13. You hit on the central “issue” that I’m struggling with right now – establishing a rhythm to our days, finding time to do the most important things vs. the “urgent” things, and keeping technology in its proper place (e.g., not in my hands at all times… darn you, iPhone!). I jumped on Kindle to get the book you recommended, and Amazon told me I had already downloaded it (it MUST have been at your recommendation). Apparently, I’ve been thinking about this for a while… and have been so mentally “busy” that I forgot. How’s that for driving the point home?

    If you haven’t read Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung, you may find it to be a great supplement to what you’re reading and thinking about this topic!

    • Anne says:

      Hahaha! I’ve done that. I did mention it back when it was on sale: I hope that’s when you bought it! (That’s when I got my copy. 🙂 )

  14. Tim says:

    I say no to stuff all the time, but I think I’m still merely successful and not very successful. Oh well, somebody has to set a standard others can surpass; might as well be me. (I consider it a public service.)


  15. Hannah says:

    Honestly, my issue isn’t that I need more time to work but more self discipline to stick on task and then turn off the computer. I write–a lot–and I homeschool three kids. I’m also an INFJ who’s always processing something while trying to stay present for my kids. I thought this was an issue when they were little and that it would get better. The truth is, they are 10,11, and 12 now and I’m still dealing with time-management issues and learning how to not let the internet/blogging/social media take over my life. Ugh. It’s a tightrope walk, isn’t it?

    • fivekitten says:

      Hannah, I am in the same boat you are, but only homeschool one child in a home with a 10, 12 and 14 year old. I feel like social media takes up way too much time (granted I get paid for some, but not enough, and some is volunteer work) – and I get way to distracted. The “kids are priority” gets in the way of “I must write because I have a deadline” and then the Internet zaps all responsibility away. How do you just “shut off the computer” when you need it to write? I’m struggling. I’ve already raised five kids as a single parent, and KNOW how easy I have it now in a relationship with only three kids, but I can’t get a grasp on handling schedules, priorities, and not getting sucked in with social media stuff. Everytime I make a schedule, something bumps me off. And now it’s one a.m. in the morning…ugh.

      • amber says:

        I’ve read several writers mention they use an ipad and bluetooth keyboard for writing. Being much harder to just click around from thing to thing makes it easier to stay focused. I haven’t tried it myself but have it stashed away in my brain for the future and thought I’d pull it out for a share 🙂 The web is pure danger for the curious, that’s for sure. I’m right there with you!

  16. Shannon says:

    Gosh I needed to read this this morning. I’m exhausted from saying YES to way too many things in order to not disappoint “them” and to support friends who are just as exhausted from saying yes. I know I’ve said yes to too much when I start daydreaming about going back to outside work so that things would feel calmer……really, I’m just looking for an excuse to say no. I find it so challenging to build routines when my schedule seems so flexible now that the girls are both in school full time. Setting a more concrete schedule has to happen quickly …….

  17. kimmie says:

    I really really need to get this book. I spend such a horrible amount of time…..and usually late in the day….on my laptop. Between Pinterest, email, and Facebook…..ugh. Horrible.

  18. Ginger says:

    Do you practice time blocking? It’s a buzz-word concept I learned while working in real estate, a similar field to anyone who is self-employed or works from home.

    My husband and I started a few years ago when he was in graduate school, and it’s been invaluable, especially now that I stay at home. My time goes to what I VALUE, not to what comes up.

    The concept endlessly fascinates me, and I have a huge document of procedures, but it boils down to: make a list of your values (slash them down to a realistic 12 or so), and then block an hour or more for them on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. We try and reassess at least once a year, as what interests me now might not five years down the road.

    For instance, I always said I wanted to learn a language, but until I blocked out 30 minutes a day to practice a language, it was just this ethereal “someday” sort of goal.

    Sounds like you’re kind of already doing it (an hour to read before bed, etc.). I find that even if I miss a day, due to life happening, I’m still getting 100% more than I was doing before I blocked out the time for it. It’s like a budget, only for time and energy. Then, when I do spend my hour watching Sherlock with the husband, it is timeblocked, so I don’t feel guilty about it!

    It also incorporates focusing on the process, not the goal. I want to spend one hour a day writing. It doesn’t say I have to write a novel this year, it says, I have to spend time doing it. The hour could be reading, walking, cleaning, cooking, gardening… anything.

    It’s also made me intimately aware of how few hours there are in life, so I’d better make sure I’m choosing the MOST important things. I might claim I’d love to learn to play the piano, but if it would take up time that I’d rather be spending with my mom, then it doesn’t make the cut.

    Sorry to ramble on about it — timeblocking is just one of those things I’m super passionate about!

    • Anne says:

      Ramble away! Interestingly, this is a concept I use for my kids but not really for me. At least till now. Grateful for the food for thought. 🙂

    • Monet says:

      Ginger, you hit the nail on the head! For most people they could accomplish so much more then they realized if they only-time-blocked! For example, I’ve always been thin, but as I neared the age 40 I noticed gravity hitting. I still weighed the same as I always had..Just my body fat to muscle ration changed. I was what you would call “SkinnyFat.” In other words, I looked great in clothes, but horrible in shorts or a bathing suit. This is not what I wanted. So I made a commitment, priority, (I love your phrase Time-Block) to get fit and back in shape a goal. I only worked out 3 hours a WEEK..not a day, but a week! I figured I spent more than 3 hours a day alone on Face Book, the Internet or just watching mindless TV shows a day. I’m now in my early 50’s and ever never looked better. Even when I was in my teens. (If you saw my Face Book pictures they would Blow You Away)! I went back to Personal Training and heard every excuse in the book why women couldn’t fit getting back into shape into their busy schedules. I found out that wasn’t true when I asked them about their Internet and TV viewing habits. It was then I realized it just wasn’t a priority. They wanted to get into shape badly.. they just either were too intimidated, not motivated or did not want to put in the effort. (It really does not take that much time so time was not the issue). As I’m getting older I realize now my own Mortality… I AM running out of time. I wished I would have learned these lessons so much sooner because there is so much I want to learn! So I’m going for it no matter what! I’ve taken up Yoga, Meditation and Journaling. None of this is to brag..just to show it is possible but you HAVE to Time-Block anything that is important into your life or you will find a million (really one excuse is enough) as to why you don’t have the time. Then you will reach my age and regret that you never took the time you knew you had but found a reason to put off. An Author..can’t think of his name right now, rightly stated that most of us live on Someday Isle. Meaning… Someday I’ll do this, or someday I’ll do that.. Problem is.. Someday never comes so we need to get off Someday Isle! Time is the great equalizer and the older you get the quicker it goes by! None of us are promised Tomorrow. But, you’re never too old so why not start now and make it happen when you have so much more time? Very good insight, Ginger <3

      • Ginger says:

        Good for you, Monet! Making time for things certainly does show us what is really important to us, and what is not. Bravo for putting your health high on the priority list. Sounds like you’re really reaping the benefits!

  19. Monet says:

    I just read this and maybe because I’m from an older generation these are just things I do naturally. If I’m home my cell phone goes off by 4pm every early evening. I still have a landline so I can be reached in emergencies. I have never used my smartphone as an alarm clock. People know that if they text or phone me after 4pm I won’t get it until sometime the next day. This is just how I grew up and it’s more of an incovenience to me then it is a time-saver. I CHERISH my alone time be it shopping, brwosing, talking a walk or watching my child’s sporting event. I don’t want to be bothered. I’ve survived most my life with never having to be because it was never an option. Like we spoke about regarding an earlier post of yours. I’m an Introvert. Love people. But I also love my Family Time and My Alone Time. There was a time not so long ago everything shut down at 6pm and the fun began and we all wen toutdoors until bedtime!. TV’s weren’t 24/7 there was no Cable. So TV went all “White Noise” until the next morning where you were greeted to a Good Morning of The Star Spangled Banner on all 3 to 5 channels. Only 3 main channels. Depended on your area and reception if you were able to get the other two 🙂 I kind of do resent the invasion Smartphones seem to have createad into people’s lives. But it is my life and it is your life to take back anytime you want. Boundaries and Respect. I know people make fun of me.. But I’m much more happier, less stressed and have more free/me time 🙂 Great post as always.

  20. Nicole says:

    On one hand, I’m tempted to steal your plan, but on the other hand, it sounds super HARD if I’m being honest! Seriously though, you hit the nail on the hand with aspects of life where I could stand to get a bit more disciplined.
    Just curious, how long is your family’s afternoon rest time? How does that look for your non-napping kids? It’s a non-negotiable in our house but I’m always looking for fresh ideas for the non-napper(s).

  21. HI Anne! I am new to blogging and just found your blog- I love it! So many different ideas about that I am excited to read about and once I make this comment I will go back and read your house hunting blog- we just moved as well… (from Zimbabwe). It has been a tough transition. I included a link to you and this post in my most recent blog about time management as I found this blog so useful- with some easy tips to get me started, thank you!. Hope you don’t mind! 🙂

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