Forget Fixed-Hour Scheduling. Try Fixed-Order Scheduling Instead
“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” — W. H. Auden
If you’re like me, you have this idea in your head of the perfect schedule, the ideal writing day, the exact time structure that will magically help you produce huge amounts of highly creative, wildly popular, and critically-acclaimed world-class work.
Talk about a fantasy.
Here’s my ideal dream-scenario writing day:
- 6:00–9:00 Meditate in silence for three hours
- 9:00–6:00 Write 10,000 perfect words
- 6:00–9:00 Supper, saunter, swim, sauna, study
- 9:00–6:00 Sleep soundly
Now here’s my actual writing day:
- 9:00–10:00ish Check Medium stats in bed and start writing out ideas
- 10:00–10:30ish Brush my teeth and go for a meditative walk by the river
- 10:30–12:30ish Write 2,000 ugly words at my standing desk
- 12:30–1:00ish Eat sardines, read the Bible and pray
- 1:00–5:30ish Write books/scripts lying down with periscope glasses
- 5:30–7:00ish Cook, eat, and clean with my wife
- 7:00–10:00ish Write 2,000 ugly words, edit until all 4,000 words shine
- 10:00–11:00ish Star saunter
- 11:00–12:00ish Read in bed
- 12:00–9:00ish Unapologetically sleep nine hours
I don’t believe in fixed-hour scheduling.
I’m not a monk.
I’m not in the military.
I don’t work in a factory.
Discipline is great, but it’s also subject to the law of diminishing returns. You can only optimize it so much. Chasing perfection is chasing infinity. Life is just too dynamic to schedule with Marine-like precision, especially if you’re a creative. We need to free ourselves from the tyranny of “only people who wake up at 5 AM can be wildly successful.”
Fixed-order scheduling beats fixed-hour scheduling every day of the week.
Rather than trying to maintain a strict minute-by-minute calendar, what if creatives maintained a strict task-by-task schedule? What if we optimized our dayflow?
Instead of punishing ourselves with three days of sleep debt because we stayed up to watch the Superbowl, why not sleep in a bit and get back on track the next day? Instead of spending our life dragging ourselves out of bed three hours before our natural body clock, why not engineer an optimal life?
The beauty of transitioning to fixed-order scheduling is that life becomes a lot more elegant and intuitive. Rather than re-checking the calendar to see what’s next on the docket, and glancing at the clock to make sure we’re not falling behind, fixed-order scheduling allows us to finish a task and move seamlessly into the next because our dayflow remains unchanged, regardless of the minute or hour.
Think about it: The early bird who works 6 am — 6 pm and the night owl who works noon ‘til midnight still each put in twelve hours a day. To force either person onto the opposite schedule would drastically decrease their effectiveness and productivity.
All hours are not created equal.
It depends on your sleep drive and chronotype.
So know yourself.
Unapologetically get all the sleep you need, when you need it, every single night, then do your best work at your best time in your best state.