Making More Time: An Experiment in Schedule Rearranging

At the beginning of last week, I rearranged my daily schedule in an effort to get more “uninterrupted” time for side projects, and more dedicated time to spend with my family. I’d like to quickly reflect on what that means, how it’s working so far, and changes I’ll probably make.

The Issue

There’s an interesting post written about the difference between a manager’s schedule and a maker’s schedule (read it here), and I buy it completely. At work, I’m a manager. When I’m trying to work on a side project, I’m a maker. I find it incredibly hard to get into the zone, be productive, and actually accomplish anything if I have less than 2 hours to work. With how my schedule was arranged, the only real chunk of time I had available was to stay up later after my wife went to bed.

There are many studies that say your brain is most capable in the early mornings, before you use up all your mental energy, so you should prioritize important activities in the waking hours. My potential side projects are important to me, as they’re the only real way I envision getting out of debt. If this is true, I should prioritize them! After years of trying to do work in the evenings (and failing), I realized I wanted to make a change.

The Old Schedule

Before my change, my daily schedule looked like this:

  • Wake up at 6:30
  • Get ready (use the restroom, brush teeth, get dressed, etc.)
  • Go to gym
  • Shower
  • Get ready for work
  • Go to work
  • Go home, eat dinner
  • Try to hang out with wife, but sit frustrated and absent because I haven’t worked on side projects yet
  • Wife goes to bed around 10–10:30
  • Sit frustrated at computer until midnight with nothing positive gained

As you can see, the old schedule wasn’t working.

The New Schedule

When we moved to Arlington, we knew we wanted to explore our surrounding area and really work on spending more time together. The public transportation situation here is leaps and bounds better than Orlando, so we want to take advantage of it and really dig into being in the area. This means I needed to carve more time out for adventuring with my wife. But wait! What about my side project time? A simple, easy change made all the difference in the world. My current schedule looks like this:

  • Wake up at 5:00am
  • Read something for 30 minutes
  • Work on side projects (writing, building, learning) for 3 hours
  • Get ready for work
  • Go to work (9–6)
  • Go home, eat dinner
  • Go to gym around 9, or whenever is convenient
  • Bed by 11

Benefits

I wake up 1.5 hours earlier, go to bed 1 hour earlier, so there’s a net difference of 30 minutes, meaning I’m awake half an hour longer now than I was. That’s fantastic. That extra half hour has resulted in an extra 1 hour of uninterrupted side project time, an extra 2–4 hours of FOCUSED family time, and the feeling that I have some level of control over my life, rather than life just happening to me. Waking up at 5 isn’t the most fun thing to do, but I just drink a Spark and listen to Brain.fm and I’m good to go.

Challenges

I’m not gonna lie to you, waking up at 5am has been hard to do so far. I would say I have a 50% success rate of rolling out of bed by 5:05, but I am 100% of getting up by 5:30. An unanticipated challenge is the annoyance of my dogs. I didn’t expect that when I got up, they would get up, and want food and attention. Well, they do. Their schedule has adjusted, and I just have to deal with it. A small sacrifice, and truthfully, I love my pups and don’t mind a whole lot.

An additional challenge is the gym time. Going to the gym in the evening has been disruptive, and Rachel is much more inclined to gym it up in the morning. Ideally, I would go right after work, but that’s when everyone else goes and I hate being in a crowded gym. On top of that, our dogs are left alone from 8:45 until we get home, so we want to get home as quickly as possible.

The biggest challenge, however, has been the lack of planning. I’ve created all this new time in the morning to work, and I would say the majority of the days has resulted in unfocused busywork because I didn’t plan out my morning. Not only am I frustrated for not knowing what to do, I’m frustrated for not knowing what to do at FIVE IN THE MORNING. Excuse the tone, but it certainly seems counter-productive, doesn’t it?

Changes to be Made

All in all, the schedule has a lot of potential to be successful. There are a few outcomes I think would make this go from “potentially successful” to “actually successful,” so let’s look at those.

  1. Weekly and Daily Planning — Spend some time Sunday night planning the week at a high level. Every night before bed, take a few minutes to plan the next most important things for the next morning, using the weekly goal as the target.
  2. Finding a Better Gym Time — My wife works out better in the morning, going in the evening is disruptive, it just doesn’t feel like we’ve solved this one yet. I don’t have an answer, but we’ll explore.
  3. Squeezing in Play Time — I used to love video games, but I haven’t actually played one through in a very long time. I have a hard time justifying playing games when I could be working, but I know I need to make some time for recreation. I also don’t have a solution for this yet, but need to dig.

Wrapping Up

All in all, I’m pleased with the schedule change. There’s work to be done, for sure, but I feel like I’m closing in on a routine that works for me and the life I currently lead. Time is the most precious resource we have, so it’s important we find a schedule that lets us maximize it to our wants and needs. Thanks for reading!