Every Sunday, I plan out my schedule for the next week, and as I do the weekly ritual today, I decided to try something I heard Scott Lang does; he heads Silver Springs Networks, which develops smart grids.
Lang was one of a few CEOs interviewed for an article on productivity. He said, “On an average day, I’m only 50% scheduled, though it occasionally gets as high as 80%. That’s imperative because often something comes up out of nowhere.”
I had a hard time getting my head around it at first because I used to think having holes in your schedule means you’ve got nothing to do. Isn’t being productive all about getting things done? Well, yes, but when you sit back and look at Lang’s logic, there are benefits to it.
First, there’s flexibility. Working in entertainment, I’ve learned that meetings inevitably get rescheduled – sometimes a few times – and it’s a nightmare when they do because you have to hunt for a slot that works for everyone. I personally like to be as accommodating for everyone as possible, so by doing this, I can guarantee perhaps two or three spots for last-minute things.
It still doesn’t sound impressive, huh? Setting up only half your day for work? Not unless you take some perspective. If you work an eight-hour-per-day job, then you’re right; committing four hours a day to getting things done doesn’t blow wind up my skirt. But I have a somewhat workaholic brain, so any time not spent sleeping is time I have for work.
In other words, I have a 19-hour day. Half of that is about ten hours, more than the average workday for most people. About 15 hours if you think about Lang’s 80% max.
It does require an early rise. That’s the one kick in the butt. But it also means you’re able to allot enough time for work and play. Let’s take a look at my busiest day next week (Wednesday) and I’ll show you what I mean.
- 5 AM…I spend an hour and a half for exercise, shower, and breakfast. You could think of it as an informal meeting; Ruba CEO Mike Cassidy does, and so do I.
- 7-9 AM…I work on writing a screenplay I’ve spent the last few months developing.
- 10 AM – 12 PM…I’m brainstorming the next story to write with fingers crossed that it won’t suck.
- 2-5 PM…I’m job-hunting whether it’s in entertainment or a freelance writing gig.
- 6:30 PM – Midnight…I head to West LA for a screening I got invited to.
Altogether, that’s 14 hours. Pretty meaty. And yet, I still have three hours free plus a couple more in case I want to go out to lunch. So it’s busy, yes, but not overwhelming.
And what can you do with that free time? Lang says, “If I have a free block and nothing presents itself, I catch up on industry reports, self-education, and big-picture thinking. In a packed schedule, those things can get neglected. They shouldn’t be.”
Translated to a creative business like writing, those are times you can go through the latest issue of Writer’s Digest, research for a project down the line (though I like having a set research hour anyways), looking up reading venues, or reflecting on your career right now in relation to a more long-term goal.
Don’t forget to make time to relax with friends and family too. I’m not kidding, I’ve done this with my own schedule, especially on the really busy days. That’s not about forcing your spouse to make an appointment with you (God help you if it gets to that point). It’s more about you making a dedicated effort on your part to not burn out. It’s about you saying to yourself, “I need to put the brakes on for my own good.”