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Calculating the Optimal Workday Length

Calculating the Optimal Workday Length

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    There’s a lot of information out there on achieving work-life balance, and a common productivity suggestion is that you structure your workday. I’ve found that one invaluable tool for getting these two things dealt with effectively is knowing not just how much work you have to do of what kind each day, but how long to work for.

    This article is most relevant to freelancers and entrepreneurs since employers often dictate how many hours you should work for regardless of what you think — so the suggestions in this article will accommodate that group of people.

    Determining the Factors

    How long a person needs to work is going to be different for everyone. Everyone’s situation is different to some degree or another; if you’re a successful freelancer or entrepreneur you can outsource your admin work or even some or all of the work you do to deliver the service that you actually provide. If you’re starting your own freelance business, then you will probably be working grueling hours doing all the admin, heaps of marketing, and as much work as you can possibly find.

    I’m not going to be a work-life balance nancy and tell you that you should never work long, grueling hours. It’s a necessary part of building a bootstrapped business for many of us. Depending on how things are set up, maintaining a business may be a long and grueling effort each day.

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    What’s important is that you accept the state of affairs and make a plan that’ll change that unfortunate situation when you’ve got things going.

    Let’s take a look at the first set of factors: the tasks you need to complete.

    Admin

    Admin work can be the most dull and time-consuming work ever, but unfortunately, it’s very much a necessity if you want to get paid or keep those nasty tax auditors away. Each day you need to deal with email from clients and other people who have something to do with your work. You need to track expenses and income in your books and all those unpleasant bookkeeping and accounting tasks.

    Make sure you give yourself time to handle these things each day or they may end up getting swept aside until the last minute — which may turn into an all-nighter.

    Review

    Review is the tool we use to keep ourselves productive each day — the review of tasks and projects — and to keep our businesses growing — the review of the business’s direction and overarching goals.

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    Often lumped in with admin, I think reviewing your tasks and your business goals should be treated as its own priority and given its own time on both a daily and weekly basis.

    Marketing

    The work without which there’d be no work. Keeping your name out there and potential clients in the pipeline doesn’t put food on the table — it ensures that when you finish the projects that are currently putting food on the table, there’ll be others to take their place! In other words, it ensures you stay in business (and fed).

    Never neglect marketing, even if you swamp yourself with clients. This is why many freelancers claim to experience the “drought or flood” syndrome where there are either plenty of clients or none. In tough times you market like crazy and as a result, eventually get a whole bunch of clients. Then you’re so swamped that you don’t market — and when those projects are done, you’re left with very little work.

    The Work

    I like to think that at least 60% of the workday should consist of performing the actual work you are in business to perform. If you’re a writer, you should spend 60% of the day writing, designers should spend 60% of the day designing, and so on. More than that is better. Through the proper use of systems and automation I was spending 90-95% of my workday on “The Work” as a freelancer.

    If you’re in a creative field, remember that “The Work” time may include sitting on a couch creating ideas. It may not look like work, but it sure as hell is.

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    Life Factors

    Work and life are like armies at war — they’re always fighting for ground, pushing one another book. So, after looking at the demands work puts on your time, let’s flip the coin and see what life might demand. Never factor just your work tasks into the equation — consider what you need to do outside of work as well.

    Family & Home

    It’s terribly easy to forget and neglect family matters when you’re working hard, especially when you don’t have anyone but yourself to depend on to keep the money coming in.

    The end result is never, ever pretty. It’s no joke that not budgeting time for family time can destroy the relationships you have and it may mean you end up seeing your kids once every second weekend on visitation. Drop clients if you have to make room for this one.

    On a lighter note, it’s only fair that you do the dishes once in a while, and maybe even put something in the washing machine!

    Social Life

    It’s a bit sad but there have been times in my life as a freelancer where the only people I saw for a week where the people I lived with. I had so much work I could barely find the time to talk to those people, let alone leave the house and socialize! It’s important to do so, though. There are a whole bunch of longwinded studies that basically boil down to this: not socializing makes you crazy. Nobody hires crazy people anymore.

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    Relaxation & Downtime

    Relaxation and downtime is not the same as socializing. Often, you need time to yourself, to do things you enjoy whether that’s reading a book, knitting, watching Seinfeld re-runs or fighting something in an MMORPG. Take the time to immerse yourself in activities you enjoy to relax and entertain yourself.

    Hobbies & Commitments

    If you are in some sort of community organization, or have a hobby like martial arts, you probably need to consider the regular events you need to attend when working out your daily working hours. If you can’t keep up your commitments, it might be best to relieve yourself of them rather than become known as “the unreliable one.”

    The Lifestyle You Want to Create

    The most important factor above all is that there’s a certain lifestyle everyone wants to create and it has a big influence on how long you work each day and what you do in order to make that happen. If you want to work short hours or you want to work normal hours but on a strange schedule when everyone else is asleep, that’s great. You just need to decide on how many hours you want to work each day and make a plan to achieve that.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

    1. Understand Yourself Better

    Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

    Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

    2. Keep Track of Small Changes

    I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

    Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

    3. Become Aware of What Matters

    As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

    You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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    4. Boost Creativity

    The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

    When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

    You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

    5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

    A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

    Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

    6. Process Life Experiences

    When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

    Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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    7. Stress Relief

    In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

    Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

    8. Provide Direction

    Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

    One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

    9. Solve Problems

    Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

    Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

    When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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    10. Find Relief From Fighting

    Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

    Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

    11. Find Meaning in Life

    Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

    12. Allow Yourself to Focus

    Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

    13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

    When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

    14. Let the Past Go

    I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

    15. Allow Freedom

    Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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    16. Enhance Your Career

    Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

    Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

    17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

    All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

    18. Catalog Your Life for Others

    No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

    We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

    Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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