People have always asked me how I manage to fit all the various things I do into my life. In the past, the answer was that I was a workaholic who could get by on four hours’ sleep a night.
Nowadays, however, I’m in my late twenties, and while that means I’m still young (right? RIGHT?!), it also means I’ve started making those little noises when I get out of chairs or bend to pick something up, and also that going to bed at a reasonable hour instead of stumbling drunkenly through the streets of Dalston at 3am seems like a perfectly good nighttime pursuit.
And yet I still manage to fit in more than most people, apparently. Probably the #1 reason for this is that I don’t have a 9-to-5 office job, so I get to structure my own time. But, in the wake of being asked this question roughly a million times a month, I thought I’d answer it in the most literal way possible: by running a timesheet for a week and then blogging the result.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I get up at 4.17am. DON’T RUN AWAY YET THIS ISN’T EVERY DAY. And you don’t have to do it, unless like me you desperately need to lose a few
pounds stone and your bastard brain won’t let you exercise while there are other people at the gym. So instead, I get up obscenely early and head out before my brain has a chance to realise what I’m doing and resist.
5.30 I get home, make a large cafetiere of coffee, and drink it while doing the first shift of my work. This involves:
- 1,000 words (ish) of whatever I’m writing for myself at that point. Last year, it was a novel. This year, it’s a combination of non-fiction.
- Proofreading and editing the article submissions from the team of writers on ExpatFocus.com, posting and sharing the articles.
- Writing an article for ForensicFocus.com, or editing someone else’s submission and posting that, or posting a snippet of digital forensics related news.
- Writing a post on this blog, sharing it everywhere.
At this point it’s normally about three hours later, and I spend about 20 minutes sitting on the loo scrolling through Instagram before I remember breakfast.
While I’m eating breakfast I usually go through my Feedly and schedule all my tweets for the day using Buffer.
After breakfast I move from the armchair (where the morning work happens) to the desk (where the day work happens) and go through my inbox.
It normally takes just over an hour, and then the day begins to vary a bit. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays all start off in exactly the same way, but there are differences after the inbox.
This Monday morning I went into the centre of town to meet a friend for coffee. We caught up and then I got home at about 12.30.
I tend to not really do lunch – breakfast is my largest meal of the day, and it generally sees me through until about 4pm.
When I got home at 12.30 on Monday I did some singing practice. I usually do this while I’m washing up, and the people who walk past outside my window sometimes look up and wave and smile. It’s like a tiny concert from my kitchen.
Then I did some work; this Monday I was printing off pages for one investigation (there’s a lot of paperwork for that one) while I tried to get some forensic software I’m testing to work on my other computer. Luckily my cat is not like this cat, otherwise I would end up with very fucked-up case files.
At 2pm on a Monday I have a regular call with my favourite client. Once that’s over, I walk down to my mailbox (about a mile away) and pick up any business mail that’s come through in the last week. I also do any shopping and outside admin I need to do, like paying in cheques.
By the time I’ve done all this and come back home again it’s usually about 6.30pm, and I make a small dinner and pour a glass of wine. Then I sit back down at my desk and continue working. Mondays and Fridays are my longest working days – I prefer to do this at either end of the week.
Monday evenings are for accounts, invoicing, correspondence and backing up my hard drives. This week I finished at 8.30 and then had two calls, which took me up to 10pm, when I went to bed.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are days when I don’t go to the gym in the morning. I get up at 6am instead of just after 4.
The morning routine is the same, except without the gym and with everything running a bit later. By the time I’ve done the inboxing and the washing up and the singing practice, it’s early afternoon and I walk to the nearest pool.
I swim for about an hour, which makes it a two-hour round trip because the pool’s about a half hour walk away. Generally when I get home I have an iced smoothie and a shower (sometimes at the same time, for the sake of efficiency).
This Tuesday a new investigation landed in my inbox when I sat back down to work. I did some tracing online but quickly discovered that this one would require some surveillance. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to choir if I did the stake-out on Tuesday night, so I postponed it to Wednesday and carried on with my other work.
Other work that day included writing two monthly newsletters for a couple of sites, publishing some digital forensics news, updating another website, and looking through research notes.
I finished work at 7ish and went to choir, where there was food and wine so I didn’t even need to bother making dinner when I got home at 10, I just went straight to bed.
…has exactly the same morning routine as Monday. I’d woken up with a bad back, which was annoying because it meant I had to scale back my enthusiasm at the gym, and also made surveillance a pain. But I uncovered the necessary information and sent it to my client along with an invoice.
Some people came to fix my radiator and some other people came to deliver roughly a shitload of wine. Both of these things made me happy, and then someone else arrived bearing a box of books.
At this point I decided to clock off and spend the rest of the day arranging my wine and book collections, because arranging stuff is one of my favourite things to do.
Wednesday was the 25th, aka the invoice deadline date for all my freelancers. They’d submitted their work for the month and their invoices, so I spent Thursday morning after the usual editing-blogging-breakfast-inboxing routine paying them.
I skipped the pool because I had a singing lesson with Ashley, whom I cannot recommend highly enough. I’d try to describe how wonderful he is but you sort of have to see it for yourself. He’s an osteopath who also teaches singing, and he therefore has an intrinsic understanding of how the human body works and how it can be used to improve singing ability. I’ve had two lessons so far, and not only has he already made me a noticeably better singer, he’s also improved my posture and made my bones feel a bit better.
When I got home I semi-impulsively tried to acquire a baby grand piano which someone was giving away for free, but they quoted me £450 for delivery so it wouldn’t have been worth it. Then I lost an hour or so on Gumtree looking at free uprights, before deciding it might make more sense to get the living room finished before I buy a piano to put in it.
I booked travel and accommodation for a couple of upcoming conferences and continued testing the forensic software I’d been testing at the beginning of the week. It broke my computer. Again.
I went to bed early because Friday is one of my early rising days.
Oh, I should probably mention that I usually fit in my book reading either on journeys to and from places, or while I’m in bed just before I go to sleep. Last week I read six books, but that’s mainly because I read obscenely fast, so reading a book for me takes about the same amount of time as watching a film takes most people.
Friday! The end of the week! Nearly.
The morning routine on Fridays is always tinted with the happy knowledge that on Saturdays and Sundays I’m allowed to get up as late as I like.
When I checked my inbox I found an email cancelling the work thing I was supposed to be at in the evening, which was good. I like cancelled plans.
Following the usual stuff, I sent my weekly newsletter and set up a new columnist on one of the websites I work for. Then I emailed some people to ask for quotes for an article I’m writing, and then I looked outside and realised how sunny it was, so I grabbed a camping chair and went to sit in the park outside my window. I recently invested in a wifi booster which means I can work from there. It was an excellent investment.
I read some papers for the research project, looked into the advantages and limitations of fuzzy hashing algorithms in similarity matching, and sent my freelancers their work for the coming month.
I had applications for a couple of the roles on the Vacancies page, so I looked through their qualifications and responded. I then put together a website for a new client and proofread a 10,000-word country guide for another client.
At some point about halfway through all that I realised I was uncomfortably hot, so moved back inside. When I was done I headed to the supermarket, where I bumped into a friend who immediately looked shocked and pointed out that I was quite impressively sunburnt. I hadn’t noticed.
I made dinner, brushed the cat, opened a bottle of wine and sat down to catch up on Game of Thrones.
I used to work at the weekends. I used to work pretty much every hour of every day, bar sleeping, which I didn’t do very often.
These days I don’t use the internet at weekends. It’s brilliant.
On Saturday I met a friend for coffee at the local market, then walked to a cheaper market to do my food shopping for the week. When I got home I made a half-arsed attempt to make the flat look presentable, and then spent the rest of the afternoon roasting vegetables, chopping fruit and freezing them in batches. I sat down and read a book, and then at 7.30 a couple of friends came over.
On Sunday I got up, read another book, had a shower, had brunch, then got on the bus to Oxford to see my friend who lives on a houseboat there. This is the path to the canal she’s currently living on:
I got home at 8ish, had a call with another friend to catch up on the week’s news, and then had a quick light dinner before heading to bed.
My alarm went off at 4.17 this morning and I dragged myself reluctantly out of bed, telling myself I’d be pleased I’d done so in a few hours. Now it’s 7.47 and I can confirm that getting up early was a good plan. I just wish it were easier to persuade barely-awake scar of the same thing 😉
So, there you have it. That’s how I fit it all in. Basically it boils down to:
- Early mornings
- A solid routine that means the regular stuff always gets done
- A lack of distractions (I don’t have Facebook, and I leave my mobile in the bathroom so I can only check texts/Instagram/etc. when I pee)
- A level of trust in myself; knowing that if I take a few hours off one day, I’ll make it up at some future point
What’s your routine? How do you fit all your stuff in?