Some of us are able to make these regular arrangements more flexible: personally, I try to break regularly, but the idea of having a 9 to 5 time slot with a lunch break and systems of 50 min/10 min stretched over the day does not appeal to me that much. Speaking for myself only, I find it more helpful to have a set amount of time that I work each day, and give myself the choice when exactly to fill those hours into my daily schedule. So rather than working 9 to 12, have lunch, and do 13-17 again, I might choose to spend some time outdoors on a sunny day and work from 17-21, being much more relaxed and productive than doing the 13-17 thing and being annoyed for missing out on a beautiful day.
I think that this option of flexibility is one of the main reasons many of us have chosen to be self-employed, and I believe that – while having a regular amount of time spent on business is a good thing, there is no reason for us to not schedule that time around our personal lives.
When we think of breaks, we shouldn’t overlook another kind of scheduled break: the interruption of a longer chunk of work, and doing something short and regular in between those larger chunks. I have mentioned before that incoming messages can be disruptions to concentrated work, and there is a point to be made to turn off indicators for incoming messages (put the phone on silent and disable pop-up messages) or turn off the email program altogether as a rule. If you choose to go down that road temporarily or as a default situation, you have to schedule work breaks from other work in order to check on messages several times a day. In that case, your work schedule could be as simple as 10 min tea break, checking messages, then work on a large chunk project until the end of the 60 minute period.
As you can see, there is a huge amount of flexibility in a system that looks very rigid to start with. The benefits are clear: during the large chunks you can fully concentrate on the subject at hand, the message breaks form part of the large chunk without interfering with your peace of mind during the real 10 min break. Obviously, you can change the length of time for each cycle, you can arrange things differently, you can do 7 hours in a row or have a large ‘vacation’ break in the middle… there are lots of ways to set this up.
Having this regular work routine with flexible options is also a perfect way to incorporate your work time into your home office. It gives you all the tools to tell those around you that you are working, but will be available on regular intervals for whatever needs discussing or taking care of. An understanding like this will ensure that your private life and your work stay separate, and that works both ways, of course: in your free time, you will know that this is not work time and you’ll be less distracted because of it.
Next week: Take care of repetitive background tasks every day
Ask the ClutterMeister
Some pertinent ideas from the 'old office dog' who has seen it all, to help clear away the mess in your office.
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My name is Tilo Flache and it is my mission to help my clients organise and declutter their work spaces.