If someone asks me, “What’s the best thing about working remotely”, I’ll often say the flexibility. Conversely, if that same person asks me what the worst thing is, I’ll still say, “The flexibility”. Why? Because being a freelancer requires you to manage your time efficiently. And while I do have the luxury of taking time out of the day to go surfing, take a swim or pick up the German textbooks, those hours will have to be made up at a later point.
My days can also be a little inconsistent workwise. Some days an early start is required and I still don’t clock off till after dinner. Other days I may only have a few hours of work. The trick is to always have a constant stream of employment opportunities coming into the pipeline, but that’s a whole other story. You may also think that I couldn’t keep my day that structured. Truth is my system is not perfect, but I actually keep my structure as rigid as possible. It’s not because I want to, it’s because I need to in order to fit in everything during the day. If I don’t my days can blow out till 9pm at night, which is a proper energy drainer for the next day.
A good start to the day is invaluable when I'm snowed under
So what does my typical working day look like? I’ve essentially drawn a line of bit fit through my week and broken day the average day. Mind you there’s also some weekends where I have to work, given that my clients are normally spread across 3 different time zones. Oh, and if the surf is cooking my routine goes on the backburner. Pumping waves wait for no man.
6:00am: Wake up and do the obligatory scroll through my emails before I even get out of bed. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to kick, and often it crowds my mind before I’ve even had a chance to get set for the rest of the day. From the moment I’m out of bed till around 7, I get my head on straight for the day. This is especially important when I’m not surfing. Normally, going to catch a few waves in the morning charges me up for day ahead. This hour of power is the not so fun alternative to that, but it does get me in a good frame of mind.
6:15am: I try to stretch for at least 15 minutes every morning. I don’t do yoga stretches and it’s mainly for my legs. If you know me you know I’m built like a beanpole with the back posture of a bricklayer. This means my lower back, hamstrings and quads are often super tight from hunching around the house like Quasimodo. I’ll put a Tedx talk on while I’m doing this and time my stretches with the stopwatch on my phone. I find it easier to concentrate and more enjoyable if I know how long I’ve got to hold it for without having to count it in my head.
6:30am: After I’m limbered up I’ll chuck on the Headspace app and try and do a little bit of meditation. I never in a million years thought I’d buy into this. I’d always regarded it as new age nonsense, but for the last two years I’ve been reading books and watching a few docos surrounding the benefits of regular meditation on your mood. It doesn’t have to be spiritual – it’s just another instrument in the happy life toolbox.
Taking time out for numero uno
7ish: By now I’m ready to start reading over emails. You may wonder why such an early start to the day when I don’t have an office to go to. As I said, my clients are spread out over a few time zones. This means I have to be up relatively early while I’m in Europe to talk with clients in Australia. Normally I can catch them if I have any questions about projects I’m working on before they knock off for the day. I’m not opposed to getting up early either way, unless it’s on Sunday. That’s the day for waking up a bit later, putting on the Sennheiser’s and relaxing in bed.
8:00am: Normally I play email Ping-Pong with clients till around 8am then start organising my day off the back of that. This part of my day encompasses getting everything sorted in a nifty little desktop tool I use called Wunderlist. I can add everything I need to do for the day in here with a reminder for it’s due date and when I’d like to start it. It’s the equivalent of taking a big steaming mind dump on my computer and getting everything out of my head and into the diary. Not only does this help keep track of what projects are due that day; it also eliminates the worry that I may not remember everything I have to complete over the next 24-hours.
Time to start... unless there's waves
8:30am: Time to start work. Usually I try to ease myself into the day. Nothing to strenuous first thing, maybe a little formatting for landing pages or research for articles that I have to write. Projects due on the day are prioritised and Australian clients are left till later. This is because anything sent to me from Oz is normally sent with a 24-hour turnaround, meaning it doesn’t have to be submitted till later in the night. By starting work and not launching into anything too complicated, I give my mind a little time to wake up.
9:00am: By 9 in the morning I’m already powering through work, getting as much done as I can while my mind is fresh and untainted by those little hiccups that interrupt my routine during the day. This may be an urgent request from a client or something that Alex and me have to do later on. By getting as much done as possible between 8:30 and 10, I can handle issues that arise later in the day without worrying about it cutting into my work time.
10:00am: Breakfast! Normally I’ll make breakfast, but if I’m super busy Alex will generally put her hand up. I don’t really have a go to meal, but I’m a massive fan of oats or granola and banana or even just a few eggs and some fruit. Nothing too complicated and nothing too heavy. I’ll also smash a cup of black coffee or two around now. The reason for having breakfast so late is threefold. It gives me something to look forward to; I don’t have to compromise the opportunity to get started on work to prepare and eat it; and I try not to eat between 6 at night and 10 the next day. Abstaining from eating or drinking anything but water during this period is part of a process called intermittent fasting. I can testify that it is an absolute must if you want to sustain energy levels all day and far beyond being just a fitness fad. I won’t go into the reasons why it’s so helpful but I’ve included a link here for you to have a look at. Perhaps I’ll write something soon about its benefit but for now you can see for yourself.
Man's gotta eat! Food is fuel yo'
10:30am: Back into work here. Normally this is when I’m my most productive. I’ll try getting as much done as possible and lob a few grenades at some of the harder or more complicated projects that are due. Granted all of my work is deadline based so sometimes I’ve just got to complete projects early for the sake of sending them in on time. I also cringe at the thought of starting a new project late in the afternoon, which is why I try to knuckle down to 1:30 – 2pm and do as much as I can before then.
1:30-2pm: By now I’m pretty much stinging for something to eat. A few eggs, some leftovers or rice and tuna is a standard lunch. I’ll try and go for a walk after I’m finished my meal and take a break from the computer. While I’m in Croatia, this normally entails going down and jumping in the water for a swim. I’ll also take down all of my German textbooks and do half an hour of study. I could definitely be doing more bookwork, but I make up for it by having conversations with Alex while we’re down there in German and using Duolingo (highly recommend if you’re learning a language). Back in Australia however, I’d be doing the surf check on my pushie. After my lunch break is over, I’m back into it. The thing about being a freelancer is that you tend to work shorter, more productive hours. It’s easy to get distracted with little bits and pieces that can really wait for a lull day, so instead of doing long stints behind the computer, I’ll do short stints where I won’t lift my eyes from the screen and set a target for what I want to achieve during that period.
Run it out!
3:00pm: During the afternoon I’ll tie up a few projects and maybe start a couple of smaller ones. I try not to leave the harder stuff for this late in the day, but if I’m super busy it’s inevitable. If my day looks like I’m going to have to grind it out, I just won’t take a long lunch break.
4:30pm: This is when I start cooking dinner. During the week it will be something easy. I like to spend no more than 45 minutes in total preparing and eating on a workday – not that I time it or anything. But if I can sit down at the table and have some tucker just after 5ish, then I’m on track to finish off the day before 6:30.
5:30pm: After dinner I’m back at the laptop proofreading projects from that day, uploading work into a CMS (content management system) or preparing invoices. I’ll also go back through the day and double check that I haven’t missed anything. The goal here is to start getting ready to end the day and distressing my mind. As a freelancer I’m constantly juggling new projects, deadlines and on most days, 4 to 5 clients. I also reply to all clients before the day is out. Neil always told me never leave till tomorrow what you can do today, which is something that I’ve applied to my own business. That being said, if I feel like I’m drained and I need to proofread 3,000 words urgently for a client, I’m not doing them or myself any favours by pushing through. In this case, I’ll let them know that I will take on the project, and have it to them first thing in the morning. Then I can configure my day accordingly to compensate for their request by starting earlier.
A stroll in the woods quiets my mind and makes me sleep infinitely better than if I'd just switched off the lappy and bummed around home all afternoon
6:30pm: By 6:30 I’m well and truly done for the day. Everything that needed to be completed is completed and I can begin to wind down. A walk or at the very least a little Freeletics workout is a great way to usher in the night and take my mind off work.
There you have it, my average day. Keep in mind it changes weekly depending on how much work I have, with Monday mornings being slow and Tuesday till Friday afternoon quite busy. I think the most important aspect of my day is the first few hours I have to myself in the morning. During this time I can get my head on straight and approach the day with a good attitude. I’m also not averse to starting my day at 5am if I’m flat out like a lizard drinking. This was the case during August when I was still working full time and doing 6 hours in a classroom studying German. This concept of getting my head on right for the day was foreign to me until I started working as a freelancer, but you need a bit of a routine to maintain discipline and get the work done and to keep on funding the best lifestyle in the world.