The goal is to work smart, not overwhelm myself with hard work.
2021 was the year I quit my job to become a full-time writer.
Since then, I’ve felt this intense pressure to constantly prove to myself that I’m capable of earning good money. With that pressure weighing me down, I worked so hard, that towards the end of the year, I couldn’t work anymore.
This isn’t a metaphor.
There was a time during my 5-day writer training program when my body shut down. I had a severe headache that sent intense waves of pain through my skull in flashes. I couldn’t stare at the screen or work anymore.
The live training program ended on the 22nd of December. After that, I took a much-needed break that lasted until the 3rd of January 2022.
This break was a much-needed respite. It revitalized me in many ways. After the long working hours I’d put myself through, it seemed like a breath of fresh air. I spent most of this time resting, unwinding, and reveling in the little joys of life.
This contemplation led me to two main conclusions that I desire to achieve in 2022. The first is that I’ll not set any money-based goals. If you are focused on a particular income goal, you cannot see beyond that and end up restricting yourself to a particular income level. I’ve explained before why this is like having a 9-to-5 job and a fixed monthly salary.
The second goal is to devote just five hours a day to my work over a typical five-day workweek. This piece is about how I’m designing my ideal 5-hour workday as a solopreneur.
1. Effective Planning: 30 Minutes
I spend the first 30 minutes after getting out of bed planning, arranging, outlining, and assigning tasks for the day.
There are no screens in my room. All I need is a diary and a pen, and enough clarity to imagine how my day will unfold.
During these 30 minutes, I decide what my most critical task for the day is, so I can direct my attention to it as soon as I turn my computer on.
I believe 30 minutes is a generous amount of time to concentrate on my priorities and create my daily aim. It’s worked amazingly for me so far, and I believe this will pave the way for more mindful and focused workdays.
2. Deep Work: 2 Hours
After I finish my planning, I devote the first two working hours of the day to completing my most crucial task. On some days, it may be writing an essay. On others, it can be something entirely different, like editing a chapter of my upcoming book, or planning and constructing a new product for my audience.
I only have two hours each day to devote to this task. But I know that if I’m genuinely into something, the flow and enthusiasm might spill out of this preset timeframe, and compel me to continue working on the same task.
At times, the adrenaline rush feels just too incredible to break out of. And I’m not going to deny it; as a result, I’m holding this timeframe flexible in case I get too excited about a particular task.
Suppose I get too excited about this one. I’m going to forego the next one and a half hours and continue focusing only on my most important task for the rest of the day. For now, this will be the time that I intend to spend writing.
So, in short, I will spend the first two hours of my working day writing, revising, or developing a new blog.
3. Work Where Other People Are Involved: 1.5 Hours
The next part of the day is spent working for my freelance client or other people who expect some outcome from me. This includes work like responding to emails or getting on calls with prospective clients and partners.
I also utilize this time to record any podcasts on which I’ve been requested to appear as a guest, as well as record videos for my YouTube channel.
Of course, this segment looks different for me every day. On some days, I review the tasks assigned to my interns and assess their work. On others, I delegate new tasks and set up workflows that would help me later down the week.
3. Wrap Up Work: 30 Minutes
This comprises all of the day’s miscellaneous duties.
One of my new year’s goals for 2022 is to write one post on LinkedIn every day. As per my experience, the ideal time for posting on Linkedin is 9:30 AM. But if I save this task for the morning, I feel stressed when I wake up. I like my mornings to be relaxed so I can take as much time as I’d like to get out of my bed and complete my workout session.
To avoid the sense of morning rush, I schedule the next morning’s LinkedIn post on the prev.
In terms of repurposing, I always use my LinkedIn posts as answers to a relevant question on Quora. I’ll sometimes repurpose old Medium articles into LinkedIn posts or create Tweet treads from a particularly successful Medium story. This doesn’t consume a lot of mental space and is an ideal task to tackle right before I wind up work for the day.
5. Review The Day: 30 minutes
Since I start my workday with journaling, it’s vital that I conclude it with a review.
In the last 30 minutes of the day, I like to evaluate the efficacy of my plan and how religiously I followed through on the commitments made to myself in the morning.
One thing I try to keep in mind when I’m evaluating is that I can’t get caught up in short-term projects or things that are useful for a one-time payout, no matter how significant that money is. Here, I always attempt to make sure that during the day, I have accomplished something that will benefit me in the long run.
Right now, it’s three weeks into January, and I’m absolutely enjoying my life. I work five days a week for five hours each day, leaving the rest of the day to enjoy as I like.
I spend this time at home, taking care of my body, working out, or exploring my newfound passion for cooking. I also go on walks with my dog and spend quality time with my partner.
It’s fun, but sometimes, I feel guilty for “wasting” so much time each day. My brain cooks up scenarios where I’m losing out due to not battling as hard as my peers.
I have to remind myself that you don’t succeed in life by pushing yourself to burnout. With intelligent work and smart planning, you can reach your goals without being exhausted.
That is exactly how I plan to tackle this year. I’m hoping it turns out as fantastic as the vision I’ve created for myself.
The weekends are for fun. I also set aside some time to reflect on the previous week and plan for the next. This may mean scheduling tasks occasionally, but I make every effort not to use my laptop on weekends.
My ambitions are as great as they were in 2021, but I know I must take care of myself so I can be healthy enough to achieve my goals. It’s critical not to be so engrossed in work, that I start neglecting my health. By not keeping myself occupied all day long, I can be more conscious of my goal and ensure that I’m in good form to carry my ideas through.
If you’re a solopreneur, I’d love to hear about a typical workday in your life. Do share your story of how you enforce work-life balance and let me know your thoughts in the comments.