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Chapter
2

Design your ideal work schedule

In Step 1, we determined our “non-negotiable” life priorities — the activities outside of paid work that we definitely want to make time for.

Now, we can start to build our work schedule around those priorities.

How many hours should you be working?

Well, it depends. The norm in American society is a 40-hour work week, maybe even more if you’re used to a competitive industry like banking, tech startups, or law.

But as a freelancer, it all comes back to freedom. You have the freedom to work less (or more!) than 40 hours. 

With the other Pollen playbooks, you should have a clear understanding of your hourly rate and how much you need to work to make your desired income. We won’t determine that here and assume you have a general sense of this to do this exercise. 

In this step, we’re going to figure out your ideal work schedule, considering your energy levels and the rhythms of your day, and how it fits in with your other activities and overall work-life harmony. 

Together, we’ll craft a work schedule that works for you.

1. Begin by jotting down how many hours you’ll be working in a typical week. If this changes weekly, find the average for the past few weeks.

2. Determine your energy peaks and valleys. 

  • When do you feel most energized? 

  • How can you lean into those times of the day?

If you’re not sure about this we've included a chart in the workbook where you can track your energy levels.

Here you can see how Sam tracked their energy levels:

3. Are there any hours you must be online for current clients? 

4. Do you have set calls?  As you’re noting these, keep in mind what works best for you, and what could be changed based on that.

  • Can any calls be moved? Can they be adjusted? 

  • Can any be cut out or have a reduced frequency? 

  • Can some of these calls take different formats? Can they be voice calls or huddles on Slack instead of all video calls? Or can you head into their office or meet them at your coworking space? 

  • Depending on your high or low-energy hours, consider stacking calls on certain days of the week. 

5. List your common tasks that are a part of a typical week (e.g. invoicing, client pitching, creating content). Note how much energy they require of you, and how energizing they are to you. Rank your energy outputs and inputs on a scale from 0-10.

  • Depending on these answers, try to time these tasks with your high or low-energy hours.

  • Can you assign set times to these tasks, or do you prefer for them to be more fluid? 

Helpful tools:

  • Some people find time blocking helpful. Time blocking is a scheduling strategy in which you break your workday into smaller chunks of time to accomplish specific tasks. For example, you could assign the first hour of your morning to respond to emails and Slack messages, and your next block could focus on creative work (if that matches your energy!)

  • If you’re not really sure how much time tasks actually take, Groove will quickly help you figure it out. On Groove, you can hop into free 50-minute focus sessions, which give you a better sense of what you can realistically do in 50-minute chunks. 

Here’s how Groove helped Cate Scott Campbell: “Groove has been a source of energizing structure in my week, it’s helped me understand how long things actually take and has kept me moving forward in a simple, supportive way. But most of all, I love the people. In just a few short months, I’ve met so many creative, inspiring, and kind go-getters around the world who lift me up just by Grooving together. It’s a rare and special thing when you’re up late working on a deadline and a fellow Groover is starting their day on the other side of the world, coffee in hand, cheering you on.”

6. On your calendar template in your workbook, start to write in your working hours and commitments around your non-negotiables. 

  • Do you see any conflicts? Circle them. Consider if you can adjust the timing of those activities. 

7. Make time for breaks.

  • Remember, we all need to take lunch breaks, get fresh air, and pause from work. Make a list to the side — if you had 5-15 minutes between calls or tasks, what could you use that for? Stretching, grabbing coffee, texting a friend, putting on a song you love, doing the dishes, cuddling your dog, lighting a candle…we need these little restorative moments. 

8. This also might be a nice time to think about your morning and wind-down routines. These routines can be as fluid or as structured as you like them to be. Maybe you want to begin and end the day by reflecting on something you’re grateful for. 

Here are some other ideas: taking a mindful walk around your block, watching the sunset, calling a friend, caring for your space, dancing to your favorite song, reading, singing, and/or stretching.

For Sam, they’ve decided to work four eight-hour work days between Tuesday-Friday for a total of 32 hours a week. On their extra weekend day they bake, rock climb, and simply live.

They have the most energy in the morning, so they’ve decided to reserve 9am-12pm for deep focus time by scheduling a Start the Day Groove Monday through Friday. A Start the Day Groove helps them get organized and tackle the most important tasks first, so they start-off immediately feeling accomplished. 

In the afternoon, they tend to get a little more tired, so they’ve blocked 3-5pm for administrative tasks and content scheduling for their own social media accounts (which doesn’t require much of their brain power). 

Recap

After this step, you should have a good base of a work-life schedule that's feasible, works for your energy levels, and fits around your non-negotiables. 

If your schedule doesn’t meet those criteria, go back to the exercises and get stricter with yourself and determine priorities, or ask yourself where you can make changes. It could be anything from moving calls to determining whether you need to set a different hourly rate for different services. The point is to not do more, but do more of what really matters.

Next, we’ll turn our gaze outward, to where we can create and find moments for social connection on this schedule. 

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