I received the following email last week:
I always enjoy your newsletters, but your typical laundry list of deadlines generally makes me want to throw up. I'm curious to know how you manage your time. In a future newsletter, would you be into illustrating what a typical workday looks like for you and/or any guiding principles you employ while engaging an overwhelming workload?
I've had this request in similar form several times in the last few weeks. So, then, a typical day, which means the weather is not warm and I'm not writing a novel:
I wake up
some time between 11am and noon, usually to the alarm on my phone, which is currently either playing "Morning Sun" by Holly Herndon or, for no good reason, "Meditational Field" by Susumu Hirasawa. I will usually skim the iOS notifications pulldown while in bed, to get a sense of the overnight news and traffic, and fire off a couple of snaps to a few friends to denote life. Often, I will also press the button that fires an old Thames Television ident image along with a timestamp to Twitter, as a general signal that I'm awake. (When it fucking works properly.)
(There's a whole thought process to unpack about the pressing of that button.)
Mornings are not my best time. While my podcast app is updating, I juice a lemon and drink the juice mixed in half a pint of water,
eat a protein bar for 30 grams of protein, because I'm 48 and my metabolism needs a fucking hand crank to get started, and put an espresso on. I spend the first hour of every day outside in the back garden, drinking three or four espressos, most often just with my phone and a set of earbuds. I read through the overnight email, get a slice of Twitter and Instagram, read the Guardian and BBC news headlines, properly process Snapchat and WhatsApp, skim the single Slack I'm on, read Economist Espresso, and listen to the Best Of Today and Economist Radio podcasts. Sometimes also Five Thirty Eight Elections, which has been excellent.
That first hour is vital. If I don't get it, I am beyond cranky for the rest of the day. I need to power up slowly and peacefully.
this hour, I should walk for thirty minutes, where I will listen to a documentary podcast like In Our Time or a music podcast. I might push it til later. :Lately, I've been so insanely busy that I've only been walking once every two or three days, which is bad.
At this point, I should be making a smoothie, but I'm probably just grabbing a bottle of water (drinking at least two liters of alkaline water a day) and going to the office. I fire up the laptop, the external monitor and the old iPad 2, the latter of which is my office music system. On the iPad, I'm putting on a podcast or Berlin Community Radio or Soma FM Drone Zone, and running
Panic Status Board
over the top, which is mostly used for news and timezone + weather tracking.
I'm throwing Tweetdeck up on the big screen to see my six Twitter lists, opening Feedbin for my RSS feeds, and I am answering emails and reading more news. Usually also prepping an edition of a private newsletter I run for friends and fellow travellers. Thinking about getting a sidecar clip to put another screen, maybe a tablet, on the right edge of the big external monitor.
I put on a Pebble Time Steel watch at this point - it saves phone battery life and lets me see phone-based notifications while typing if I so choose.
All my messaging apps are on, at this point. They include WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, Twitter and IG direct messages, Telegram, Skype. Most of
them get turned off if I'm crazy busy - Skype is usually the first to go. People with my Skype number can call straight through to my phone (thanks to
a Skype redirect product) if it's important. But, honestly, most of them are pretty quiet - it's just handy to have them.
And then I start work.
From here until around 630 it's basically a blur. I get up once an hour to stretch and have a cigarette outside. I live in OpenOffice, Word, Gmail and Google Calendar. I eat lunch at my desk during this period, unless I've pushed my walk to later and have decided to grab lunch while I'm out.
I am guided by the whiteboard on the wall over my desk, by my calendar, by my notebook and by email.
Often, it's triage -- what most needs to be done? Sometimes it's just, what do I feel like writing? I have a few projects on the go at any one time, and, on the good days, I can just decide which one I'm in the best frame of mind for. When the job is dictated by the schedule -- well, I have notes on every project, so sometimes I just take a deep breath and hope that I can get into it or fake it that day. (Everything gets two drafts - if the first draft is solid, the second draft can be faked, and if the first draft is shit because I faked it, it can be fixed in the second.)
No coffee after 6pm. No drinking at my desk before 6pm.
At 630, I break for dinner. Dinner is often also eaten at my desk, and it's when I sample some streaming tv or take in some other form of video
After which, I am working until around 2am. Sometimes a little earlier, occasionally much later, but I aim to be heading towards bed before 2am. The sign is my closedown ritual, which is a good way to tell my own brain to pack it the hell in now. Back in the stone age, British TV channels would actually close down, late at night, and finish with a static card, that often said "good night." I have a jpg of the old Thames Television closedown card, and I post that to Twitter. As soon as that's posted, everything is turned off. I'm done. I go to bed and read until around 3am - backlit Kindle Paperlight. That, by the way, should answer the FAQ of how I read a book a week.
Once again: I am not a role model. You will note from the above that I have
no social life.
Well, that was staggeringly fucking boring, wasn't it? This will teach you people to send requests. NEXT.