Over the last 18 months, out of necessity, I’ve honed a routine that keeps me working as many hours as I like in a day. The typical number of hours, for those interested, is 8.

That’s 8 hours, poring over a desk, purely working. Not writing emails, scrolling through my phone, drinking coffee, writing newsletters or running errands. Following are the measures I have to take to reach that number.

Until I became a full-time artist, for 10 years, this routine was wildly different. I was a postman, working between 6am and 1pm with no breaks (by choice), and coming home tired enough to need an hour or two of down time, or even a quick snooze, before hitting the desk and marching on with my latest piece if I felt like it, or not. This was likely followed by some marathon training or a badminton match. I’d fit that in come what may. I was “earning my keep”, and enjoying the sense of variety in life, in a very comfortable manner.

I’m now acutely aware of how lazy that mindset was, giving myself far too much licence with the 2nd half of my day. Being a postie was certainly stress-free, but not always “pressure-free”, and strict deadlines and considerable work loads on certain days could run me down too quickly. I’m now at the crux of what went wrong and why.

What’s missing was a steady pace to things from the start, in the interests of longevity. This would have allowed me to assign myself rigid afternoon hours for the drawing board. Making an unquestioned habit, or even duty, of what would eventually become my career.

The routine

A few lessons were learned, and taken forward. These days, I don’t set off like a hare out of the traps, hoping to crack all the nuts I can as early as possible. I love the fact I can work from 630am if I please (or 4am on a bad night’s sleep), and the journey to work takes 10 seconds (from bed to desk). But I’m not 18 any more, and my eyes take a little while before they can focus properly! So I sit and wake up with a bit of breakfast.

I’ll go online while doing so, to catch up and engage with my peers, and see if I can gather any tips or inspiration. Then by 8am I’m ready to start.

I conduct eight uninterrupted blocks of work, 25 minutes long, with a 5 minute break in between each. This is known as the Pomodoro Technique. 25 minutes has been cited as the optimal length of time a person can concentrate on a task.

I use the short breaks to walk around or do some bodyweight exercises to keep things moving. Otherwise I’ll lie on the floor with my eyes closed, or do a small part of a house chore.

After 3hr20mins of concentrated work, it’s 12pm and time for lunch, followed by a look at my scheduled tasks or events. Instead of devoting a whole day to planning when too much has built up, once again, I do this in half hour chunks across the week. I might construct an advert, order supplies, schedule social media posts or write part of a blog.

I’m a little more refreshed for having taken that hour at lunch time, and at 1pm, I’m at it again for four more Pomodori. Then 3pm brings a bit of holistic magic.

4-6pm was typically my least productive portion of the day, having taken the Pomodoro angle or not. My mind started drifting, I was getting up to walk around a lot more, and relying on short, vigorous exercise to stay alert. Anything to avoid a cup of coffee too late in the day.

I couldn’t hit the nail on the head with anything, until I discovered the Wim Hof Method – a breathing and cold shower technique that’s tantamount to a few cups of coffee at once. Hit the link to find out more about that, as it’s a genuine game changer.

So, at 3:30pm, I’m fizzing with more energy and ready for another four Pomodori – still focused bouts of work at this point, where sustaining a continuous effort would, by this point, have me floundering. By 530pm, my wife’s finished work, I’ve done 6hr40mins of pure work (with extra faffing at lunch), and it’s tea time and an hour of Netflix.

Since I’ve completed the odd chore throughout the day, that’s a bit less to do during my non-office hours, which means…more time freed up for blocks of work!

You might be surprised at how addictive the Pomodoro Technique becomes, and how much you’re revitalised by the Wim Hof Method. With spare energy at the end of the day, why not fit a few more blocks of work in? This is why, recently, I’ve been working between 7:30pm and 9pm as well.

I then use the last couple of hours to wind down properly, with a bit of reading.

That’s a TYPICAL day. There are exceptions – I might free up an hour in the morning to brew beer, make a curry (so I can put it in the fridge by the evening) or head out for a bike ride if the weather’s too nice not to. I might also start earlier than 8am if I have an appointment somewhere in the day.

Pomodoro and Wim Hof. Those are my two big discoveries I use every day and have turned my work life around. Do you have any of your own? I’d love to hear them, so please use the comments section below to tell me about them 🙂

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