The New Regime

I've been a freelance writer for 18 years now, which in itself terrifies me. There were a handful of years around the turn of the millennium when I did the magazine office thing, but those aside I've always been self-employed. I've never really made much effort to manage my time by any set rules. If anything, deadlines have dictated when I work. Wait for the deadline to start looming, for the heart to start thumping in fear of failure and it's amazing how motivation suddenly blooms.

Today was the first day of a new experiment. I'm going to try working near-enough office hours on week-days. While the joys of the freelance lifestyle include being able to have humungous lie-ins and go down the pub in the afternoon if it takes your fancy, that approach also has drawbacks. I regularly surprise 'normal hours'-type folk by working on Saturdays and Sundays. In a way, the weekend feels like any other days to me. Hardly notice it, apart from the lack of Sunday mail. Even worse, I feel guilty when I'm trying to relax. I'll be watching a film and think how I could be working instead. Annoying. Where do you draw the line?

I'll tell you where: right here. So say hello to the New Regime. Working from 10am til 6pm. I love the idea of having a definite cut-off point at the end of each working day. Even more so, the concept of having weekends free. Here's how today went...

0915: The alarm goes off. Up for breakfast, etc. Aiming to start work at 10.

1030: I start work. Clearly, I've underestimated how long it takes me to get into work mode. Tomorrow, I'll set the alarm half-an-hour earlier. Simple. And today, I'll keep working 'til 6.30pm to make amends. The morning goes very well. I get a lot done.

1330: Half an hour later than the scheduled lunchbreak, I head out into Camden to do a few things. Bank, post office, fighting a drunken Spaniard in an alleyway. That last one isn't true, naturally: just trying to spice this bit up, before your eyelids start to droop.

1430: Back at my desk, by Christ! Work, work, work. Focus. Nothing but work. If it isn't work, I'm not interested. Give me work or give me death!

1630: I can't find my remaining cigars. Yes, pity me, reader. After two years of non-smoking, I recently succumbed and returned to the stupid habit. I'm so addicted at present that my lack of cigars distracts me from work. So I go back out and buy some. Damn it.

1650: Back at the desk, puffing away like a cock. Loads of work done on two features for Doctor Who Magazine, which I'm tackling simultaneously. Hey, this is good stuff! Mother of God, this... just... might... work!

1830: Here I am, talking to you, feeling quite satisfied with the day. Of course, it's never going to be cut-and-dried simple. For instance, I have films which I need to watch, for review. Is that really work? Well, yes, it is, when you'd rather be watching something else - but could I justify watching them during these office hours? And tonight I have an episode of Hustle to review for heat magazine, but I like the show, so I think I can file that under 'relaxation'.

Now, how am I going to fit the gym into this schedule? More to the point, when am I going back down there, full-stop? It's been a month...

Does anyone else work to office hours at home? Commiserate, congratulate or just tell me the pitfalls, why don'tcha?


Lucy said...


I work the following hours: get up at 6am, sort kids out. Take boy to school, come home with baby. Baby goes to sleep, work productively for one hour. Baby wakes up, I do dribs and drabs whilst trying to distract her by hiding toys and handfuls of cheerios all over the flat which she can search for while I rush back to PC to do email, write one page, read one page of a script etc etc. This goes on for approx 2.5 hrs then she has another sleep for an hour and I do another productive hours' work. She wakes up, we get boy from school. She and boy watch TV for approx one hour whilst I do another productive hour. Then husband comes home, I work for another productive 1.5 hours. Then on saturdays I do about 9 - 5 to make up for the other 2 or so hours from each day of the week before I didn't manage. I hope to get rid of the saturdays in sept when I can finally get bloody childcare. Then I will do 9 to 5 like I did when I was pregnant. Yay!

David Bishop said...

I work strict office hours whenever possible. That means visiting all my favourite websites and posting my daily blog entry before 9am. Start work at 9 properly, with second coffee of the day.

Try to eat lunch around lunchtime, though it can slip and slide in either direction. Knock off between five and six, depending upon need to exercise or cook tea.

If you do get a proper day's work done by 6pm, I feel no guilt about slacking off in the evening. Glass of wine or two, couple of episodes of The Wire or other DVD du jour.

I try to avoid working the weekends, other deadlines say otherwise. Much as they did on Sunday. And parts of Saturday.

Jason Arnopp said...

Lucy, that's a great schedule! Seizing pockets of time wherever you can. Like it. I find it frustrating to have work fragmented like that, although that's technically what I've been doing, all these years...

David, I'm definitely feeling the benefits of the slacking this evening. Glasses of wine, reading the paper... Sounds mad, but this kind of guilt-free relaxation is all new to me. I must be on the right track...

potdoll said...

I'm like you was - no boundaries between work and relaxation. Maybe I need a structure too. Let us know how you get on with it.