Almost all the productivity advice I’ve heard/read says that “the key” is to wake up early and get your important tasks done in the morning. I’m sorry, but we are not all morning people. We are all programmed differently. I, for one, am a serious night owl. I even took an online course once on “how to turn yourself into a morning person.” Spoiler alert: it didn’t work for me. But ask anyone who knows me and they have no idea how I get everything done that I do.
Rather than try to “re-program” yourself, I think a much healthier path is to do some self-exploration. Figure out what type of person you are (morning lark? night owl? in between?) and lean into that.
That can be hard to do (but not impossible!) when you work a job with pre-specified hours, but this is where life is good for a freelancer. You have the power to arrange your schedule how it suits you.
I have never appreciated this so much as when the country shut down this past March and everyone who could do so switched to working from home. All my accompanying work at UofL turned into recording work at home. I am not a fan of recording in the best of situations (it can be very stressful to have to play something over and over again striving for perfection in front of an albeit small audience of people who do nothing but listen to people record all day). Now I was being asked to provide quality recordings in a non-sound-proofed house with my French-horn-playing husband, 4yo son, and 3 cats at home with me! (“I’m recording – whisper mode!” has become a common phrase in our house!)
I think it was day 2 of quarantine recordings that I realized that I was going to have to figure out a schedule so that all 3 of us could do what we needed to do and my son wouldn’t have to be silent all day. My husband and son are both morning people, so this is actually one situation when this works in our favor. I looked at my calendar and figured out how to arrange my schedule so that I could get most of my work done in the afternoon while my son was napping or in the evening after he went down to bed. My husband weighted his work towards the beginning of the day when he is most productive, so he wouldn’t be making a lot of noise when I was recording.
Another strange thing that happened when the country shut down was that all of our private teaching switched to online lessons instead of in person. Even though my husband has his own home office downstairs, my workspace is the living room on the open plan main floor of our house (we live in a tri-level); since our house is not sound-proof, there is the potential for a good bit of noise-bleed. Because of this, we have to make sure we are not teaching at the same time. (Being able to see each other’s Google calendars was a must for this!) Because school children were out of school, we were able to shift our teaching hours earlier in the day and fit most of our teaching between 1P + 6P. Not teaching at the same time had the added benefit of one of us always being available for our son if needed.
So my daily work schedule ended up looking like: 1 hour of practicing (either piano or voice) in the morning (usually 10A-11A), teaching/practicing/teaching prep/recording 1P-6P, 2 more hours of recording/practicing/teaching prep 9P-11P. Some days my son is interested in playing solo after dinner, so I would get started on my evening work a little earlier; some days I have gone ahead and worked past midnight because late night is when my brain is wired and active. Since I only did 1 hour of work in the morning, morning was also when I fit in gardening/yard work, cleaning, and exercising. These are things I can do with my son (or at least in the same room as my son), keeping him out of my husband’s hair during his most productive time.
This worked incredibly well for us. As the country transitioned and teaching shifted again for the fall, we had to adjust again. And now that we are in this weird limbo of not knowing when K-12 schools will go back to being in person, we have to be ready to adjust again. But you better believe I will always do my best to skew my work late to take advantage of my “night-owl-ness.”