From June 1 – 14, 2020 I was off the grid. I decided to impose a quarantine on top of a quarantine.
For a period of two weeks I didn’t open my email, facebook, Instagram, twitter, you tube, whatsapp, viber, etc., and it was…liberating!
Why did I do this? Because for over a year now, I can’t seem to complete the draft of FQ Book 2. It also helped that I received messages inquiring where to buy it, when it will be out, and eager messages of finally reading it from my readers.
I thought that the quarantine at home with all the time savings on travel, going out, etc. would allow me to devote more time to finishing the book, but I was wrong. March 15 to May 31, 2020 turned out to be very busy. Even if I was happily busy working from home with my four favorite men in the world, my progress in my book writing wasn’t something to be happy about. The pace was nothing more than how it was prior to quarantine days despite having target dates. They just kept getting pushed.
There’s a saying that goes, “Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is stupidity!” So, I decided not to be stupid about this goal anymore so I granted myself this hiatus. (Share this on Twitter.)
Elements in Designing my Hiatus
I wish to share with you how I designed my schedule in order to accomplish my goal – i.e. to bring back the momentum of my book writing and finish a substantial part of the book.
1. Identify distractions. How many times do you check your email, facebook, Instagram, whatsapp, viber, twitter, etc.? I wasn’t happy anymore with the frequency and the actual number of hours I spent online on my cellphone. It was made more difficult because I could always rationalize by telling myself that social media was my work platform and I had to be there. I’m sure this resonates with a lot of you. But really, when you open your social media channels, there is no distinction between work and non-work-related stuff anymore as you scroll down. The same goes with your email. So, I decided to cut them all off for the two-week period.
2. Make distractions difficult to access. The reason for being easily distracted by all the channels mentioned in number 1 is that I made all those channels easily accessible on the front page of my phone screen. When I turn on my phone, there seems to be a magnetic force that makes my finger click those channels, especially if there are notifications of unread messages. So, to make sure that I will not have a hard time resisting this magnetic temptation, I put all of them inside a folder which I placed at the last page of my phone screen. I call this increasing the “friction cost” of turning on social media. Try it, you’d be surprised how a few clicks and swipes would make a difference.
3. Cut your work hours into several deep work sessions. Years ago, I read Cal Newport’s book entitled Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World where he talks about working in a state of high concentration on a single task without distraction, and this is what is required in writing a book. So, I observed myself to decide on how long I can stay best in uninterrupted focused work. Some can stay for 45 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc. Mine is one and a half hours. I used this as my basis when I designed my schedule which I will share with you in a while.
4. Add nature, meditation, and prayer in your routine. Nature has a calming and healing effect that I wanted to add in my daily routine. When I look at plants, trees, birds, I get this soothing feeling that makes me smile. Our mango trees are in full bloom right now giving us hundreds of mango harvests everyday. I looked at them more mindfully and stayed a bit under the sun each morning. There’s one tiny fruit that I can reach from our balcony that I touched everyday. Each time I did, I smiled, sometimes I even talked to it. J Meditation is something that I thought I’d never learn to do. I’ve tried it in the past but my active mind always got in the way that I gave up. My sons introduced me to this app called Headspace and it worked the first time I tried it, so I’ve been using it since. Praying helped me articulate my intention for the day and gave more meaning to the work at hand.
5. Make it easy to follow work schedule. Would you believe this is the first time I changed the alarm tone in my phone? I’ve always been annoyed by the default alarm tone but the power of inertia plus the rationalization that “maybe I need to be annoyed by the tone so I’d surely get up” kept me from spending a few minutes to figure it out. Here’s what I finally did. After I wrote down my daily schedule for my hiatus, I set my phone alarm to remind me of all the activities for the day. I made use of different tones, all pleasant, giving a hint on the nature of the activities.
I wish to share my daily weekday schedule during my 2-week hiatus
If you have a hard time reading the items on the above image, here they are:
5:55 am – Wake up, say a prayer
6:00 am – Take pure calamansi shot, Exercise
6:30 am – Meditate
7:00 am – Enriching activity (read book, listen to podcast)
7:30 am – Breakfast
8:00 am – Bathroom rituals (continue reading if there’s time)
9:00 am – Deep Work Chunk 1
10:30 am – Break (drink water, walk, stretch, go to the toilet, sometimes dance, sometimes insert 5-minute meditation especially if I get stuck in a chapter)
10:45 am – Deep Work Chunk 2
12:15 pm – Lunch Break. May include a nap, listen to podcast, short meditation
2:00 pm – Deep Work Chunk 3
3:30 pm – Break (same as above)
3:45 pm – Deep Work Chunk 4
5:15 pm – End of Writing (or do finishing touches for the day)
6:00 pm – Hard deadline for End of Work Day
Free time until dinner. On Wednesdays we do family dance work out together from 6:30 to 7:30
7:30 pm – Dinner (on Workout Wednesdays this is moved to 8:00 pm)
9:00 pm – Marvin time (that’s my husband)
10:30 pm – Sleep
I share this schedule so those who want to concentrate on a task but need some help in designing (i.e. make the “dos” easy to take up and the “don’ts” difficult to access) may use it. Tweak it to suit your needs and style.
Guess what happened? I didn’t just survive, I thrived and loved it! I wasn’t expecting to finish all the book chapters but I did! J What more? I even managed to read two printed books (The End of Average by Todd Rose, and The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch) and listen to two audiobooks (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma, and Superfans by Pat Flynn) during this period. I was surprised to finish four books in two weeks because one book a month is sort of my target.
When I was discussing this with Anton on Mom and Son Podcast, we couldn’t help but see some parallelisms with handling your money in order to accomplish your financial goals. You really have to know your why behind your financial goals. If at first, finance matters seem difficult and intimidating just like how meditation was to me, make it fun and light until you get the hang of it. Then identify your distractions. Are the shopping apps all on the front page of your phone screen? Is your frequent and mindless scrolling on social media tempting you to spend YOLO style that you forget your YAGO fund? (Click link to read more on this.)
This week’s challenge: List down one project and one financial goal that are not progressing at your desired rate. Come up with your schedule similar to the above that will help you accomplish your goals. Personalize it. Good luck. I promise, you will increase your productivity and success rate. It’s so liberating that I now have a new meaning for FOMO. It’s no longer Fear of Missing Out but…
Cheers to high FQ!
1. Listen to our Mom and Son Podcast episode this week for further discussion of this subject matter!
2. Reading is another coping mechanism for the lockdown. If you haven’t yet, may I invite you to read any of the FQ Mom books?
3. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to start your FQ journey. If you’ve taken this six or so months ago and you want to check how you have improved, you may take it again by clicking the link: https://forms.gle/tSHBiGtwpWHaKVzU9
Photos from freepik.com, pixlis.com, vectorstock.com, cleanpng.com, modified and used to help deliver the message of the article.