Another Thought On Work Scheduling

By | Thursday, June 09, 2011 Leave a Comment
Back in college, the graphic design program that I was in was set up so that we got most of our general education classes over and done with in our Freshman year. That meant that nearly all of our classes after that were focused on graphic design, and we no longer had final exams in the traditional sense. We just had one large critique of all our projects on the Friday before finals week. What the professors also did was essentially stop holding formal classes for the last week or two, with the intent that the students would be diligently working away on their projects. (This actually expanded considerably by our senior year and we pretty much only had to show up on Day One to get that term's assignment, and then again on the last day for the critique.)

Part of the lesson involved there was responsible time management. We knew what needed to get done and when, and that was the end of it. If you didn't get all your work done by that final critique, you failed. Period.

The first couple of terms we had to do that, many of us were scrambling towards the end because we hadn't yet gotten a firm grasp on either our own design skills and/or the time necessary to complete a task. I once worked on projects for 40 hours straight to get things done on time, and that was by far not any sort of record, even among my friends. But, by the tail end of Sophomore year, maybe the early part of the year after, I think most of us had things down pretty well.

What I always thought was great about that week or so every term was that my schedule was entirely set by what worked for me. I had plenty of creative work to keep me busy, but nothing to interrupt whatever flow I might have going on until next Friday. I would work on a project until I was done working on it. Maybe I'd hit a creative wall. Maybe I needed a bio break. Maybe I'd finished. It didn't matter what time it was or how long I'd been working; I had the flexibility to switch gears whenever I needed/wanted to. I recall one day getting up around 7:30 and working until I got hungry around 2:00, taking a short break for lunch, and then not really stopping again until around 9:00 that evening. I was just in the zone that day and didn't even really notice the time passing until it started getting hard to see because the sun had set.

I mentioned a couple weeks back how "regular" work schedules are more reflective of freelancers' any more. I presented mostly from a "just getting results" perspective, but what didn't really occur to me until I just now remembered those college days is that also increases our overall efficiency and effectiveness. If we're able to just hit large deadlines and not worry about having to be creative from 8:00 until 5:00 every day, that seems to me a better use of everyone's time. What if you work better on the computer when the sun's not shining outside anyway? Why not do your computer work after it gets dark? Why not take advantage of creative inspiration when it hits, and not try to remember the spark of an idea the next day?

Every freelancer works according to his or her own preferences, of course. But why not everybody else? Whether you're writing comics or editing them or actually printing them, why not work when you're best suited to the task instead of when there's an artificial designation on the timeclock?
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