Lots of people ask me how I write every single day while working full-time as a lawyer. I’m not a robot nor am I immune to stress, exhaustion and burn-out. But what most of us forget is that we have 16 hours each day when we’re awake — the remaining 8 hours devoted to sleeping — and that’s a lot of time to fill. Here are some tips and tricks that have helped me essentially work two demanding jobs while still allocating enough time to focus on myself and my loved ones.
[*] Eat the same thing for breakfast. Every single morning I try to eat a slow-carb breakfast consisting of a three-egg omelette packed with spinach. It takes about five minutes to make. Three minutes to eat. And, most importantly, keeps me full until I eat lunch about five to six hours later. By eating the same thing, it’s one less decision I have to make during the day.
[*] Batch your lunches. Spend a couple of hours on the weekend making batches of food you can take to work for lunch. I am to eat some variation of a stir fry, which means I’m eating sufficient protein and vegetables throughout the day.
[*] Shift your schedule. Similar to Zach from Four Pillar Freedom, I’ve shifted my schedule to accommodate my ‘golden hours’ for writing. Instead of going to bed around 11 p.m. and waking up at 7 a.m., I try to head to sleep around 10–10:30 p.m. and wake up at 5:30 a.m. Waking up earlier allows me to write without interruption and generates a ‘quick win’ before I leave for my work at the legal aid clinic.
[*] Stop watching television. Since I started taking writing seriously, I have drastically reduced the amount of tv shows I watch. I still watch mindless reality shows here and there, but you won’t catch me on a Netflix marathon. Even when I’m sick now, I physically cannot lay on the couch and watch multiple episodes of a show. The only thing that will make me sit down for long periods of time is reading or writing.
[*] Be Selective With Your Social Outings. I used to say yes to almost every invitation for a social outing. Now that I’m no longer in school, seeing family and friends becomes a lot more intentional. But, luckily, I have great friends who are also extremely busy and understand when I decline plans. Remember, you’re not only counting the time when you’re physically present with your friends — but also the time it takes to travel to and from wherever you’re meeting up. These sacrifices may be painful at the moment, but it’ll be worth it for your career in the long-run.
[*] Capitalize on Your Dead Time. If you take public transit to work, consider all that time you’re just sitting or standing there as an opportunity to learn. Read. Listen to podcasts. Brainstorm new ideas and topics. Use that time to yourself to plan out your next pieces.
[*] Limit the Number of Tasks on your To-Do List. You’d think with doing multiple projects at once you’d expand your daily to-do list, but I argue that you should do the opposite. Focus on completing only a few tasks each day, so you have the time and energy to do each one well. When you look at what you need to do, you realize that you only have so many projects that really need to get done immediately. Most can be put off to the next day.
[*] Be Strategic With Your Caffeine Intake. I love drinking coffee more than most people, but drinking too much can cause a real caffeine crash. According to scientific research, caffeine is most effectively consumed between 9:30 a.m. — 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. — 3:00 p.m — when your cortisol levels are low. The argument behind this is that you should avoid drinking coffee when your cortisol levels are high (which is when you naturally feel alert and awake). Your cortisol levels peak first thing in the morning, as well as from 12:00 p.m. — 1:00 p.m. and again between 5:30 p.m. — 6:30 p.m., which means that it’s a waste to drink coffee during those times. Although I attempt to listen to my body as much as possible, I try to follow this schedule and only drink coffee in the later part of the morning and/or early part of the afternoon.
[*] Use a planner. I schedule everything in both a paper and online calendar from my upcoming mediations and hearings to planned dates with my significant other. I love knowing when and what I’ll be doing within a week or a month from now. It makes me feel more in control of my life. It also ensures that I’m scheduling enough time to all areas of my life.
[*] Frame Your Perspective. Stop looking for short-term wins and understand the importance of long-term gains. Every choice that make you right now influences where you’ll be in one, two and five years from now. A little pain is good. Being uncomfortable is good. Making a bunch of mistakes and learning from it, right now, is good. Nothing valuable comes without sacrifice.
In the Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes, “Blessings and burdens are not mutually exclusive.” I think this quote is important to keep in mind, especially during the times where you find yourself doing tedious tasks that you feel aren’t furthering your career objectives or aren’t worth the sacrifices that you’re making. Whether it comes down to scheduling social media posts, replying graciously to inquiries from companies who obviously have not bothered to read any of your content, or writing out quotes from books that you think may be useful in an upcoming piece. All of this is necessary. And you’re not above any of the unglamorous parts of the process.
In summary, my life is very manageable. Sure, I’m not as physically fit as I’d prefer or eat as healthy as I could be, but, on the whole, I’m content with what my life feels like. Whatever fills your days, I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me.