Faith Erin Hicks continues her streak of being one of the most interesting people in comics by talking about finding a balance in your career. She’s talking specifically about comics, but it’s really good advice regardless. You can’t do everything, and if you want to do anything well, you’re going to have to sit down and dedicate time to that thing. THat requires removing time from another thing, because time management is a zero-sum game. You’ve got twenty-four hours, so there’s a limit to what you can do.
Her solution was giving up videogames. I don’t really have that option, on account of my day job, but I can relate. I’m real picky about games these days, pretty much only playing AAA titles or weird downloadable stuff that I heard good things about (Tokyo Jungle, whattup). I buy maybe four or five disc-based games a year, and then I play them over a period of six months or more. I like PSN titles, the downloadable joints, if only because they’re cheap and they’re usually built for bite-size playing sessions. NBA 2k13 is about the only game I binge on these days. I even do a mission or two of Sleeping Dogs and call it a day most times.
I had to sit down and hammer out a schedule earlier this year, because of Issues. I alternated between not sleeping well and sleeping too much, and I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. I came up with two rules. First, evenings and nights are sacred. Once I get home from work, I’m free from work. Evenings are for relaxing, decompressing, resting, video games, and what little tv I actually watch. Second, I needed to do something about my mornings. I’d wake up tired, go to work tired, and come home tired. So I needed to sort that out.
What I ended up deciding to do was pretty easy to pull off. I used to wake up early to go to high school and watch Sportscenter with my granddad and uncle. They were out of the house by 0530. I told myself that I would wake up at 6, and use the three hours before work to handle writing and other stuff. I exercise in the mornings anyway, so I’m just waking up a little earlier, so I still have time to run, lift, stretch, or whatever’s on deck for that day (abs, ugh). I don’t play games in the morning, though I will download games or demos for playing later in the background. No TV either, outside of streaming youtube videos off my Watch Later playlist, which is almost exclusively music videos, at this point. I try to avoid tweeting in the evenings, but sometimes the allure of dumb jokes is just too much and I relapse. I don’t IM at home, though, or do that email-tumblr-twitter-email loop.
Write in the mornings, work during the day, and relax in the evenings, only writing after the sun goes down if it’s absolutely necessary.
It worked, mostly. I feel much more alert when I work out or run before going into work, and it’s nice to have a demarcation of what I do and when. Previously, I’d write whenever, willy-nilly. Come home, play some games, and then write ’til midnight, or come home, write, and then stay up past midnight. Now, I go to bed earlier and wake up more rested and better equipped to handle a hard day.
I’m still tired sometimes, and getting up to do anything in the middle of the night is usually a pretty bad idea, but I’m pretty happy with this schedule. I’d always thought of schedules, of rationing your time, as a thing that stinky grown-ups did. Schedules are boring, yeah? I knew that schedules provide a structure to make sure things get done, but I didn’t realize that it could have an overall positive effect on your life. If I know what I’m doing, then I can be flexible and change plans and know exactly what I need to do to make up for it. I can look forward to getting home and doing a thing, instead of look forward to getting home, at which point I will write, and then, if it isn’t too late, maybe have a chance to have some fun.
I don’t cook dinner at midnight any more. I have more free time. I’m super excited about watching a bunch of basketball games as they air (and one or two in person!) this year. I feel good about getting off work. The schedule works. I’m that much closer to finding a balance.