I have had a few people ask me what my daily routine was in running my company, and how I keep myself on task. I decided to share what my days running a animation startup looked like, and what I do to keep focused on what I need to get done.
Many of the people I talk to have misconceptions about how easy it is to work from home, and to be your own boss. Yes, not having a boss that is constantly on your back about getting your work done is awesome, but at the same time it means you have to motivate yourself. If you are not a self starter, and have a system in place you can very quickly loose all your momentum. Another misconception is that working from home you have all this time to watch TV, play with your kids, and to do what you want. I’m often so busy with work I end up locking myself in my office all day, and only come out for food. There is a door to our guest bathroom from my office, so I don’t even have to go out into the hallway. There are days that I don’t even see my son until the end of the day when the nanny leaves.
In this post I will take you through what I do each day, and what I do to keep myself on task and productive. Lets start with a quick run down of what one of my standard days look like.
5am/6am: I would love to say that my wife and I start our days at 7am, but the truth is our son often wakes us up around 5 or 6 am. We normally bring him into our room, and take turns watching him as he crawls around on the bed while the other tries to get a little more sleep. If we are lucky we can get him to fall back asleep, but most of the time he is jumping on our faces. Rarely does my wife and I make it through this without one of us getting injured by him. We try our best to hold him off until 7am.
I should mention that the schedule that follows is how we plan out our morning, but often times what is planned and what actually happens is very different. This is more often a guide then the law of the land.
7-8am: This is my first official start of the day(I start and stop often). My wife goes in the kitchen to get breakfast for our son, and I start going through my emails. I also will eat breakfast sometime in this hour.
8-9am: If our son slept through the night, and we are feeling well rested we spend this hour working out. We run to the park near our house, and then take turns with one of us playing with our son while the other runs laps around the park. This plan does not happen as often as we would hope it to, but on occasion it is a nice start to our morning.
9-10am: In this hour is when my wife and I take turns showing, getting ready for the day and watching our son. If we did not get to work out my wife will often take my son to the park to play, and I stay home to get through more emails. I will also use this time to read industry news to keep up with what is going on in my industry.
10-11am: My wife leaves for work at 10:30, so I spend most of this hour watching our son while my wife gets ready, and eventually heads off to work. This continues until the nanny shows up at 11.
11am-1pm: This is part one of what I call “Working Time” The tasks I do during my working time varies depending on the day, and if I currently have a client project I’m working on. If I do have a client project then it normally takes up the majority of my working time, but if not I work on company tasks. The things that fall into this working time is often the things I write about in my blog posts each week. Since this covers such a wide array of tasks I’m going to put this in its own section below called “Working Time”, and continue with my standard day’s schedule.
1-2pm: We will call this time lunch hour although I never actually take a full hour lunch like I did when I was an employee. The time I take my “lunch” varies each day depending on how busy I am, and when I remember I still need to eat. My lunch normally consists of taking 10-15 min to throw something together, and then eating it at my desk while I continue to work. On rare occasions I will eat outside, and post a picture on Instagram that feeds into the romanticized belief that working from home is glamorous. Don’t get me wrong I love it, but it is in no way the easy life.
1:30-5pm: This is the second half of my working time(see below), and the only difference from the first is that I’m no longer hungry.
5-6pm: This is an hour that I block out on a daily basis each day, but more often then not I’m to busy to use it as planned. This is my drawing time. I’m always trying to get better at everything I do, so I use this time to practice drawing to improve that skill. I also listen to business related audio books to further my learning.
6-7pm: I try and use this time as my first and only break each day.
7-8pm: Our nanny leaves at 7, so I watch my son for this hour until my wife gets home at 8pm. Depending on the temperament of my now tired little boy I also attempt to make dinner if he does not require 100% of my attention.
8-9pm: My wife gets home at this time, unless she had to work late, and I either start making dinner, or finish making it while my wife puts our son to bed. This normally means we don’t start eating dinner until after 8:30.
9-11pm: At this point we are both so tired that we don’t want to clean up after dinner, and often end up just sitting there watching some TV. I also use this time to look over my to-do list from the day. I will push off any tasks I was not able to get done until the next day, and I plan out the day to come. Eventually we will head to bed to start the process over again.
Working Time (11am-5pm):
My working time is a mix of planned and unplanned tasks or events. My working time is very limited and very valuable to me, so I want to make the most of it. I will schedule events, meetings, or block out time that I want to spend working on important tasks.
I start this time by looking over my emails, calendar and to-do lists to see if there is anything I need to get started with. I take care of any urgent things that need my attention right away, but try and get to taking care of items on my schedule or to-do list as soon as possible. If something does not require my attention right away I will often add it to my list, and schedule it for later that day.
For my To-Do list I use and app called ToDoist, and it is the key to keeping my working time productive. I have a lot of tasks that I have to keep track of, and would be lost without it. I add reoccurring tasks for anything that I want to do every day, or every week. Things like “reach out to one client per day”. This is my way of creating daily quotas to keep myself productive, and working towards a goal.
I will add reminders for things that I might easily forget about doing such as “contact so and so”, or “follow up with person X”. If I have a larger project I can add sub-tasks that I need to complete in-order to complete the main task. For example “Make business card” could have sub-tasks of “design business card”, “order business cards”, and “confirm that I received them”
The app makes it very simple to schedule out tasks, and to move them to another day. I like using this app, and have always worked best when I use to do lists. I noticed that when I don’t have a list I would sit there trying to remember what I had to do. Having a list keeps me productive, and keeps my laziness at bay.
Sometimes when I want to make sure that I complete a certain task I will schedule it as a block of time on my calendar. This way I make sure I use that time for the important, and often time sensitive task. Other things I put on my schedule are lunch meetings. I try and set up at least 1 lunch meeting a week. This is great for networking, but it also gets me out of the office to keep me from going crazy. Last week I had lunch with the co-founder of Renegade Animation Ashley Postlewaite. We have talked on the phone and through email, but this was the first time we met face to face. Ashley has become a mentor to me being a great resource with great insight into the animation industry. I mentioned her in an earlier post, so to learn more about her check out “You can’t start an animation studio alone, You need great mentors.”
Exceptions from a Standard Day:
There are a few things that I schedule on a reoccurring basis that causes exceptions to my standard day.
Monday: Every Monday I write my blog, and it ends up taking up a large chunk of my working time for the day. First I have to think about what I want to write about, and then actually write it. I will spend some time either looking for, or making the image I use for the featured image(top of page). Before I post the post I normally either look over and edit, or rewrite the it after I got a rough outline. If I was a better writer I’m sure I could knock out a new post in an hour or two, but I often end up spending 3 or 4 hours on it.
Wednesday: I was trying to make this a non-business day to get stuff done around the house. Things like mowing and laundry, but also larger home project like cleaning out the garage, or organizing my file cabinets. Unfortunately the business demands to much of my time, and have not been able to keep my non-business days. As of recently, every other Wednesday I will be going to ToastMasters from noon to one. I wanted to improve my public speaking, and the best way to do that is by practicing. ToastMasters will not only give me the opportunities to practice, but they will also coach me on ways to improve. I feel that this is an important skill for me to have for running a business.
Thursday: Once a month on Thursday evenings I have a Producers Guild networking event that I always try and make it to. This technically takes place outside of my working time, but I do have to quit early on these days to make it to the event on time.
Friday: This is my accounting & finance day. Throughout the week I keep all my receipts for both personal and business expenses, and on Friday I reconcile all my accounts. I go through and categorize all the spending, to make sure I’m sticking to the budget. This also includes sending invoices to clients, and writing checks to any artists that did work for me. Most weeks this can be done in less then an hour, but some weeks I have more to do.
That is a basic run down of my schedule each week, and how I keep organized and on task. I would love to hear from all of you on what methods you use to keep yourself productive. If you have any suggestions for me to improve my workflow I welcome your advice.
If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog. If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.