There is no one I know that exhorts the concept of working independently more than I do. If you’ve ever read any of my posts, I probably seem like a creepy Workshifting Evangelist, preaching down the archaic, dehumanizing cubicle farms that rich executives use to subjugate their employees because it feels better than empowering them…okay, there I go again.
However, if there is one thread of verity that we should embrace from the tyrannical enclaves of the traditional corporate world it is this. Routine is indeed important. In fact, I would actually posit that maintaining some construct of routine is far more important for a workshifter than for a traditional employee. Now let’s back up for second, by routine of course I don’t mean “9 to 5″ routine as I feel that as workshifters we inherently (and intentionally) smudge the lines between work time and play time. What I do mean is a daily schedule, some regiment or form to your day that makes it both productive and effective no matter where you find yourself.
But developing some sort of daily architecture or schedule is of incredible importance and here’s why. As independent workers, workshifters, digital nomads, whatever you want to call us, we are agile. We are flexible. We are mobile. We use technology to allow us to make a living while working from coffee shops and airports! It’s nuts! I literally feel like I am living in Back to the Future II sometimes, minus the hoverboards (much to the chagrin of all children of the ’80’s).
However, as with most freedoms, the converse serves up an equally potent dystopia. Mobility is freeing for sure, but if we don’t watch it, we can very easily become unproductive and inefficient, and being that we report to…ourselves, this can obviously become a dangerous cycle for our careers and livelihood. Embracing mobility without some form of daily structure can lend itself to anarchy. Outside of a formal schedule, it’s just far more natural for us to devolve into disorganization and scattered efficacy. In other words, we can find ourselves either “putting out fires” or finding new stuff to worry about 90% of the time, while actually accomplishing “real” stuff 10% of the time.
Most people don’t realize this, but workshifting isn’t new, it’s just much more easy than it used to be. Winston Churchill is the greatest workshifter of all time. Apart from being arguably the most influential statesman in the 20th Century, the guy is like the Godfather of all workshifting. During the period of the Second World War, Churchill traveled well over 100,000 miles to meet with national leaders and visit Allied Troops! But let’s remember that Churchill wasn’t a General, he was the Prime Minister of the British Empire. He was the first one to call Hitler out, was instrumental in crafting most of Britain’s war time strategy, personally recruited most Allied nations (oh by the way, including the US), signed dozens of treaties, gave literally hundreds of public addresses, weathered two heart attacks, almost fatal pneumonia, and ran the most expansive empire in modern history AND he managed to do all of this while working in underground bunkers while in London as it was being decimated by Nazi V1‘s and while traveling 4x the circumference of the earth!
What is even more remarkable is the stark contrast between Churchill, FDR, and Stalin. FDR worked from the White House, leaving only a handful of times during the War and Stalin literally got on one plane during the same period!
Churchill was said to have accomplished all this and work until the age of 90 by maintaining a rigorous routine. Recently, I visited the the Churchill Centre and Cabinet War Rooms in London. I was trying to figure out how in the hell he was able to accomplish everything he did while traveling so damn much. And there it was. In the “Grey Section” of the museum, there was actually a little case devoted to his legendary schedule, which he maintained irrespective of what was happening around him or where he was in the world.
It made me realize how much work I have to do in this arena, and since I’ve returned to NYC, I have started taking my Google Calendar much more seriously
Have you developed a routine that helps you maintain productivity?
What are some tips or tricks you can share with us?
Super Secret Workshifting Tip:
Later in his life, when Churchill was asked by Walter Graebner from Time-Life how he was able to work so many hours and maintain such a rigorous schedule, he was quoted as saying:
“You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one-well, at least one and a half, I’m sure. When the war started, I had to sleep during the day because that was the only way I could cope with my responsibilities. Later, when I became Prime Minister my burdens were, of course, even greater. Often I was obliged to work far into the night I had to see reports, take decisions and issue instructions that could not wait until the next day. And at night I’d also dictate minutes requesting information which my staff could assemble for me in the morning–and place before me when I woke up.”
Churchill continued: “But a man should sleep during the day for another reason. Sleep enables you to be at your best in the evening when you join your wife, family and friends for dinner. That is the time to be at your best–a good dinner, with good wines…champagne is very good…then some brandy–that is the great moment of the day. Man is ruler then–perhaps only for fifteen minutes, but for that time at least he is master–and the ladies must not leave the table too soon.”
Photo by: melissaleon