Today was the first day I felt creative in nearly two months. Why? Because I found a serious problem with my schedule. It has to do with the # of anchors.
About three months ago, I made a change to my schedule.
I offered to drop my wife off in the morning, and pick her up in the evenings from the train station. At the time, it seemed like a small thing and more importantly the right thing to do.
She has a grueling two hour commute (each way) and easing the journey to and from the train station was the least I could do for her.
The train station was on my way to work, so it was a no brainer in the mornings, and it’s about 10 minutes from home, so even though I get home before her, the 20 minute pause in the evening didn’t seem like a huge deal at all.
My original schedule
As you probably know, I had a bit of an unique schedule already (before making the change). Since I am bootstrapping my own web business, and I am also ramping down at my day job, I essentially work two jobs.
I generally wake up in the morning, work on my startup for a couple of hours, and head into the day job around 8:45 so that I get there just around 9ish.
I work on my day job till around 5 and then head home to get more work done on my startup till about dinner time…which was generally 7:30.
To make this sustainable, and to keep myself productive, I meditated twice a day for 20 minutes, usually at the point I context switched between my startup work and my day job.
I maintained this schedule through what I consider to be one of the most creative and productive times of my life.
It is during this time that I conceptualized, designed and implemented Braintrust, Tout and at least five other startup ideas that I haven’t talked publicly about yet.
The new schedule
At first glance, the change to the schedule seemed minuscule. In the mornings, the train station would be along the way, and in the evenings, it would be a 20 minute pause on my work. No big deal, right?
While I got a decent amount of work done over the past three months, I realized that while small tasks were easy to get done during my startup office hours, I never was able to let loose and take on the bigger meatier goals that required my creativity.
I always left the bigger stuff for “later” — but later never came.
It turns out that the one thing I introduced into my schedule was an anchor. The anchor of the train schedule meant that I HAD to leave my home at 8:15, and so whatever task I picked in the morning worked back from that 8:15 deadline.
Similarly, when I got home in the evening, I worked back from the 7:10 anchor and picked a small task that I could do in that timeframe.
Creative schedules cannot have anchors
The awesomeness of my original schedule was that there were very few anchors. I knew I could compensate for being a little late to my day job in the morning, so I never worked backwards, I just sat down and worked to a natural stopping point.
Similarly, in the evenings, it was OK if dinner started a bit later, so I always was able to come to a natural stopping point.
If you want to foster creativity, get rid of anchors in your schedule. Block out days where you don’t have anything scheduled — so that you can start and stop your work naturally — the results will be immense.
Changing back my schedule
I shared this reflection with my wife. Now that we are moving closer to her work in about a month (hopefully), her commute will go from two hrs to 30 minutes.
She was extremely nice to take on the train station grunt for the last month that we are here, so that I can switch back to my creative schedule.
Today is the first day I’m back on my new schedule, and I feel great.