It’s funny that you ask this, because I’ve recently been playing around with this idea of “how can I make myself more disciplined.” Here’s what’s working for me.
I randomly stumbled across a time-management system (?) called the Pomodoro technique awhile ago, and decided to try it out. Normally, I’d roll my eyes at any “technique” that has a trademark after it, but this one was simple enough that it didn’t seem too affected. The basic idea is as follows:
- Give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time.
- After 25 mins, take a short break to stretch, do other tasks, assess.
- Every 4x 25min blocs, take a longer 15-30 minute break.
- Track all metrics, including: start times, tasks completed, times interrupted, break times, stop times.
Here’s an example of my absolutely incomprehensible metric tracking:
Every 25 min bloc, I make a line, eventually creating a box. So every Box on my chart is 4x 25min blocs (or 4 Pomodoros, I guess).
So what does this chart say: first off, I start off really late. 10:30 AM! I tend to wake up really slow, and do other things like run, eat too much breakfast, and dick around on the net.
Second, my peak productive hours are between 10:30AM-5PM, as I was actually increasing my rate of productivity (I started off taking 4x Pomodoros per piece, or two hours, but then as I worked, I cut it down to 3x, and even 2x right before dinner.)
Thirdly, right after my peak productive hours, I get distracted. Hence the one interruption, then failing to complete a Box and going straight to dinner. My productivity drops as well (I’m back to 4x Pomodoros per piece).
And this is just one day’s worth of data! I can compare this to other days to see if my assumptions really are patterns, AND most importantly, if I’m making progress.
The biggest thing for me though is the 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time. I got that timer above to solidify that as opposed to using a digital timer— I found that the tactile sensation of setting it and hearing it tick makes my brain go into “OK it’s work time” mode much easier. Make this time sacred: hide your phone, close your browser, pick music/podcasts ahead of time, gather all your supplies around you. Physically minimize your distractions when possible.
As far as time per day goes, I consider myself a full-time illustrator, so I put in at least a full days worth of work: 8 hours minimum. But as noted above, it’s not uncommon to put in 12. I think it is important to have designated START and STOP time though, just to help put boundaries on your life. Too much work is unhealthy. Health, family, and friends always come before work in my book.
Hope this helps! I think everyone probably has their own ways of doing things, but this is really working for me lately.