The Importance of a Rigorous Routine to the Self-employed (or Saving Authors’ Lives One Nap at a Time)

SchedulePeople who don’t actually exist often ask me, “How in heaven’s name can you get anything done working at home? Doesn’t that require enormous discipline?”

My stock response to the first question is brief and unsurprising: “It isn’t easy,” whereas the truth is closer to, “I can’t.”

But far more important is the second question: the question of discipline.

Productivity requires a consistent, rigorous routine such as the one I’ve adopted through trial and error in precisely equal measure. So, for those who might wish to avoid making the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve decided to outline the strict daily routine that works best for me.

Before doing anything else, I wake up. I do this for at least two and no more than four reasons. First and foremost, I have to get my son ready for school. Second, there is probably at least one other pretty good reason.

Once I’m up and tripping over furniture that hasn’t moved in a decade, I find that I really don’t want to be awake at all. BUT, and this is so critical that I urge you to pretend you haven’t lost interest, my son won’t allow me to go back to bed.

Of course I do all that is required of me, preparing our breakfasts and his lunch, making sure he brushes his hair and combs his teeth, rarely even stopping to snore, but it’s only after he has dragged me to the bus stop and screamed, “Go home now, Dad!” that my workday truly commences.

Weary as I am at this point (who wouldn’t be?), I virtually sprint the two blocks back home, rarely allowing both eyes to fall shut simultaneously. Why do I do this? I do this because:

  1. There is not even one single bed at the bus stop
  2. I really need a bowel movement
  3. I’m late for a nap

But after my nap, which, honestly, is usually quite brief (sometimes less than an hour!), I go directly to my desk. And that’s when it begins—the snacking, I mean. The great thing about working at home is that food is only a few steps away, and when I say food I mean Balance Bars, bagel chips, potato chips, chocolate and even a few items with actual nutritional value. Because I know that without nutrition I won’t have the energy to focus on the most urgent, time-consuming activity in my day: getting to work on Facebook.

UnknownNow, I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that all I do is snack, nap and spend time on the Internet. Ha ha ha. That would just be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? Ha ha ha. I also stare into space. Ha ha. No, no, no. The truth is that I do some genuine work. I accomplish things. I write. Heck, I’m writing this! I wrote a novel!

But to be perfectly honest I can’t help but wonder how much more I might accomplish if I actually possessed the qualities people automatically attribute to me when I tell them I’m a self-employed writer working at home. Were I truly as disciplined as people assume I am I might have seven published novels, maybe seventeen, several cult favorites among them. I might be a household name somewhere other than my own kitchen. Maybe I would be near the end of a long, productive career instead of the late beginning of whatever the hell this is and I’d finally be ready for what many of our most talented authors have chosen after finally reaching that point: a grisly suicide.

No, my current approach is just right for me. This way perhaps I can delay my suicide until long after I’m dead!


Hey, what do you know? It’s nap time.

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