Feeling like you’ve lost sight of your original soloist plan? Robert Gerrish tells Lucy Kippist what to do next.
Perhaps the greatest thing about being a soloist is the freedoms – none more liberating than the power to design your own working week.
As someone who has spent the past 15 years in the corporate world, seemingly bending time to make work and life weave together, the idea that you can control everything from the time you wake up to the time you turn down the computer for the night, fills me with delight.
Robert Gerrish agrees, as the founder of Flying Solo, he’s spent the past 20 years working for himself and calling all the shots. His latest book, The 1- Minute Commute is a tribute to all the wonderful, and some of the less than wonderful, aspects of working for yourself.
And while Robert agrees the freedom to plan your week rates highly on a soloist agenda, he also admits there’s an art to getting this right.
“We start a business and relish in the flexibility, and then we start to lose sight of our original plan. We ask ourselves, am I working the way I want to be working? Getting this part right is recognising and being aware of the way you work most effectively,” says Robert.
Make a time for everything
It also pays to understand how our brains are wired, and according to Robert recent research has shown that our brains tackle certain tasks in three different ways.
- ‘Easy’ stuff we can knock out
- Tasks that take organisation and planning
- The real creative work that requires us to turn on our subconscious and “demands a nice, clear head”.
“For most soloists, number 3 is the most enjoyable aspect of work. The problem is that by the time we get to it, our brains are busy and cluttered from reading emails, or mucking around on social media”, says Robert.
“Ideally you want to do your creative, fulfilling work when your head is not full of noise. Which is why I clear an early morning session for a block of undisturbed, productive, creative time.”
Create boundaries around work time and specific tasks
Robert says he’s created firm boundaries around work time and work tasks. For example, he often uses an email responder and voicemail to notify clients of when he will be available for contact calls, and when he is not.
“I generally don’t budge on the timeslots I have made available for client spots, podcast interviews and client meetings because I have made space for those tasks, when they best suit me.”
Robert says it’s important to dictate your own boundaries, rather than allowing clients to do that for you and to be honest with yourself about how much billable time you have allocated in your schedule.
“It can’t all be fun and enjoyable!” laughs Robert.
Robert also highlights the importance of creating clear boundaries for himself:
“After a session of the creative work I often reward myself at the end of that, by taking a walk. I find that after this kind of break I am then better able to attend to things like admin, or emails or more linear, project management type tasks.”
Keep your business priorities clear
Understanding where you’re currently at in your business trajectory is key to helping you clarify your priorities. And clear priorities help you make best use of your time.
“For example, are you at the stage where you need to set aside time purely for business development? If you have a new business this will be a priority and deserves a big block of time allocated in your diary,”says Robert.
Factor in a change of location every now and then
When Robert was writing The 1- Minute Commute, he’d spend one day a week in a library about 45 minutes journey from home.
“The book was a big project and I needed a way to signal to myself that this work was different to my daily tasks – so I went to the library,” says Robert.
“This was somewhere intentionally different to where I would normally do my work, and as a bonus it was also internet free, so I was free of distractions.”
Robert made a tight plan for how he’d spend the hours of that day, including what he’d do during the commute. The 45 minute journey into the library would be spent thinking about strategy, ie “where and what I would tackle as soon as I started writing.”
At the end of the day, usually 6 or so hours later, he would finish off at a very clear point and make a plan for the next day.
“I’d create a mind map of where I would go next, often recording a voice memo into my phone and that would help me when I started the next writing day,” says Robert.
For fellow soloists feeling stuck in a rut work routine wise, Robert says it takes courage to nudge things around a bit, but the end result is worth it.
“Freedom is all about taking the opportunity to open up the mind a bit – changing your programming.”