The secret to professional freedom lies in having a good routine

Whenever I meet an aspiring professional looking to make a mark on the entertainment business I typically ask what projects are currently consuming their time. Regardless of what information follows, the person I’ve just meet often concludes their summary by saying something to the extent of, “But that isn’t what I plan to do long term. I really want to ________.”

When it comes to your professional life, which optimistically only takes up 50% of your waking hours on this planet, there are few feelings worse than not happy about your current position. Every day feels like a slog, and even if the work you’re doing is good the way you feel about it is largely negative. You want more, which is normal. Most people want something more than what they have now, but very few know how to get it. Most want to be their own boss, make their own rules, or simply create the things they want to create, but they they don’t know how to do so and make a living.

We’ve all seen and heard those Nike advertisements that end with the iconic slogan, “Just do it.” Many will tell you this is a motto for life in general, and that the hardest part of any journey is the first step. While this may be good advice, it is really only a half-truth. You can go far by simply forcing yourself to do something even when you don’t feel like it (exercising regularly is a good example of this), but to become an independent professional it takes more than simply showing up and working to succeed.

The other factor of the equation that begins with “just do it” and ends with your having professional freedom is routine. Establishing and maintaining a healthy daily routine can make all the difference in longterm success and happiness. It’s also surprisingly easy to get started. Here are a few things you need to decide up front

  • When do I need to leave for work and when will I return
  • What do I wish I could do outside of work
  • What do I have to do outside of work?
  • When do I wake up?
  • When do I go to bed?
  • How often am I going out at night to relax/have fun?

Once you have these answers, the rest is largely a matter of scheduling and sticking to the schedule your create. I recently read an article on the most productive professionals, and almost all of them have a similar morning routine. The individual tasks vary, but every one of them has eaten, stretched, exercised, bathed, and meditated before 7AM each morning. Obviously this is not something all of us can duplicate, but it does let you know where the bar is set for the most successful among us.

As a more practical example, let me tell you about my routine.

I work from home full-time. Outside of that job I do freelance writing when I am able, in addition to working on my own writing projects. I hope to finish a book this year, or at least a draft, and I would like to be able to run a 5K in under twenty-five minutes. I typically go to bed by midnight and I’m up by seven without an alarm.

If I just live my life hoping my goals become reality and I continue to be a successful person there is a chance that someday, by fluke or chance, good things will happen for me. People who consistently work hard inevitably rise through the ranks, but without being proactive there is no knowing how long that ascension might take.

With this in mind, about two months ago I started making changes. First, I went to be no later than 11PM during the work week and made it a point to at least be awake and showered by 7AM. Next, I told myself I would run at least three days a week at the gym and that I would force myself to write at least 500 words a day. I could choose the time I went to the gym and the subject of my writing, but I had to get them done nonetheless.

The first week was basically hell. Every day I had a different excuse why I should not make the changes I knew, deep down, I needed to make. “I’ll start next week,” I’d say, “No one cares about this other than me, so I probably shouldn’t care that much either.”

That last one is actually true. At the end of the day no one cares about your personal development as much as you do, so unless you take it upon yourself to change no one is going to do the work for you. Most people, unfortunately, never find the strength to take such actions into their own hands. They remain complacent, complaining about opportunities that never came their way without acknowledging the often obvious truth they never deserved them.

I still struggle today. Every day I have to force myself to do the things that will allow me to progress as a person. I tell myself if I can do them then everything else will be easy because the most difficult part of my day will be complete. Once you accomplish the things that feel hard the easy stuff is even easier. You have more energy and focus, too.

Make this the week you put action behind desire. Take your career by the horns, develop a routine, and in no time at all you will find more time than ever before to work on the things you are most passionate about.

James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also the host of the Inside Music podcast, as well as a ten year veteran of the music business. You should follow James on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.