- Michael Thompson
I’m a big fan of the recipe for increased productivity made famous by executive coach Dan Sullivan which is aptly named — “Free, Buffer, and Focus Days.”
In short, “Free Days” are the days where you don’t do anything work-related whatsoever; “Buffer Days” are the days you work on your business without any client work or appointments; and lastly, “Focus Days” are the days you work in your business and do your client work and hold appointments.
When I was coaching and consulting, barring a schedule change with a client, Dan’s suggestion was tops.
I’d start the week with a “Buffer Day” to get stuff prepped and do basic marketing, admin, and networking tasks. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were reserved for “Focus Days” and devoted solely to clients and forward-moving projects. And Thursdays and Friday, I’d rotate between another “Buffer Day” or “Free Day” depending on my workload before checking out for two consecutive “Free Days” over the weekend.
This worked great for a bit — then life happened.
First came kids. Then came the creative itch. And then came a world-stopping virus.
Today, as a writer, coach, and consultant who’s working most days with two young kids at his feet, no matter how hard I’ve tried Dan’s system, I haven’t figured out a way to be a “scheduled” creative. And to be honest, I’m glad I haven’t fought it because this past year has been rough enough without trying to explain to my kids that today’s Papa’s “Focus Day.”
Despite the world starting to very slowly open up again here in Spain — if you were to spy on me for a week, you’d think my life was chaotic.
Some mornings I’m writing. Other mornings I’m taking care of a kid with a fever. Other mornings I’m taking care of two kids with a fever.
Some afternoons I’m working with clients. Other afternoons I’m working on a collaboration. Other afternoons I’m asleep.
Some nights I’m playing Uno. Other nights I’m on the couch. Other nights I’m writing.
This may sound like a mess and don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is. But I quickly came to the conclusion a loose schedule was better for me than a strict one this past year.
Plus, there’s been one massive tweak I stumbled upon that’s allowed me to stay productive while riding out my COVID-induced practically non-existent work schedule.
Introducing “Kleinscheiss Tag”
I was talking to a friend in Munich when I told him I’d just wrapped up my weekly “Hate Day.” After explaining “Hate Day” wasn’t a holiday where I hate everything on purpose, but rather a day each week when I lump together all the tasks that steal my energy to knock them out in one long, extended punch, he quickly replied — “Oh, we have a term for that in German — ‘Kleinscheiss Tag!’ — it means ‘little shit day.’”
In addition to “Kleinscheiss Tag” being fun to say, the main reason I’ve taken a liking to it is quickly filtering annoying tasks and requests when they come in throughout the week into my little shit list frees up a ton of headspace allowing me to better focus on the work that matters most.
Doing your taxes, invoices, or any back-end business tasks are great examples of what you can do on “Kleinscheiss Tag.” The same goes for sending emails or getting on calls you’ve been putting off, working on improving a skill you need but may not enjoy like public speaking, or mapping out your social media posts if you too are highly allergic to all things Twitter.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll never have to spend time on energy stealing tasks the rest of the week as shit does have a tendency to happen. But much like how many psychologists recommend setting aside time to worry on purpose to reduce your anxiety, there’s something liberating about knowing you’ve set aside time to deal with the necessary but not urgent tasks you don’t want to do but need to do.
The simple reminder of— or fast reply to someone else of — “I’ve got this scheduled for Wednesday,” often does the trick. It allows you to quickly keep both yourself and other people in the loop without constantly using up positive brain space on tasks that slow you down.
Plus, at least for me, the feeling after punching the final “Kleinscheiss Tag” task in the gut feels nice — therapeutic even — as I know the next day I get to either run or rest at my own pace.
If this idea resonates with you, and you have a schedule that allows you to do it, give “Kleinscheiss Tag” a shot. Or, if you’re more office or boss bound, at least try to set up a “Kleinscheiss Stunde” or “little shit hour“ where you line up a bunch of small responsibilities you don’t want to do and knock them out in one sitting.
For many of us, the quality of the work we like to do is a direct reflection of how well we manage the tasks and requests that we don’t like to do.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather weather a full day of storms in one shot than having to constantly reach for my umbrella.