The change I didn't see coming

I've spent the last ten years in deep denial, and there is a good chance you are too. I left the stifling cubicle world in August 2004 vowing never to set my alarm clock again. I wanted to make a difference, write and work uninterrupted, and I believed that the best way for me to do those things was to have time be by my own design.

That translated into a lot of trial and error.

By that I mean: reading smart, savvy business books or having conversations with type-A self-starters about getting up before dawn every day and kicking ass on your to-do list...and then wanting to throw the book or person across the room in utter defiance...and then some time later realizing begrudgingly that they may be right.

I've yet to actually throw a book or person across the room, but during those tantrums what I reacted to was the insinuating curb to my Freedom.

"I left cubicle life to be free, and now you're telling me that I have to strap myself back into a work harness? No, thank you."

Then came the inevitable breaking point. I got tired of not knowing when I had worked enough for the day, so that I could enjoy what was left of it.

I often tell clients that when they are having trouble making a decision -- when there is an epic battle in your own head, like this one was for me -- it's because two of your values are in conflict. I pitted freedom (and creativity, and enjoyment of life) against accomplishment (and, coincidentally, enjoyment of life). I believed that I couldn't have one without forgoing the other, and both were too important to me to give up.

That's why this is my first post of the new year. January is the time when we open ourselves up to new ways of thinking and doing things.

Whether or not you work from home, if you're a freedom-lover ready to make the most of your time, this could do the trick.

Drum roll...I made a schedule.

Gasp! No, really.

This schedule changed my life. (I'm not using those words lightly, either.) I feel accomplished at the end of every day. I know when it's time to put work away, and then I just forget about it. I understand what it feels like to be DONE!

Last Saturday I took the most glorious two-hour nap. No guilt. No wondering if I should be working, reading, exercising, calling an old friend. I knew everything I needed to do was accomplished or coming up in its scheduled block so that this time was deliciously free to my own design.

Yes, the exact feeling I thought I'd have by not having a schedule.

There are any number of programs that will help you do this: Pomodoro, Day Timer, and Savor the Success Daily Action Planner to name a few. I went with the old school Excel spreadsheet to make it easy. My holistic health counselor, coaching client, and friend Margot Schulman helped me put this together.

The first and biggest change that I made was setting a wake-up time: 6:30 a.m. It's winter right now which means it's dark and cold outside. The thought of getting out of bed before daylight used to be heresy. Now, I'm a believer. (5:00 a.m. still sounds like crazy talk, but never say never.)

Next, I included the times of my favorite yoga classes, because my health is top priority and first thing in the morning is the best time for making that happen.

You know what else is important? Not wearing my workout clothes all day, which I do more often than I'd care to admit. Somehow what I'm wearing relates to how serious I take what I'm doing, and how much I get done, so next I scheduled what time I will shower each day -- and at what time I put on my pajamas every night.

I'm as specific as possible. When I need to get in the car if I want to arrive somewhere on time. When I write, and when I coach clients. Margot suggested putting in times for when I'll have a healthy snack, so I make better food decisions throughout the day. Let me tell you, not only do I look forward to snacking on almonds and raisins at 10:00 a.m., it does wonders for what I make for lunch at 12:30 p.m.

This seems like overkill, and it probably is, but if you've let yourself go willy-nilly through enough days, getting lost in responding to emails and only looking up when you have a meeting or finally notice you've been doing the pee-pee dance for the last 30 minutes, then a short-term drastic surge of organization will have incredible results.

That's what happening for me.

Better choices, knowing unequivocally when I've done enough, and fully enjoying downtime. I'm writing and reading more. I'm more present when I'm with people I care about. If these results are too good to be true given where you are right now, you may need a scheduling intervention like I did.

Happy 2015, everyone. Make the most of it.