The Unschedule is a practice developed by Neil Fiore in his book The Now Habit. We have adapted the Unschedule using insight from Cal Newport’s strategy for time-blocking and deep work and research on creative work and academic writing. We use the Unschedule primarily in the first month of the writing workshop (although many people continue to use it to plan their weeks) to help you learn more about your writing process, to develop a highly focused daily writing routine, and to prioritize your health and personal lives.
Our version of the “Unschedule” has you schedule all of your personal non-work activities in a weekly calendar and designate time-blocked writing sessions at least four days a week between 15-minutes and four-hours long (ideally around 2 hours is good).
You will use this in the month of August to become more aware of your writing practice, both when you write best and when you struggle and why. It will help you to connect the creative work that you do to the rest of your life and see them as not necessarily “balanced” but as interconnected. You will create a new one each week until we meet again at the end of August. At the end of each day or week, there is a place to reflect on what you learned and how things went.
Ultimately, the goal of this exercise is to develop an awareness of when it is an optimal time for you to write (or when you can, without guilt). We recognize that this may not be at the same time everyday. From there, you can begin to establish clear boundaries that keep you deeply focused and returning day after day with some level of enthusiasm, rather than dread and exhaustion, which only creates or exacerbates common blockages and health problems.
How to Make (and Revise) Your Unschedule:
1) In your writing folders, you will find a template for the Unschedule. It tracks one week at a time.
2) Go through each day and fill it out as if it were a generic “ideal” week starting with the following:
Take one day completely off, ideally two.
Document times that you would like to wake up and go to sleep to feel your best and times devoted to meals, morning and evening routines, self-care, meditation, etc.
Is there a time of day when you never want to do work such as evenings for example? Block it off.
Time of day that you prefer to MOVE: exercise, dance, sport, walks, etc.
Times that are committed on a routine basis such as commuting, family commitments, medical appointments, meetings with advisors and mentors, activism or volunteer work, etc. These are usually fixed things you do each week that are non-negotiable. It is understood that some people have children and other family commitments that are not fixed but you can generalize here based on a “typical” week as nothing is set in stone.
Times that you prefer to engage in leisure time and play, non-diss related reading, tv or movie time, and social activities like seeing friends, going on dates, etc.
Times that you usually like to do chores or shop or anything else that you do to be human.
Finally, look at the schedule and document your preferred writing time, blocking off a minimum of 30 minutes and maximum of four hours a day, with at least one or two days off. If you don’t know when you work best yet or if you are a marathon writer, this will be hard and will take some experimentation. We recommend starting with a small block of time––thirty minutes or one hour each day. If there are things you have control over that allow you to work better or worse, change them around and try them out. For example, maybe you work better if you exercise early in the morning before you write rather than after or vice versa.
3) At the end of the week, reflect on how things went in the Unschedule or in another journal. Write about the ups and downs and what you took away from the session about your writing process (not what you did, but how you did it). Also, think about how your feelings are changing on a day-to-day basis.