I coach a lot of small business owners who just quit their jobs to work for themselves full-time. One of the questions I get asked the most is tips for structuring your workday for productivity.

Up until this point, they have been accustomed to someone telling them what to do with their time. Now that they are on their own, they fear they will waste time. Here are three tips for structuring your workday based on four and a half years of working for myself.

Tip #1: Forget about all the “rules”

Part of what’s so difficult about structuring your workday is that we’ve been taught to believe that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to work. For example, we’re “supposed” to work Monday through Friday during the day and take the weekends off. Anything else and you’re pretty much a workaholic.

Well, we can all kiss that goodbye thanks to the internet. On top of that, what if you hate mornings? Or what if you work better on weekends because no one is emailing you? The reality is there are no rules, especially when you work for yourself. So the first step is to forget these rules ever existed.

Tip #2: Work based on your energy levels

One of the best things I ever did when I first started working for myself was structuring my workday according to my energy levels. We all have our own natural rhythms, so we might as well work with them instead of against them.

For example, maybe you’re not a morning person. Maybe you actually focus better in the afternoon. This means that when structuring your workday, you may sleep in a little later and get to work around noon when you know you can focus.

Sometimes this varies depending on the project as well. For example, I know early morning is best for me to tackle stuff like writing. This means I structure my days to write in the morning and take meetings in the afternoon.

Tip #3: Be flexible when structuring your workday.

Here’s the best-kept secret when it comes to structuring your workday: You have to be flexible.

The mistake people make – especially in the beginning – is to try to create a rigid schedule they can stick to each day. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for most people because we’re human. Additionally, life happens all the time and that requires us to have some flexibility.

Here are some ways to add flexibility when structuring your workday:

  • Add a cushion in between meetings in case they run over (or for pleasantries)
  • Have a cut-off time so you can show up for other things in your life.
  • Take into account any things that might pop up before they actually happen. For example, in my case that looks like having to do edits for a client. I may not know exactly when they are coming, but I know they are coming.

By adding in precautions for flexibility, you are more easily able to adjust when the need arises. And believe me, the need will come up.

Final Thoughts

Structuring your workday for productivity doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, making it complicated will likely backfire. In case, stick to the simple stuff that works – customize it to your liking, work with your natural rhythms and account for flexibility.