How I organise my day with ‘mental hotdesking’

Twitter_logo_blue_48Sometimes people ask me how I get everything done: writing, planning, teaching, events, travelling, social media, research, meetings and anything else that comes into my working life, so I thought I’d blog about it. I don’t think I have a magic key – unless it’s called organisation.

I’m blessed with natural organisational abilities but I do organise consciously, i.e. it doesn’t just happen. My technique is pretty much what’s frequently referred to as ‘compartmentalising’ (and my mother called it ‘common sense’) but I think of it as ‘mental hotdesking’.


Physical desk. (Actually, I have two desks and a mini-desk. Greedy, me.)

Mental hotdesking is my way of moving from task to task. In my mind I move from desk to desk. Each day I know what I need to do and what to prioritise so I allocate my time at my physical desk between the hotdesks in my mind. Here’s the framework I use:

Monday to Friday, I’m usually at my desk at around 7.15am and I leave it around 6pm. However, I give myself a break of about two hours : Monday piano lesson, Tuesday Zumba, Wednesday Yoga, Thursday FitStep and Friday Zumba again. Attached to a couple of those classes is about 40 minutes over a cuppa with my gym mates. I organise these daily outings because they’re good for my physical and mental health. If I work on Saturday or Sunday I organise my time around whatever else I want to do (often, watching whatever Formula 1 is on the TV) so there’s no set routine.

TimeI think my mental hotdesking began when I was working with students for the London School of Journalism online. I had to find a way of keeping my pile of student assignments moving but, at the same time, not let them prevent me from writing. My solution was to divide my day, so mentally I’d be at my teaching hotdesk in the morning and my writing hotdesk in the afternoon.

Now I only teach occasional workshops or courses I have much larger chunks of time for writing (hooray!) but I’ve found it useful to continue to divide my day between mental hotdesks – I begin with emails and social media. If my Zumba class that day begins at ten then that leaves me with quite a small amount of time between my opening routine and leaving for the class. It doesn’t seem productive to go to my mental writing hotdesk as I know that I’m most effective when writing or editing if I have sizeable chunks of time in which to get immersed, so I look around for smaller tasks. This might mean writing a blogpost, following up on an interesting opportunity I’ve spied on Twitter or Facebook, reading newsletters that keep me up to date in what’s happening in publishing or maybe doing a small amount of research. NB Even if I don’t need to post a blog yet, I often use a small amount of time to write one and simply schedule it for a later date.

By allotting small tasks to short periods I’m free to go straight to my writing hotdeskΒ  when I have a larger chunk of time.

I try and make appointments at the beginning or end of working day so as to keep most of the day available and had to break off from writing this post to attend one.

Unfortunately … the appointment turns out to be tomorrow! Time management’s a useful skill to develop but it doesn’t prevent silly mistakes. Untitled design


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12 responses to “How I organise my day with ‘mental hotdesking’

  1. Thanks for this peep into your writing life Sue – that’s really helpful.


  2. I like the idea of mental hot desking. Its always good to have a plan. Thanks for this insight.



  3. This is really interesting, I often struggle to find time or get overwhelmed by everything I have outstanding and decide the ironing needs to be done instead!


    • Eeek! Ironing? You must be more conscientious that I am. I suppose I’ve left out of this post that when I’m at work, I’m at work, every bit as much as if my office were ten miles away. Chores are restricted to before and after work or at weekends. The only exception is when the kettle is boiling – then I might move clothes from washer to dryer while I wait.

      Neither do I welcome people phoning or calling unless there’s a drama. Those things, too, come before/after work or at weekends. An exception was when my brother lived abroad. Between his busy job and the time differences it made sense to welcome his calls whenever I received them. However, when he returned to this country I explained my phone policy as ‘Don’t ring me when I’m at work.’ In times of drama OF COURSE I prioritise people. When my mum was in what proved to be her final illness my brother and I were both self-employed but we minimised our working hours and arranged the hours we did work around her needs. My deadline happened to be pressing and my brother was fantastic at accommodating that.

      I’m not selfish (I hope) but I am disciplined. My job’s flexible and I take full advantage of the fact. If I want a Thursday off, I’ll just work Saturday or Sunday. I frequently do work Saturdays or evenings to accommodate workshops or talks so that frees me up for other things … but not the ironing! I’m not being a hero about this. Keeping my working hours sacrosanct is exactly and precisely what I want to do. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • It makes absolute sense. I have to squeeze writing into spaces between the day job and being mum at the moment. When I do get a few hours to myself I often feel like I should be doing something else. Hence the ironing! Taking a leaf out of your book though and will be concentrating on something each day so at least I have a schedule!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post, Sue-so inspiring!-wish I was as organised as you πŸ™‚


  5. Definitely of use. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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