A Different Kind of Scheduling May help Improve our Proposals

As proposal professionals, we are very focused on schedules. In fact, it is one of the first things we do when a decision to bid is made.

However, there is another kind of scheduling that we often slight when developing proposals, and that is our own schedules. According to Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (2014), we might learn something about how creative people structure their days by studying the lives of artists.

Around 1822, Ludwig van Beethoven usually slept eight hours and upon waking carefully ground 60 coffee beans (some say 57) for his morning coffee. He then composed for eight hours, had dinner with wine, took a long, vigorous walk with a pencil and blank sheet music, stopped at a tavern to read the newspaper, and then ended his day with a simple supper followed by a beer and a pipe.

In 1852, Victor Hugo slept eight hours and liked being awakened by the daily gunshot from a nearby fort. He drank freshly brewed coffee and ate two raw eggs while composing a letter to his mistress. He then wrote for five hours, took an ice bath on the roof of his house, and then entertained guests and had lunch. Afterwards, he did strenuous exercises on the beach, visited his barber, went on a carriage ride with his mistress, and ended the day with a combination of letter-writing, dinner, and cards at his mistress’s house with friends.

In 1920, Sigmund Freud had a very different daily schedule. After six hours of sleep, he breakfasted and trimmed his beard for an hour. Then he met with patients for four hours followed by two hours of relaxation and lunch and a brisk walk for an hour. He then met with more patients for five hours and spent the evening eating, playing card games, walking with his wife or daughter, and then approximately 2.5 hours reading and writing before hitting the pillow. During the day, he smoked up to 20 cigars.

While I would not recommend that anyone follow the specific schedules of any artists described in Currey’s book, I do think we can learn sometimes about scheduling from these artists. Despite the variety of their routines, they all balanced a regimen of sleeping, eating, exercising, and socializing with family and friends with work.

They combined intense bouts of work with more free-flowing periods of time to think, write, daydream, exercise, and enjoy the company of others. They lived busy but not frantic lives.

Unfortunately, today many proposal professionals tend to work very long hours, including nights and weekends. That means having less time and energy for the varied, stimulating, and sociable kinds of activities that characterized the mature lives of many of the world’s great artists and thinkers. Perhaps a different kind of scheduling can help make us better proposal professionals . . . and more fulfilled adults.

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