Having recently graduated from university (aka unemployed), I have a lot of unstructured free time. I loved unstructured free time when I was juggling university, organization leadership positions, freelance design jobs, part-time work and my blog. It gave me room to breathe and truth be told, some of my best ideas came to me when my mind was wandering on its own.
BUT if every second of my day is "unstructured," it becomes a breeding ground for good 'ol procrastination and unproductive work. Currently, I have two passion projects in the works + freelance design jobs. Without a fixed schedule (like my semester class schedule) to anchor in the work time for these unstructured jobs, I can practically choose to do anything anytime as long as I meet the final deadline.
I've always been a stickler for efficient and productive work flows and systems. Count on me to have tried one or two (or you know, five) stress-busting strategies when it comes to planning out my weeks. One popular strategy is to map out all your actual deadlines and strategically place your internal deadlines to maximize and spread the workload throughout the entire week. In theory, this should be the most logical thing to do. In practice, for me, it's freakin' CHAOS. Remember all those moments when you had to move your deadlines because a relative just had to visit you (and need you to bring them around the city) during your busiest week? Or when you get sick and can't work for the day? Or that time you had to work until 5AM because you didn't anticipate all the code debugging you had to do? Remember how stressful those situations were?
I do and I hate it. I know you do too.
So here's a Stress-Busting Strategy for you: front-load your week. There's nothing fancy about this strategy. The basic premise is to schedule all your internal deadlines in the beginning of the week - I schedule mine from Mondays to Wednesdays/Thursdays - regardless of their actual deadline.
You're probably thinking, "That's crazy! It means I'll be completely busy on Monday until Wednesday!"
I prefer to look at it this way: I'll accomplish my most important must-finish work early in the week and have time to do anything I want for the rest of the week + when I feel like I can't finish something on the day I scheduled it, I don't have to stress about it.
For example, something that is to be submitted by Friday should make its appearance on your schedule at around Tuesday. So when you sit down and start working on it on Tuesday and then realize that you can't finish it today, that's okay. You still have Wednesday and Thursday. Isn't that thought kind of liberating? :)
You may not agree to it (after all, different people have different systems that work for them) but here's my dare to you: if what you're doing now is leaving you with sleepless nights and practically caffeine-induced-energy during the day, try this strategy for at least two weeks. Just take a leap and try. I mean, how much worse can it get, right?