Why Asperger's can be good (sometimes)... aka... eliminating wasted energy through routines...

What week is it? I think I missed last week, unless I didn't... Turns out when you don’t have a normal “day job” days are less defined by dates/days and more defined by events. Monday? Nope, day I have an audition at such-and-such. Tuesday? Not really, more like the day I have a couple meetings about podcast producing and have to put together sets for Friday’s show. Thursday? Oh, you mean the day I edit podcasts until I crash and fall asleep at 10pm (a.k.a. very early for me). You get the point. So, I (don’t) apologize if I missed a week. Also, I’m working on about three hours sleep, so forgive any errors, poor sentence structures, words that are… I don’t know, bad. You get it, right?

But this week, I’d like to talk about Asperger’s and how it can actually be a positive, especially for self-employed people who have to make lots of decisions daily that may impact their livelihood. Look, we all know making decisions, especially ones that could affect our income, is hard. Decision fatigue is a real thing. Sometimes we just want someone to tell us what to do. That’s the charm of a “day job.”

In a former life, I used to work at a paint store. It was kinda shitty, but paid enough to cover my expenses and worked well for me at the time. I would get up, ride the bus to work, people would tell me what they want and I would make it for them. Sounds simple, right? It was, mostly. It was the perfect job for a young, often hungover musician who stayed out way too late, and since he was just starting out, was often playing during weekday nights. I doubt an accounting firm would deal with me strolling in, unkempt and unshowered, with long hair and my dirty, paint covered clothes. OK, that last one was because of the job, but you get the idea. It was nice to not have to put together business plans, look at the 50-60 hours I would be working that week and start from scratch on how to fill them, wake up at 6am to go to local networking meetings (I do enjoy meeting my fellow small business owners, just not the 6am part…), and so on and so forth. I liked having someone tell me to stop and go eat lunch (which I often skip nowadays, though not intentionally). Even the clothes/uniform I had to wear was dictated to me.

Which brings me to my point: Asperger’s now helps me with some of this. I, like many with Asperger’s/Autism, am very into routines. You could say I love routines. Or, more accurately, that I need routines. LIKE I MENTIONED A FEW WEEKS AGO, I am a creature of habit. But, because of that, there are many little decisions I don’t have to make during a given day/week which helps me focus more energy on the bigger decisions and getting real work done. I’ll give you a few.

For instance, I eat the same thing every day for lunch (when I actually stop to eat it): 2 fried eggs, shredded roasted chicken (I get a whole chicken every Wednesday and Sunday since it’s $2 cheaper at my local Harris Teeter those days) and spinach, divided up between three corn tortillas (always from Mission, my favorite tortillas and chips in the world) and topped with salsa verde. It’s delicious, nutritious and I never have to think or waste time/energy on lunch. I am usually thinking about the second third of my day (the first third, 9am-1pm, is generally office/computer work, the second, 1-5pm, is usually meetings or podcast-related work, depending on the day, and the third, 6pm-12am, is going to shows/playing shows/general musician stuff) while cooking. Or, I’m thinking about a new song idea. Or, who I should follow up for booking shows. Again, not thinking about what I’m doing (cooking), but thinking about other business things that are more beneficial to me.

Same goes for clothes. I hate wasting time thinking about what to wear. Instead, I have two pairs of jeans, one nicer pair for when I wear dress shirts/jackets, and one pair for when I wear t-shirts. My dress shirts and t-shirts rotate. Whenever I wear/wash one, it goes to the bottom of the pile. I simply determine if this is a nice-pair-of-jeans event (show, fancy dinner, date or business meeting) or normal-pair-of-jeans event (pretty much everything else) and grab from the top of the appropriate pile of shirts. Done. Simple. My boots go with everything.

Same goes for scheduling. Mondays is all music, all day. Music emails/computer work/blog in the morning (sometimes this blog is late night fodder to keep it interesting), meetings and venue scouting/pitching/in-person follow-up in the afternoon, open mic at the Evening Muse at night. Wednesday is similarly set up. Tuesday and Thursdays are for office work, business planning and podcast-related work. Saturdays I try to set aside time to meet with friends and for brainstorming with my wife. Shows are the wild-card. Those could be any night of the week, but that’s why I schedule days but not my nights. Sundays are for cleaning the apartment and relaxing. I usually cook big dinners Thursdays and Sundays to give us leftovers for Friday and Monday, as I’m usually busy those evenings so I need something done up so my wife has something substantial to eat for dinner.

Which is another case in point, she works way harder and way more than me. She also makes more money and is much more successful than me (probably because she’s also much smarter than me). But, because of that, she has no capacity for normal life decisions like shopping or cooking, as she can't decide what/when/how she wants to make something. Her brain is fried from the hundreds of decisions/tasks she does every day. I’ve seen her have decision fatigue on what to wear. She factors in what we’re doing, who we’re meeting, where that’s going to be, will there be air conditioning on (she’s always cold), will she be mostly sitting or standing, will she be taking photos for social media, etc., etc. And she’s right to do that. She is the face of her business and has to present as such, and she should be comfortable. I’ve also seen her skip lunch because she couldn’t figure out what to make. She was just so exhausted from working/making decisions that one more decision just wasn’t going to happen.

The other benefit of Aspergian routines, is that it takes the fear/anxiety/dread out of tough decisions or actions. Don’t want to spend the day in a new town introducing your music to new people/venues trying to get booked? Too bad, that’s what you do on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Don’t want to step in front of 100 people and pitch your music and podcast businesses? Too bad, that’s what you do on Wednesday mornings. (For the record, I love anytime a room full of people have to listen to me talk, or play. But, I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Waking up before 8am is the hardest part for me.) Hate sitting in front of a computer sending out follow up emails and tracking those in an excel spreadsheet? Me too, but that’s what I do most Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

Unfortunately, eating the same things every day doesn’t work for most people. Wearing the same things over and over doesn’t work for most people. Most people like to choose their clothes and dress up. Most businesses don’t allow for doing the same things on the same days. I get it. But, all of this is to say, sometimes having Asperger’s is pretty damn awesome. It’s not when my wife is mad at me for reacting emotionally inappropriately to something or someone, but it can be for helping keep my brain free from clutter and away from spending energy making insignificant decisions.

(dictated but not read)