Saturday, August 16, 2014

Time is of the Essence

One thing you have on your side as a freelance writer is time. It can work for you or against you. Essentially, it’s all about how you play your cards—what you do with your time.  Play them right and you win. Play them wrong and you lose. But there’s always that constant of time.

You have plenty of time available. But does it seems to fly by more quickly than you’d like? That may be because you probably squander your precious working time. Realistically, you can’t write for hours and hours. The quality of your work will suffer, and your body will rebel.   

During an average workday, a writer’s work load consists of various important as well as less important items. Much of your time involves sending and receiving information. During the long hours you work, you’ll be doing a lot of fragmented things. Does this sound like your typical work day?

You need to be realistic when it comes to using your time wisely. Don’t take on too much, or you’ll set yourself up to fail. Only you know how much you’re capable of handling. Overestimating the number of projects you can handle at any one time will surely lead to disappointment. And if you keep that up, it will be more difficult to become more productive.

One of today’s biggest problems for writers is Email and varied other electronic distractions. If you receive lots of mail, you may find yourself taking care of it instead of your writing. It’s easy to procrastinate. And then there’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, to name a few of the social media distractions facing all of us daily. They’re addictive. And as with your Email, you may find yourself spending more time on them than on your writing. Set aside down time to take care of these tasks.

You may want to check your mail the first thing in the morning, then at a couple of specific other times during the day. But limit the time you spend with it. Before you know it, you could easily spend most of your morning doing basically insignificant tasks. And turn off any message or sound telling you that you have mail. That will surely draw you away from your work.

Avoid other distractions, too. Let your voice mail or answering machine take messages for you. You can call whoever called you back later. And don’t forget to turn off your cell phone. If you’re constantly checking your cell, you won’t get any work done, either.

You may also want to keep a piece of scrap paper handy on which to jot down thoughts about other projects that may pop into your head as you’re working. If you don’t, you won’t remember them later. And if you stop to pay attention to them while you’re in the midst of writing, you may find that they’ll knock you off your writing track.

Make writing a priority. But it’s also important not to write for long periods at a stretch. Take breaks every so often. Get up and walk around. Go for a walk, Do laundry. But don’t take your break at your computer. Surfing online isn’t really taking a break, and you’re body needs to get up and move around.

Schedule other duties around your writing. Write when you feel mentally sharp. That can vary from person to person. You may feel sharper earlier in the morning, so get up earlier to write. Or you may feel sharper later in the afternoon. Figure out when your mental peak occurs and work with it. Do menial tasks like cleaning or taking out the trash during your mental down time.

To help you get the most out of your time, create a daily or weekly To-Do List. (See my post “Smart To-Do Lists Get Things Done” from Sept.6, 2013). Use the A-B-C priority system. Once you have made your To Do List, place an “A” next to items of top importance, a “B” next to those less important but that still need to be done, and a “C” next to those with the least importance.  You may find that the ones with a “C” next to them may complete themselves automatically or may not need doing at all.

Schedule five minutes of review time into your day. Look at what happened yesterday, what will happen today, and what you need to do tomorrow. The more you plan out your day, the more you’ll accomplish.

If time is getting between you and your writing, start doing something about it before it’s too late.

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