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How Bookending Makes You A Better Freelance Writer

bookending for writersBookending continues to be one of my favorite writing tips. When I hesitate to do a task for whatever reason, making a bookend call clears my mind and lets me get on with my writing.

You decide on a task – I often use bookending to get started on things I really don’t want to do, like tracking expenses or writing an article I find boring, or calling someone for an interview. Sometimes I’ll pick something I don’t know exactly how to do, like a new kind of writing or writing that I know needs reworking.

You call a friend and tell them you plan to spend x amount of time on the task. For example, I sometimes will call someone and tell them I’m going to spend 10 minutes on tracking my spending or an hour on a particular piece of writing. It’s okay to just leave word on their answering machine.

When the time has passed you call back to close the bookend. You either report you’ve completed the task or report that you haven’t. Sure, you may get interrupted and you call back later than the allotted time. That’s okay. Bookending works best when we close it up regardless of the results.

Here’s why I think this works so well:

Picking a single task actually helps calm the mind. It’s a way out of overwhelm from all that needs to be done.

Stating the amount of time you plan to spend on the task  puts a limit on it or a box around it. If it’s something you’d rather not do knowing you’re only going to spend x amount of time makes it seem less awful.

Calling someone to bookend creates accountability. I know when I call that I truly intend to do whatever. I’m less likely to put it off because I’m also going to close the bookend and I hate to admit I didn’t do what I said I would. And when I’ve actually accomplished what I said I would closing the bookend gives me a moment to brag and feel good about the work I’ve just done.

Bookending isn’t a time to get caught up with the friend you call. When my friends and I call with a bookend all we do is identify ourselves, say we’re starting or ending a bookend and state how much time we’re going to spend on what task.

It’s easy to do and I find helps keep me on track for writing and other tasks. When I stay on track I’m a better writer.

How do you get yourself to do things you know you should, but really don’t want to?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by dan taylor

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • It depends on whether you trick yourself or you exercise your will power…Rather than bookending, you can play the reward-n-punish scenario.
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    • Anne

      Yes, there are other ways to get things done for sure. I’m not much into punishment, though 😉

  • Paula H

    Like Edna, I love crossing even the tiniest of accomplishments off my To Do List.

    I’ve tried the timer trick and find it hard to stop the momentum once the timer rings. I want to keep going. Funny how most of the time the dreaded task isn’t quite as awful as we’d imagined.

  • Thanks for another great post, Anne. I use lists alot. I love making lists and crossing stuff off so that makes it a little more fun 🙂
    Most of the time I enjoy my writing projects so its mostly about finding time to get everything else done, like tracking stuff on Excel sheets, marketing, dusting, following up on calls/emails. Continually following up on stuff is such a drag! I have discovered that when I finally get even one of those things done that I dread doing, its quite a relief and then one less thing to carry around in my head.
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    • Anne

      Edna, I know just what you mean.

  • Wendyann

    I read this great e-book that quoted Mark Twain about eating a frog. Basically it is “if you eat a frog once a day you know that is the worse thing that will happen to you that day” . The book used that saying and applied it to time management. We all have things we don’t like to do, but if we do them first thing then it’s over and we can get on with our day. That’s what I try to do. Whatever assignment I have that seems dull, complicated or on a topic I don’t care for, I schedule it for first thing in the morning. Since I am at my freshest, I find it’s not as hard as I thought. I have the added benefit of getting it out of the way and don’t spend the rest of the day dreading the project.

    • Anne

      Yech! I suspect I’d heard that before and forgotten it just because it’s yucky – but I take the meaning. Except I enjoy my writing etc. much more than that.

  • (a) I tell my self that I w a n t to see this job done & that there’s no one else to do it.

    (b) I set a timer.

    (c) A to-do list helps too, because I like crossing out items. You know, one by one.

    Sometimes, I do call a friend and mention that I have to do things or write stuff. I agree, it might make one feel more accountable — and you’re right, most people like to help.

    • Anne

      Lots of ways to get it done, as you point out… btw I love marking stuff done on a list… might be the best part of list writing.

  • I’m a fan of setting the darn timer and working for 10 to 20 minutes. It makes it much easier to get started when the finish line is in sight! Then I treat myself with a quick peek at Facebook or some other time waster!
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  • WOW- this is so funny but I often have my children bookend tasks they dread, like homework or putting away laundry! So, from experience, I can vouch that it WORKS. I really love the idea of applying it to writing tasks, and since I’m now running my own freelance business as well, to applying it to unsavory business tasks.
    Thanks for this great post Anne. I also enjoy your email newsletters!

    • Anne

      Elizabeth, I didn’t learn about it until way after my kids were grown, but I can see how it would work at that age too. Or maybe I’m just a case of arrested development.;)

  • Talk about tough love, Anne! I’m cussedly independent, so it’s just me, the task list, and the fear of screwing up that serve as primary motivators. I’ve never tried any of those tricks of leaning on someone else, but I can see how they’d be effective. I might give it a try for my ever-languishing ebook 🙂
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    • Anne

      lol, Jake… you could always email someone if you don’t want to call them…leaning on others does give them the opportunity to help and most people like to help.

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