When you finally sit down to start work you have hardly any idea what you need to do first.
Or, if you have created a list of priorities for your work life and found a way to both write them down and track them, when you reach your desk each morning and you know exactly what you are to do first because you’ve planned it.
Obviously having some sort of schedule and a way to track it is the way to be reasonably sure you’re going to get the things done you want to get done.
The trick, of course, is figuring out the system or plan that really works for you and that you find if not fun, at least tolerable. If a plan is to work you’ve got to be willing to work that plan.
Although I’ve never met two writers who approach this exactly the same way, there are some common elements. For example, most seem to include:
A Vision for their writing business that fits in with their life vision or priorities. Getting clear on what’s important to you in your life and how you want your writing business to fit into that is your vision or life priorities. There are many ways to get at this. I personally like Visioning, (and even offer it through my coaching services) but there are a myriad of ways to get at the same information. It’s more important that you do it than the way you get there.
Specific goals with the steps to attaining them spelled out. From your Vision come your goals for your writing business. The should be written and have a time frame and should include the steps you see right now you need to take to get there. Sure, the steps will change and there will be at least one period when your list of steps seems only to grow. Keep working on it and that time will pass.
Those steps worked into some sort of weekly plan. As you develop your steps, figure out when during the week you’re actually going to do them and schedule them on your calendar. Again, there are all sorts of methods. I’ve written on paper calendars, tried online calendars, created lists, etc. Find one that works for you now, knowing that you’ll probably change it.
It might even help to design your ideal writing day and see how close you can come.
Time tracking. Sure, if you’re billing hourly you need to track your time so you can invoice properly, but there’s also a great deal to be learned by tracking every moment of your working day, and even of your whole day. If you honestly track your time you’ll discover how you’re actually spending it. For example, I know that most blog posts I do for my own blogs take me about an hour; The same length post for a client may take two because I’m not as familiar with the topic. I know that because I’ve tracked my time.I also know that I tend to want to do more than I have time to do. Finding out the truth about me and time has been sometimes painful, sometimes funny, but always valuable.
I use toggl.com becasue I’m online at my desktop so much of my work day. It’s dirt simple – as they say ‘simple enough to use.’ There are all sorts of other ways to track time, including pencil and paper.
Weekly reviews and adjustments. These plans should be reviewed every week. Some people make a point to review and set up new plans on Sunday so they’re ready on Monday. Since I try not to work on weekends, I tend to do this sort of planning first thing Monday morning.
Two additional and important tips
Create spacious time around each event or appointment. Avoid cramming one activity in right after another – it’s a great way to get over tired, burned out and discouraged. Instead, work to create some spaciousness around each appointment or work event. Getting up and walking away from the computer for 10 minutes at the end of each step is an example, and you can build that right into your schedule.
Do the most important thing to you first. Of the writing projects you’re working on what’s the most important to you? Start your day with that one. Do it before you open the email or your social media accounts. I allot at least an hour, and often two to that project first thing in the morning and it rarely has anything to do with client work. It’s my work and it goes first. I find doing my most important to me work first means it gets the best of my creative juices and moves that project along. And I find I’m able to get the client work done as well.
What’s your take on this? Do you have all these elements in place? Something else entirely? Questions about what you read? Comments are open and I’d love to hear from you.
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