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What’s First In A Freelance Writer’s Day?

scheduleDoes this sound familiar? You get up, grab coffee or tea and do all the things you need to do before you get to your computer to begin writing.

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.

System elements

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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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • I find I’m my most productive when I have that list, like you suggest, Anne. And if I don’t, I jot down a quick one.

    I am definitely a morning person so Melody’s idea of tackling the most difficult task is a good one. I used to joke in my corporate days that my brain shut down at 3 PM. That is not far from the truth. 😉
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Posts in Friday Lite May Make ItMy Profile

    • Yeah, I tell clients I get stupid right at 4 in the afternoon… always gets a chuckle. The reason I do an hour on my projects first is I never get them done if I don’t do the one that’s closest to my heart first.

  • Instead of doing the most important thing first, I do the most difficult thing first. (In my case it’s writing for a client whose site’s subject matter is outside of my realm of expertise.) I am extremely fortunate to have this client but I like to get the work out of the way early so that I can spend the rest of my day writing for the clients whose subjects I know and love. And, of course, while schedules are great to help frame my day, sticking to them is hard. I used to fret when I was off schedule but I’ve learned to relax (a little). Life happens and I want to enjoy it without constantly having deadlines floating about in my brain. Thanks for a great article, as always!

    • Yes, there’s always another way to slice the schedule pie, and doing the most difficult thing first also works – as you demonstrate. Also true that schedules need to flex.

  • “Create spacious time around each event or appointment.” – that’s great advice, Anne. When we overschedule, we feel a bit like cranky toddlers, and that’s not good for anyone. 🙂
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Five Fatal Flaws that are Killing Your Writing BusinessMy Profile

    • Wish I could claim that as original with me – got it from a close and smart friend. And I’m chuckling at likening us to cranky toddlers… so true!

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