What I’m listening to: Runaways by The Killers
Midweek already? It was a good week so far. As expected, client projects are rolling in, and I’m back in my office, so the routine is coming easier than when I was working remotely at my parents’ house. That’s a condition I’ll be returning to quite soon, so best to get things in order now.
So it’s mid-January and you’ve either not made any resolutions or have given up on them already.
Today is your New Year’s Day.
Today is as good a day as any to set goals and build on how you’ll reach them. Not resolutions — goals. Goals are actionable. Resolutions are pie-in-the-sky dreams.
Let’s start by finding time to get this all done.
If you’re like most freelance writers, you wonder how you’ll ever squeeze another minute out of your day to get a real plan in place.If you're really like most freelance writers, you've got plenty of time that you could free up. #freelancewriting Click To Tweet
That’s right — I just said you’re wasting time somewhere in your day. I should know — I do the same.
For me, it’s an unhealthy obsession with an installed solitaire package that has daily challenges (we’re not American if we don’t rise to a challenge, right?). For you, it could be hours spent on Facebook, or time spent emailing six friends. Or talking to one or two on the phone for an hour apiece.
That time right there — slice into it and find your goal planning and execution time.
A few things you can do to take back that time —
- Cut it in half: Make that six-times-per-day Facebook check-in a three-times-per-day check-in. Allow yourself just five minutes (and time it).
- Use it as a reward: Jenn Mattern is a big fan of the Pomodoro method — timed work with timed breaks. Make those breaks your time to waste time, not the timed work minutes.
- Chart it: I stopped plenty of my bad surfing habits by simply writing down the time I started, then writing down when I closed the app or website and got back to work. Ew, was that really 35 minutes? You can use a project timer, if you like. You’ll find that just the act of turning it on or writing it down makes you that much more aware of what you’re doing.
- Check emails on a schedule: This was my big time-waster (that and games on Facebook). When I decided to check emails during my break time and continue writing, I got a lot more accomplished. I used the emails as a sort of reward — if I got through this section, I’d give myself ten minutes to check emails. Even client emails will wait a few minutes. Very little is critical and that time-sensitive.
- Make a to-do list: My days all start with a to-do list. I open a calendar appointment, put my list in there, and set it to remind me the next morning. I move it forward each day, too. At the end of the month, I see how much I did (and who needs an invoice). It helps me to see what I’m needing to finish — I’m less inclined to blow it off for another round of TriPeaks solitaire.
- Silence the phone: My phone allows me to silence the ringer if the call is one I have to put off until later. It still rings in and goes to voicemail, but I can continue without interruption. If it’s someone who’s looking to chat, you can always send them a quick email telling them you know they called, but you can’t pick up right now.
- Use time boxing: It’s a lot like the Pomodoro method, but with a twist. Suppose you’re staring at that 2,000-word article that requires a good bit of research and interview transcribing. Set aside 30 minutes for it. Or 45 minutes. Look at the deadline and decide how much time you’ll put into that project on each day. That allows you a little time to surf and play on your break time without feeling guilty or overwhelmed by big project deadlines.
- Turn off notifications: My email notifications drive me nuts. So I shut down Outlook whenever I need to concentrate and can’t be interrupted. If you get Twitter updates, ditch them (those nearly buried me when I first started on Twitter). No cell phone notifications for games or New York Times news updates. No Facebook updates or blog notifications when someone comments. Just go distraction-free for the time you’ve allotted to your work.
Using even one of these things can help you free up time you didn’t know you had. It’s a great way to become a more productive, focused writer.
Writers, what are your biggest time-wasters?
How do you handle the distractions effectively?