How to Schedule for Your Success
“How in heaven’s name am I going to find time to … ?”
I’m willing to bet you’ve heard yourself say something like that more than once. And what’s the most important thing you’re trying to find time for?
Your copywriting success!
Your biggest rival when changing careers and learning new skills — new skills that ensure your success — is time. I know it’s difficult. There are so many demands on your time — and on you — that it might seem impossible to read that program … attend that live COS session … to write that Job Fair spec assignment.
But, it’s not impossible. You can do it. I have a good example to encourage you. Me.
When I started learning copywriting, I was still teaching severely-disabled children full-time. Now, teaching of all types makes significant demands on time. Special Ed is even more demanding.
Was I crazy to try to mix the two careers when I started?
Maybe. But being a Special Ed teacher taught me the value of having a detailed schedule. So, once I started my new career, I plotted a detailed seven-day a week schedule for myself. And, I stuck to it.
Here’s what I did and what you can do to ensure your success …
1. Look inside yourself …
The key to a successful schedule starts with you. When are your best work times? When do the ideas flow most freely? To plan effectively, you need to know when that is and schedule around those times of day.
For me, those times are early morning and late evening. You may be different. But many of the most successful copywriters I know — including Michael Masterson — are early risers and early workers.
2. Gather your schedule materials …
To make my strategy work, you won’t be using just a pen and paper. You’ll need:
- “Butcher” paper, about 4’ by 8’
- Index cards
- Removable tape
- Different colored markers
- A space where you can spread everything out
3. Draw your weekly schedule skeleton …
Draw eight columns (up and down) on the butcher paper. Fill in the days of the week across the top, starting in the second column. Then draw horizontal lines across the paper to represent times during the day.
Fill in times in the far left column starting at least an hour before you normally wake up. Continue in half-hour increments until you get to an hour after you normally go to bed.
Your calendar would look something like this:
Once you have your skeleton laid out, it’s time to start filling in your schedule.
4. Start with inflexible times …
Write directly on your schedule the time commitments during your week that you have absolutely no control over. This could be COS class times, other job, church, time committed to helping an aging parent, dinner prep, etc.
5. Take care of your “semi-inflexible” activities …
Be honest with yourself here. There’s a difference between inflexible times and activities with “semi-inflexible times.” For instance, if you drive in your child’s car pool, that’s a semi-inflexible time. You can negotiate with your car pool members.
Choose a different colored marker than before and fill the semi-inflexible parts of your schedule on index cards. Use as many cards as needed to cover every day for those semi-inflexible times.
Tape these index cards where you’re currently doing those activities.
6. Take care of your flexible activities …
Exercise, housework, laundry, regular household maintenance. These are things you have to do, but you can do them almost any time you want. Using a different colored marker than before, fill index cards with these activities. Tape them where you normally do them or where you’d like to do them.
7. Plan for relaxation …
You cannot work without taking some time to renew yourself.
So, pick several times during the week for activities you’d like to do. You don’t have to be specific about these. Simply write something like “free time” on index cards using a different colored marker.
Pick some times where you’re normally at your lowest work energy in the day. Tape these cards there.
Bit of advice: Don’t use this valuable replenishment time to watch TV except for very high-quality programs. (Is that an oxymoron?)
8. Find your work times …
Once you have this first draft schedule, you’ll see free spots to commit to your copywriting success: writing, studying, researching.
It’s likely some of this time isn’t during your best work times. This is why you used index cards. Shuffle all the flexible and semi-flexible times around until you free up as much time during your peak times as possible.
How much time? It’d be great if you can commit one to one-and-a-half hours a day, everyday. But, I know not everybody can do that. So aim for five hours a week.
If that looks undoable without cutting out eating and sleeping, do what you can. But once you look at your master schedule carefully, you’ll probably see blocks of non-copywriting time you can reduce or eliminate. Or wake up 30 minutes earlier. Or go to bed 30 minutes later.
Once you have these work times established, write them directly on your schedule in marker. These are now inflexible “my success times.”
9. The final steps …
Once your success schedule is final, hang it up where you — and your family — can see it. If it’s too big for that, copy it onto smaller paper. Hang that up.
Show it to your family. Explain how your success times are inflexible. (One of the advantages of being an early riser is there’s no one around to bug you or interfere with your success time.)
One last warning: Many things can derail your schedule if you let them. From my experience, most of them are avoidable. So next week: how to avoid your success schedule derailers.
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