It's About Time …

The writer’s life is often feast or famine.

There seems to be either several projects coming at one time or none at all. When they do come, it seems the deadlines are all the same! Wouldn’t it be paradise if we could work at our own pace, finish one project, and then move effortlessly to the next?

I’m not sure if that is your experience, but it’s certainly not mine.

All week in The Writer’s Life, we’ve been looking at some of the major challenges we face in our freelance careers. Today is about doing it all and getting it done.

The crux of the issue is time management. If you aren’t careful, you can load up on work and then find yourself unable to deliver. So how do we do it all and still keep our sanity intact?

Let’s start out with the most obvious and yet the most neglected: make a list. Some will make their list on paper, others on the computer, and still others on Post-it notes.

Keeping a list allows you to get what’s in your mind out on paper so it doesn’t clutter up your thinking. Do what works for you.

Prioritize the list and use it as a tool; just don’t become its slave. It’s possible to spend too much time creating a fancy color-coded list but never get to doing what’s on it.

Minimize distractions. This will take a lot of discipline to accomplish. Turn off auto-fetch on your email and smartphone, and don’t answer emails as soon as they come in unless absolutely necessary.

Schedule a few minutes during the late morning and late afternoon to return emails. This goes for social media too! Use a service like HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule your postings.

Overall, monitor yourself during your workday to analyze where you are wasting time. Keep a log over a several-day period. Record everything you do, including how much time you spend on each task, activity, or appointment. Then go back and review it.

You will be surprised at how much time is being frittered away on what’s unimportant and unnecessary.

Script your time; don’t just schedule it. Dan Kennedy teaches this concept. Scripting your day means writing out everything that you are going to do and when you are going to do it. For some, that may sound like a straitjacket. But it is a powerful tool because it focuses your thinking on one thing at a time. When the time is up, you move on to what’s next. If something is unfinished, you simply schedule more time later.

Get faster and better at what you do. Constantly look for ways to improve your writing, learn new ways to write faster, build a swipe file, and generally get more done.

To accomplish this, it is important to continuously increase your knowledge base. That’s why I’m so excited about Bootcamp this year. The speakers that AWAI has secured are unmatched. These people are the pioneers of our business. They’ve learned from doing, and they are going to share that expertise with us.

Learn to delegate. There may come a time when you need to pass on some work to a fellow writer. Find some dependable people whom you can work with on a case-by-case basis.

My practice is to task them with putting together a rough draft and then submitting it to me. I make the necessary changes and subsequent edits as required by the client.

Don’t try to go it alone. Delegate some of the other tasks too! Even research can be done by someone else. The goal is to get the routine tasks off of your plate so you have the time to do what you do best: write.

Prioritize around the big things. For me, it’s about having the freedom to be there for my kids, so most things are scheduled around the family.

Put the big things on your schedule first, and then fit everything else around it. Live by your priorities not somebody else’s. Decide what those uncompromising priorities are, and don’t deviate. That’s why we love the writer’s life.

Managing your time as a solo business person takes discipline, and like anything else, it is a learned art. Investing in it will reap huge dividends down the road.

Join me tomorrow for our final installment and one of the biggest challenges we face in the writer’s life: overcoming fear.

I’m curious, what do you think are the top three biggest time wasters for writers? Let me know in the comments section.

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Published: August 30, 2012

4 Responses to “It's About Time...”

  1. Thank you for your time managment help/advice and it's always reassuring to hear that even the pros struggle with getting the right balance. My 2 main time wasters are reading emails and trying to shift mental gears from full time job to freelance writing job. I switch work modes quickly when I start each writing session with handwriting out my Marketing/Business Plan -- I start thinking about what I want to accomplish and why. And BOOM -- I am in freelance writing mode.

    Holly C

  2. I created a separate user account on my computer so I don't see all those social media/email notifications during writing time.


  3. Holly, great idea.


  4. Thank you for your contribution here. I really appreciate your effort.

    For any artist, day-dreaming can seem like a waste of time, but only those who dream are truly free.

    When you day dream, you allow your subconscious mind to work its wonders.

    Going into a trance-like state allows you to dream up different worlds and alternative scenarios.

    When you allow your muse to lead the way, your muse will reward you with new ideas and brilliant insights.

    Day dreaming is thus the most productive thing you can do as a writer.

    Archan Mehta

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