Controlling Time, So it Doesn’t Control You

I’ve mentioned many times how much I enjoy visiting with my AWAI and Circle of Success friends at Bootcamp.

But, I have a confession to make. One reason I love catching up with AWAI members at Bootcamp is that they give me tons of ideas to write about.

This year, one member asked me to share what the day of a full-time copywriter is like. I described my typical workday in detail to him but promised I’d write about it here as well.

So, at his request, I’ll describe what my typical workday looks like … but only after a side trip.

Side trip: Why my schedule is not important …

The hardest job of a freelancer is settling down to work. Freelancers like us can find abundant reasons to do something “more important” than writing. These aren’t reasons. They’re excuses.

This is why having and sticking to an established work schedule is crucial.

It takes away the excuses.

Your schedule and my schedule can’t be the same. For starters, our brains don’t function the same way.

For example, I’m a very early riser. I have been since I was 11 years old, and my mother would drag me out of bed at 5 o’clock every morning for school. Thanks to her, I became one of those obnoxious “morning people” who wakes up quickly and hits the ground running.

Early morning is also my best writing time. But, that doesn’t mean you should start writing at 5 in the morning as I do. If you’re the type of person who takes an hour and several cups of joe to shake the cobwebs loose, then early mornings are not the best time for you to write.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving you permission to stay in bed until 10 o’clock. I’m convinced – as is Mark Ford and virtually every successful copywriter I know – that a core secret to success is to get out of bed early … like at 5 in the morning or earlier.

Use those early morning hours productively. If you’re a slow riser, use that time to research or check email. (More on email in a moment.) But, do something related to copywriting, as well as furthering your success.

If you’ve been writing for any time at all, you know when the words come easiest and when you can’t drag them out with a winch. If you’re a typical copywriter, you have two or three of these productive periods, not just one. Figure out when they are and set aside these times as “sacred” writing times.

Force yourself to write during these periods. Don’t let family, friends, or the inevitable whatevers get in the way of your writing during these times.

Then, use any times when your brain isn’t operating at its creative best to work on other career-related items.

At long last: MY daily schedule …

4:30 a.m.: I get up, feed the cat, shower, and shave (well, trim my beard).

5:00 a.m.: I check my “To Do” list and prioritize items for the day. Then I start writing, usually copy for a client. But, this is also when I like to tackle articles I write for AWAI or other things that help get my writing motor moving.

As a side note: During my work times, I’ll frequently have the radio on in the background … always news or some information program.

I’ve developed the ability to let the radio fade into the background. If I hear some bit of news that might possibly relate to any aspect of my writing, I’ll jot it down and look it up later. And, if it distracts me, off it goes.

6:30 a.m.: I check email.

I choose 6:30 to check email because I live in California. By checking at this time, I can answer emails from clients on the east coast.

Now, this is very important. Email can be a tremendous time vacuum. I do not read any non-work emails until my final email check in the evening. I generally check it four times a day, unless I’m in an email conversation with a client.

(Mark Ford has a different email strategy. Mine works for me.)

6:45 a.m.: Back to writing or something writing-related.

8:00 a.m.: I’m usually “written out” by this time. So, my wife Linda and I meet for breakfast. We read the newspaper and share chuckles over the comics.

After coffee, I tutor a Vietnamese restaurateur in reading. Or, I do work related to being the secretary for my Rotary club. What does this do for my career or my writing? Nothing. I don’t care.

10:00 a.m.: Back to work. Check email again. This is when I prefer to have phone calls with clients (if possible). Depending on my mental state, I’ll either write or research at this time. Or, I’ll read something related directly to writing.

12:00 p.m.: Lunch with Linda.

12:30 – 1:00 p.m.: Nap time, after saying “bye” to Linda as she goes off to her teaching job. I can’t stress enough how effective this nap is for boosting my afternoon productivity. If you’re working at home, schedule one into every workday.

1:00 – 4:00 p.m.: More work time. This is an ideal time for proofreading, since this is not a good time for me to write. Or, I do work-related reading (which can really be almost anything). This is also when I do my final work-related email check.

4:00 p.m.: Treadmill or other exercise. Then, leisure reading (young-adult fiction) and preparing dinner while awaiting Linda’s arrival home from teaching.

Flexibility makes my schedule work …

That’s pretty much it for me for the day, unless I’m in a “push.” If that happens, my most productive and creative writing time is after 8 p.m. I can usually write until early in the morning, although I can’t skimp on sleep often. I’m too old for that now.

This schedule isn’t exact. Nor is it what I follow every day. I volunteer at our elementary school most Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I have Rotary Wednesday mornings. On those days I adapt. By being flexible, I’m able to follow a schedule that helps me stay on track … while still enjoying other aspects of my life.

I told you about my schedule to encourage you to make one of your own … one that works for you. Be sure to schedule your writing for your most productive times. And, write it down until it becomes ingrained.

Let your schedule guide you – though, don’t be so locked into it that it’s controlling you.

And, most of all … enjoy what you do.

Are you an early riser? An early morning writer? Or, are your best writing times later on in the day? Tell us about you and your work schedule here in the comment section. We’d love to hear from you.

And, don’t forget to keep writing!

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Published: November 2, 2015

18 Responses to “Controlling Time, So it Doesn’t Control You”

  1. Thanks for this, it is encouraging and helpful to me at this time. God bless you.


  2. Hi Will, I am an early riser too. I'm usually up at 2 a.m., have 2 cups of coffee, potty the dogs, and catch up on national news. Then I work out, shower, and sit down to write from 4 a.m. to noon. Of course, I take breaks every half hour or so, but no longer than 10 min. Then, it's honey-do time. Sounds crazy huh.

    Michael Cambron

  3. Having a schedule is essential. I use Google Calendar on my phone; it's always accessible. I teach full time, so scheduling each free hour is crucial. Otherwise those few precious hours slip away.

    I'm a morning worker; it takes discipline to work late afternoons. It doesn't work every day, but I keep at it.

    If I'm falling asleep at my desk by 5, I'm losing time. I pay attention to diet and exercise, and keep a consistent bedtime, to keep my energy up.

    And, Saturdays are work days for me.

    Joyce H

  4. Nice Article!
    When do you read? A good amount of my day is spent just reading content I fee valuable for me to keep up & learn the trade & industry better.

    Also, when do you do prospecting? Any advice on how to plan/limit self-marketing efforts.


  5. I am an early riser and I love the quiet time because everyone is sleeping. I think very clearly without distractions therefore making this a perfect time in my schedule to write or play with ideas. Thanks for sharing,I will refer to often as a great reminder.


  6. Hi,

    I am a table games dealer full time. We take short breaks all day and I use those to read or do something pertaining to my copywriting. That gives me an hour of combined work time through out the day. My problem is making time to actually write anything. I've got to make myself time to try to write for an hour.

    Guest (Sarah F)

  7. Hi Will, What a great article on keeping a schedule. I hope I can soon set one up when I pursue copywriting full time. For now its grab minutes when I can. I have written down what my ideal schedule will be and it won't include 5 a.m. But midnight might be okay.


  8. I am a permanent resident green card holder. I was born in London, England. However, my family moved here when I was 3 months old. I was born 5:30 am & as a social worker I was up every day by 4:40 am. Now I do not want to alarm you. However, it is against the law to discriminate re:place of birth. I have traveled the world.I must get my direct response done in order to make the big money. Please let me know if you have problems with the anyone who is British? Some what ironic given you all study from one of the best.

    Guest (Lara Clarke)

  9. I do agree with the study technique of over and over again. This is what I did at the U of M & I graduated with honors. I have a feeling that to be lucrative in this industry you have to sell. I am not used to that. So I must focus on my direct response approach to make a lot of money. Open to suggestions? & again if you are struggling with my being born in England let me know I send you a copy of my card. I am sure you have ways of checking it out with the government.

    Guest (Lara Clarke)

  10. This is Lara Clarke does someone have a problem with the fact that I was born in London, England? I believe that it is a form of discrimination. I was born there & my family moved here when I was 3 months of age. I have a green card do you want or need to see it? P.S. You are all trained by one of the best in the industry from England so what is the problem?

    Lara Clarke

  11. I was born @ 5:30am & when working I would be up @ 4:30 am feeding my two kitties. Sir Winston Churchill and Loopie. I must focus more on the direct response approach.
    I want to make this a lucrative career.
    I am tired now and off to bed. Please let me know if someone has a problem with my ability to work. Thanks & Goodnight.

    Lara Clarke

  12. Hello Will, I love your inspiration, i don't know yet when my best time to write is. So far my only writing is a book about life for me and our family starting from when I was a child. My wife of 49 years is annoyed this old farmer is wanting to write, and has no encouragement for me but I am determined to press on. The book so far has 26000 characters and is about one third complete kindest regards Dave E

    Guest (Dave E)

  13. Hello Will again, sorry I said my book so far had 26000 characters, what I should have said was 26000 words, I think my writing is gradually improving and I hope to write some sales letters in time if I can get the hang of it kindest regards Dave E

    Dave E Australia

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