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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