Once you leave your office job behind, a freelance writing career is a truly liberating experience. However, many freelancers quickly return to their day jobs, because they cannot beat procrastination and achieve their financial goals. Today I want to share my personal anti-procrastination secrets that have allowed me to successfully work from home for over 7 years.
Plan Your Week In Advance
You cant become rich if you dont count your money. The same principle applies to time-management. To become productive, you need to understand just how much time you have, and which activities consume most of it. Make a list of the things you do every day, like having meals, commute, reading or watching TV. Slot in the appropriate amount of time you spend on each activity into your calendar for the next week. Evaluate how much time you need to complete your writing tasks, and add sufficient time slots to the calendar. Taking a look at your week this way can be a true eye-opener. You will realize just how many hours a day you waste online, and how little time your writing actually takes.
I use Google Calendar to plan all my activities for a week. I dedicate half an hour every Friday to plan for the next week. I add all time-consuming tasks, like shopping, preparing meals, and evening reading. This way I always know when I have an open window to spend some quality time with my friends and family. I prefer an online calendar to a paper day planner. It is easier to shuffle things around if some urgent unforeseen tasks come up. And repeating tasks, like gym visits or daily mindless TV show watching, can be added with one click of the mouse. Besides, my calendar is synchronized across smartphone and laptop, so I am never without my planner.
Make A List Of Things You Dont Like Doing
One of the most popular excuses for procrastination among freelance writers is the need to wait for inspiration. You are a creative person, and you cant simply make yourself work when you are feeling down. This is perfectly understandable, but oftentimes we find excuses to put off work even when we are in a good mood and brimming with creative energy. The reason is simple: after procrastinating for too long, you have no idea where to start. So you need to make two lists. One will contain all the writing tasks you enjoy, while the other will consist of your least-favorite parts of the job. Next time you are feeling down, take out your feel-good list and start doing something. Working on a task that comes easily to you is bound to improve your mood. And once you are feeling creative, you can start on your second list. With inspiration aplenty, you will finish the tasks you dislike a lot quicker.
Whenever I feel fresh out of inspiration, I go online and start reading on the topics relating to the papers I need to write. I love reading, and Internet surfing never feels like work. And when I feel better, I dive straight into writing and editing. The time seems to fly by because I am in a better mood and work very efficiently.
Improve Your To-Do List
How do you feel when you add a huge task like write an essay on Microbiology to your to-do list? You immediately think how much work it will take and decide to take another 30 minutes to answer your messages. Then you remember you need to prepare a family dinner and meet your friends. Procrastination gets the better of you because one item on your to-do list is too daunting for you to even start doing it. The solution to this problem is obvious. Instead of creating one huge task, divide it into smaller sub-problems. For example, if you need to write an essay, here is a possible list of items to go on your to-do list:
- Research the topic of the essay.
- Find the required number of sources to use.
- Create an outline.
- Write the introduction.
- Compose the main body paragraphs.
- Write the conclusion.
- Reread and proofread the paper.
- Send the paper for revision by the client.
This is a trick I constantly use to make big tasks seem easier. My daily to-do list consists of 30+ items, each of them easily doable in under 30 minutes. And the satisfaction I get after crossing off another item from the list keeps me going until every task is complete by the end of the day.
Find The Best Time-Management Tool For You
There are so many time-management tools out there, each professing to be the best. However, there is no universal solution for every procrastinator. We all have our own reasons for putting important tasks off. So make a list of the most promising mobile or web apps and set a 7 to 10 days to try each of them out. This should be an appropriate amount of time for you to determine whether a certain solution works for you or not. Remember that some tools can be effective, but too annoying, so there is a good chance you will abandon them the first chance you get. So be sure to choose an app that works for you without making you want to throw your phone at the wall.
Personally, I have found Pomodoro technique to be quite effective for me. I cant spend hours upon hours doing the same boring tasks. So I divide my day into small chunks of 25 minutes with 5-minute rest periods in between. After 2 or 4 pomodoros, I take a long pause of 15 to 30 minutes. Such a rhythm makes me work with a greater speed since I always feel like I need to do my best before the alarm chimes. But at the end of the day, I dont feel exhausted because I pause regularly and take time to relax.
I strongly believe that no one deserves to be stuck in a stuffy office for 9 hours every day. So I hope these small tips will help you rein in your procrastinating tendencies and continue your freelance writing career. Try out my tricks and let me know if they work for you!