How to Make Sure Freelance Writing Doesn’t Ruin Your Life

Ever been in this situation? You’ve got a shitload of work to do, but you’re putting it off just because, you know – procrastination. But the longer you put it off, the higher the pile gets, and the more you sit around fretting about your work but not actually doing it. And the worst part? You don’t do anything else during that time either. Well, nothing enjoyable anyway. Sure, you might put the laundry away or wash the dishes. But doing something for fun – reading a book? Going for a stroll along the beach? Eating lunch out? Absolutely fucking not! How could you? YOU HAVE TOO MUCH WORK TO DO. But you’re still not doing it, you idiot.

Your life has become one long, drawn-out void during which you do nothing but think about doing your work – without ever actually doing your work. Or at least, not until the last second. The moment it absolutely HAS to be done. And that’s no way to live now, is it? You didn’t start this business so you could spend every waking moment fretting about it. You started it so you could work whenever you wanted to, leaving you free to do other fabulous things in the meantime. Whoops. How’s that working out for you?

Fortunately, your Auntie Karen is here with some remedies. These things didn’t all work for me, but that’s not to say they won’t work for you. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

List Everything You Plan to Do That Day – Stop When It’s All Done

This works a treat for me. I’m not bothered about starting work by a certain time or doing a certain amount of hours each day. So long as the work that needs to be done gets done, I’m happy. Sometimes this means my work only takes a couple of hours a day. It’s important not to cram absolutely everything you can onto your list, otherwise you’re shooting yourself in the foot. This technique works extra specially well if you make a weekly to-do list on Mondays and slot everything from it into your daily to-do lists, spreading things out nicely. It’s very satisfying when it all goes to plan.

Do Your Work First to Free Up the Rest of Your Day

I do this when I travel. Because if I didn’t, I’d never get anything done. It can work well at home, too, although it’s harder because you’ll probably have more stuff to do. But do all your work during the first part of the day and you can relax for the rest of it. Dreamy, right?

Do Your ‘You’ Things First to Make Sure You Don’t Sacrifice Them Later

Alternatively, if you’re somebody who consistently leaves all your work to the last minute, try this. Devote an hour or two each morning to doing your fun things. Because you know you’ll get all your work done when it’s due anyway, right? Another way to approach this is by scheduling fun things at certain times of the day. So, 2pm is when you take a break to read for an hour, or 4pm is when you meet a friend for coffee. Again, you know you’ll get the work done eventually – your problem is never making time for the fun stuff.

Don’t Work Weekends

This is a solid-gold rule of mine. I never try to force myself to work on weekends. If I’m in the mood to do so then I will, but – being honest here – that doesn’t happen often. Weekends are a guilt-free time of fun and frolics for me. Yes: FROLICS. I often tell my clients I will get something to them on a Friday to ensure I don’t work the weekend. Monday deadlines are dangerous, because if the project is big and will require a lot of time, I will have to work on the weekend in order to meet the deadline if I’ve been fucking about (likely). Hence, no Monday deadlines. Nobody’s in the office on weekends anyway, so nobody’s going read (or expect) an email from you then, let alone a piece of work. Just relax.

Set Specific Working Hours Each Day, Including a ‘Quitting’ Time

I’ll admit: this doesn’t work for me at all, but if you’re somebody who’s used to working set hours each day, it could do the trick. So you could work between 9–12 and 2–6. That’s seven hours of work total, while still giving you a couple of hours of spare time at lunch and a work-free evening. The quitting time is important here: if you say you’re going to finish at 6, finish at 6. Drop whatever you’re doing – because you’ll be picking it back up again at 9am anyway. Ignore the quitting time at your own peril and blame nobody else when you burn out.

Schedule Your Day in Detail

I abhor this technique, but it works well for some, especially if used in conjunction with specific working hours. And yes, you can (and should) schedule in fun stuff and breaks as well as your specific work tasks. Break your days up into one-hour or 30-minute slots, then fill each section with something specific. You obviously need to learn to judge your time well in order for this to work, so take it easy to begin with and don’t try to do too much.

Do Things in a Certain Order

This is something that works a little better for me, and it’s important to note that the time doesn’t factor into this at all. Instead, you just do things in a, well, in a certain order – like I said. For example, I will go out and do work first thing in the morning until I’ve done what I set out to do (usually writing a blog post, client work, or something else that doesn’t require the internet), then I’ll read for fun for a little while, then I’ll head home for some lunch. After lunch I do internetty jobs like answering emails, responding to my students in our Facebook group and scheduling blog posts. I’ll often go for a walk or to the gym in the mid-afternoons, then head home for some more grub. Evenings tend to be a free-for-all without much structure, but that’s okay because I’ve already done a good day’s work. I can do whatever the hell I want, guilt-free.

Reading over that list, you might think you already know what will work for you and what won’t. BUT! You’re probably wrong. I thought scheduling my day to the half-hour would be awesome and make me super productive, but I hated how restrictive it was. It was only through experimentation that I learned that I rebel against all things scheduled, and that following my natural rhythms works much better for me. So I encourage you to try each of these for a set period of time, maybe even just a couple of weeks, and at the end of it sit down and analyse what worked for you and what didn’t. The analysing part is important, because this is how you figure out precisely what works for you. So write that shit down. Your brain knows how it went, even if you don’t, but it won’t tell you until you write it down.

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