How to Plan for Last-Minute Tasks as a Freelancer

How to Plan for Last-Minute Tasks as a Freelancer

It happens to everyone. You have your workday neatly planned out, then randomness starts trickling in one email, Slack notification or text message at a time.

Can you send over some pitches, with sources identified, by the end of the week? (Sure! Brainstorming session and notes plundering in 3…2…)

Do you have time to take on these projects next week? (Maps out projects on calendar before replying to ensure I do indeed have the time to take on said projects.)

Will you ask this source a few more quick questions to round out this section? (Sure, let me track them down, find a time that mutually works for us both, craft some insightful questions, connect with them and revise that copy, ASAP.)

I’m sure some of these scenarios ring true with you! I know I’m not alone in trying to juggle last-minute asks and a full schedule. I have a pretty good method in place to navigate these pop-up requests (which I’ll share below), but am always looking to refine and improve my processes.

I recently started conversations on Twitter and LinkedIn about how to schedule for unplanned events and several lovely readers chimed in! So, here’s a peek at what works for me, them and a few ideas that might be fun to explore a bit further.

And if you have a burning idea that you’d love to share, comment below or when you see this post floating around on social!

How I Approach Unplanned Tasks

Are you tired of me chatting about Google Calendar yet? If you’re new here, I’ll fill you in. I map out each day using the handy boxes on Google Calendar, which I lovingly refer to as Google Boss. He keeps me on task and on top of deadlines.

If it needs to get done, it gets put on the calendar.

I currently have two one-hour boxes scheduled each week for pitching. This might include coming up with ideas for an impromptu request, working on a routine monthly pitch request, writing pitches, following-up on a pitch with an editor or looking for new publications accepting pitches. I do this to keep projects in the pipeline and stay top-of-mind with my current clients.

I also have one half-hour box set aside for quick, pop-up edits. This might include revising a paragraph or two or adding some online sources to a blog post to assist readers. If I’m working with a new client, or on a large project, additional time will be allocated for revisions (a few days after I submit my copy, but before the proposed publish date) when that project is initially added to the calendar.

There’s also a one-hour floating box on my calendar for “sick time make-up” to absorb tasks that might get bumped when I need to focus on taking care of myself.

At the end of the week, I also have an hour set aside for consulting calls, which are managed via Calendly. I used to offer three call spots each week, but have since cut it back to one so I can give more attention to my writing projects.

In addition to business tasks, I also map out meal breaks, exercise and social commitments. Everything has a time slot.

4 Ways to Prepare for Pop-up Tasks

Sometimes boxes overlap or uncompleted tasks get bumped to the next day to make time for last-minute requests. The workday extends, and some tasks flow into days off. Not good.

I’m not perfect and am working to improve my workflow as my business grows. Here are a few ideas and tips from the social conversations I mentioned earlier.

  1. Schedule a block of time each day for randomness. Guard that spot. Do not think of it as a free space when mapping out projects. Instead, assume that spot is already booked with whatever that day brings that you can’t plan for ahead of time.
  2. Intentionally plan a light schedule one day a week. My hubby thinks I should allocate Fridays for administrative tasks, client calls and randomness that pops up. A friend who commented on LinkedIn also keeps part of Friday open to catch the week’s overflow of tasks.
  3. Pad your day with open blocks of time at the start and end of your day. This can help mitigate those surprise morning email requests and help you get caught up before stepping away from your desk at the end of the day.
  4. Be realistic with your time. Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ to a project. There are only so many hours in the day and they can’t all be spent on work. To stay creative and productive, we all need time off to recharge, even when we love what we do.

How do you fit everything into the day, meet deadlines and keep an orderly, realistic schedule? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s keep this conversation going on LinkedIn and Twitter! Or, start a thread in the comments below or via Facebook.

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