At least once a month a friend questions my productivity.
They ask how in the world I write and publish so much content each week.
I simply stay on task. That’s it. I get my work done because I push forward every hour of the day and meet deadline after deadline, whether they’re self-imposed or dictated by a client.
So, how do I maintain my focus and know that everything on my to-do list will eventually get checked off? People tell me I’m nauseatingly organized with multiple checks and balances. I think that’s a good thing!
And, I keep a stack of upcoming bills on my desk. (Reality.)
If you put these processes in place, and stick to them, you too can achieve more than you expect during your work day.
1. Schedule every single task. It’s not good enough to say that you’re going to write for four hours today. Which four hours? What will you do during each hour? Break down your day hour by hour. I create separate little scheduling boxes on Google Calendar for creating rough drafts, invoicing, polishing pieces, updating my website, tending to social media, answering emails and so on.
2. Make time for yourself. As you build out that schedule, put a few boxes on there for yourself. Lunch breaks. Walks. Gym time. If you know you have a relaxing activity coming up, it makes it much easier to push through the more tedious tasks. I’ve been known to get on a roll and write for hours, forgetting to have lunch or realize that my husband has come home from work. I need calendar notifications to keep me on schedule.
3. Leave wiggle room for unexpected tasks. Life happens. Plan for unexpected email exchanges with clients, revision requests, sick days or a last-minute lunch date opportunity that you really don’t want to say no to. I’ve started adding boxes to my calendar called “Sick Time Make Up” and “Catch Up Block”. These have been lifesavers when I need to start playing Tetris with my tasks to make everything fit in my day.
4. Evaluate each task. Being busy and being profitable are two very different things. Are you filling your days with menial tasks that don’t push you closer to your word count goals, deadlines or income projections? Having a detailed schedule in place helps you see where your time goes. When I get off course, it’s usually because I’ve fallen into the downward spiral of social media scrolling. (I know I’m not alone.)
5. Work until you’re done. Sometimes you will have to work late and schedule a sixth or seventh day in the work week. If you’re notorious for starting projects, but never completing them, that ends now. Block time to finish those WIPs and follow through!
6. Hold yourself accountable. Finally, treat yourself like a kindergartner. Are there rewards and for getting your work done (or not)? As a freelancer, a paycheck should be enough reason to press on. But sometimes I reward myself with extra afternoons off if I meet my deadlines early or indulge in a favorite homemade treat. I have been known to have wine at my desk well before 5pm. And if I don’t meet my goals? I reference number 5 and work on improving number 3.