It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time writer or just trying to fit some creativity in on the side. Writers tend to be some of the worst offenders when it comes to ignoring a healthy work/life balance. They work themselves to the bone and burn out, which can happen very easily when you’re trying to churn out hundreds or thousands of words per day.
That’s not cool.
We definitely don’t want the writers we work with to feel tired, uninspired, and burnt-out on a regular basis. That’s why we put together this list of tried and true techniques for better time management.
- Learn to say no. Whoa. Wait. What? Yup. We said it. Learn to say no. Know your limitations. There are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. Writing requires research, brain time, and time for execution. You also need to eat, sleep, and (we hope) bathe once in a while. This means knowing what you can reasonably accomplish in a given day and saying no when you know your roster for the week is full. It also means being able to say no to family and friends who think working from home means you can do whatever you want all day long.
- Sleep. Sleep enough. Easier said than done, right? We have a secret. You’re in control of your sleep schedule. The more tired you are, the harder it is to focus. The less focused you are, the longer it takes you to get things done. It’s also a lot easier to become distracted. You should, with the rare exception, set a target end-time for every work day (and then try to honor it).
- Set clear goals. Flitting from task to task because you have no real idea of your goals (for the day, week, etc.) is a huge time-suck. You’re likely to end up starting a project, abandoning it for something else, forgetting about it completely, and then ending your day with a bunch of unfinished messes on your desk. Make a list of what needs to be accomplished for the week and then break it down into daily chunks. Prioritize your tasks so you’re meeting your deadlines. Tick each item off the list, whether it’s for research, writing or marketing.
- Do the rough stuff first. Have a project you aren’t looking forward to? Need to do some research on a ridiculously boring subject? Put the tough stuff at the top of your to-do list for the day and get it out of the way. No excuses. Saving the stuff that puts you to sleep for the time of day where you’re uninspired and — well, sleepy — will mean you’re attacking it with a lack of focus. Do it early, when you at least feel more energized, and you’ll finish faster.
- Eliminate distractions. Do you need to bang out the rough draft of an article? Now’s the time to mark yourself as “away” on messenger and Skype, turn off the television, unplug from social media, and set your phone to silent. Distractions can make what might usually be an hour of writing into a two or three hour project. That’s a lot of wasted time you could spend on other projects or – gasp! shock! horror! – living your life.
- Learn to delegate. Writers need to write, obviously. But do they need to design book covers, source images, build websites, and monitor a million social feeds? Nope. This may sound like a painful concept, but once you have some wiggle room in your budget, it is definitely okay to hire a virtual assistant (VA) to help you with some of your non-writing administrative tasks. You don’t have to do it all.
- Set better boundaries. Look. We get that you need to work to get paid, but you do not need to churn out a bunch of $5 or $10 articles at an alarming rate to survive. This means assessing your workload, asking for raises, and starting to slowly replace the work you deem as low-paying with stuff that pays more. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s a true example of how to “work smarter, not harder.” You can’t grow if your calendar is always full of work at the same low rate — and you will burn out.
- Stay in your niche. Becoming a subject matter expert (like the ones we hire at Content Ready) helps to cut down on the boredom. You will really know what you’re talking about, which reduces research and writing time because what you are looking at will make sense. It’s okay to stray from your niche from time to time, but try to have at least one you can call your own.
The truth is we could go on and on (and on and on and on) with time management tips for busy writers. At the end of the day, what we really want is for you to know you are respected and appreciated. We want you to live happy, balanced lives — preferably with a little spare time for something other than work.
Do us a favor? Leave us a comment and let us know what your #1 non-negotiable time management tip is. We’d love to hear from you!
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