Q: How can I cram in a full day of work when I’ve got meetings, appointments, errands, etc?
The phrase, “The work expands to fill the time allotted” is particularly relevant when it comes to freelancing. If you don’t create ways to make the most of the time you DO have to write, an entire day can slip away because you’ve got a meeting, doctor’s appointment, dental check-up, etc. Here are a few ways I “trick” myself into doing in four to six hours what might take others eight to ten.
1. Keep your “to-do” list full. Every night I make a list of all the things I have to get done in the next five to seven days – even if I can’t finish them all the next day. If I only wrote down “write column,” for example, because I knew I had a doctor’s appointment at 1 p.m., it would take me all four hours in the morning to write the column. But because I’m looking at a list of say, 10 assignments, I might get three or four done in the morning instead.
2. Break projects into smaller tasks. Writing a 2,000-word article can look like a daunting task on your list, causing you to put it off until you feel like you can get a huge chunk of time to do it all at once. Instead, break it up into segments: write intro, make outline, call one interview, etc.
3. Keep a running list of “blind” tasks. These are things you do without looking, like while you drive. You can brainstorm greeting card ideas, come up with a title for your article or even practice SAYING different openings for your query to Men’s Health. (I do this last one a lot while I’m in the shower. I can’t sing but I can belt out a catchy opening paragraph!)
4. Do the high-concentration tasks while you’re alone and multi-task the rest. Check email while you’re on hold, return phone calls while you wait for the kids at school, write thank you notes in the dentist’s waiting room, etc. If you use your pure writing time for non-essentials, you’ll fritter it away and the day will escape you. Use your time wisely and you will get a full day’s work done in half a day.
Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just four years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer, MSNBC.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful children, Gracie and Ben. Visit www.BurtCreations.com to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad.