Ask any writer when she works most efficiently, and she’s likely to say it’s right before a deadline. When we’re in a time crunch, we tend to jettison all the time-wasters and just get down to business. We work efficiently, streamline our copy and tend to produce great results in a small amount of time.
Ask any writer about her normal workday and she’ll probably describe a stream of work, with one task flowing into the other and no definitive scheduling. She may start the day with a list of things to do, but she’ll work on #1 until it’s finished, then move on to #2, no matter how long it takes. At least once a week—or more if she’s easily distracted!—this means she quits at the end of the day without finishing her to-do list. Either that, or it’s another night playing catch-up, missing out on a personal life once again.
Working this way might feel natural to you, and it’s an easy method to fall into, but it’s probably the least efficient way to run your writing business. A better way to organize your work time is with block scheduling.
Set up your day with a to-do list like before, but use an hourly planner to nail down every assignment. You may start the day in the first hour working on an assignment from Client A, create a copywriting swipe file in the next 45 minutes and spend 90 minutes on marketing and branding after that. Write down everything you have to accomplish in the day, estimate how long it will take, and make an appointment for each of your tasks. Add time for email, social media and lunch, because you can’t work for 8-10 hours straight without a break for your brain.
Set a timer for the amount of time you have scheduled for your first task, then get to work. In the back of your mind you’ll always have the thought that you are on a time limit, so wasting time on Facebook or Pinterest shouldn’t be an option. Besides, they’re scheduled for their own block in the day, so you can wait until then.
When the timer goes off, save the work you have finished, reset the timer and move on to the next task. Don’t worry if you have finished the task or not. Just switch gears and do the next thing on your list. If you finish a task early, use the extra time on tasks you may not have gotten done yet, or on one you know will take longer than normal. Schedule a block of time at the end of each day for catch-up, if you find yourself not finishing tasks, or set up longer blocks in which to work.
Block scheduling helps to shut down your wandering brain and focuses your thoughts on the task at hand. If you often find yourself wondering where your day went and why you don’t have more to show for it, try it for two weeks and see how much more you’ll get done in the same amount of time.
Victoria B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.