If you’re a content or blog writer for hire, chances are you’ve already heard the (sound) advice to keep a regular schedule to avoid burnout and stay productive. But how do you find the routine that’s just right for you? How do you get into your unique, profitable, productive groove?
Track Your Time
Until you know exactly how you’re spending your writing day, you’re at risk of your day working you instead of you working a productive day. If you’re anything like me, you may indulge in some myths about your preferred working style. “Sure,” you think to yourself. “I’ll just get up at dawn and power through a full day’s earnings by mid-morning. I just have to stay focused!” The early risers among us may be nodding their heads sagely, but it simply won’t work in the long run if you’re fighting the demands of your non-writing responsibilities and natural work and sleep cycles.
In order to discover what those cycles are, dedicate a week to recording the way you spend your writing time. Do this without any judgment; the goal here is to discover where you’re naturally most productive and follow the path of least resistance. You can simply jot down a few notes every 15 minutes on a notepad or spreadsheet (“6:00-6:15. Blearily sipped coffee and thought about my bed,”), but if this sounds too tedious or demoralizing, try a free timetracking tool, like ManicTime or RescueTime. These programs give accurate information about when you’re most productive, which will help you develop a writing routine that works with your natural ebbs and flows.
Find Your Groove
Once you have a clearer sense of when you’re naturally most and least productive, arrange your schedule to try and maximize productive writing time (and minimize open mouth screen staring time). It’s natural to resist routine, but creating a logical system that works with your natural tendencies can be an empowering and ultimately profitable step in your freelance career. Here are a few creative ideas for managing distraction and building strong routines:
- If you get distracted by housework, create a list of 10-15 minute tasks you can accomplish as “breaks” from your writing. When you feel your attention waning from the project at hand, save your progress and tackle one of these small tasks, then get back to work.
- If you get physically antsy, try building in short workouts throughout your day.
- If you waste time “organizing” your writing space, build in a routine each morning and evening to quickly clear your workspace of non-essential items like magazines, coffee cups and non-writing to-do lists.
- If you get “research” happy, try setting a timer for online research, then complete all actual writing in a word processing program. If the urge to browse is too strong, consider downloading Freedom, a web-blocking app that acclaimed novelists use to get the job done.
Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.