We have all been there. You are running your own writing business and the work is piling up. The chores need doing, your children need feeding and entertaining and you cannot seem to get on top of things.
That feeling of being overwhelmed can quickly turn to panic and procrastination. This can lead you down the rabbit-hole of giving up, due to the never ending stress and exhaustion.
Here are a few tips on beating those feelings of overwhelm and getting your work done.
Are you obsessing and stressing over all the things you need to do?
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Is every single one of those things truly necessary?
I find I often put pressure on myself to assign top priority to every little thing on my to-do list. One simple way of overcoming this is to keep your to-do list concise.
Keep it short and to the point and it will go a long way to alleviate those feelings of overwhelm and panic.
If you still find that your to-do list is growing longer then your arm, then sit down with your list and re-examine it.
Be brutally honest with yourself and work out what is top priority, and what can be put off for a day, a week, or longer. This is where my trusty highlighters come out to play! I colour code my to-do list. Pink = urgent, do now (or as soon as possible). Orange = semi-urgent, needs to be done within a week. Blue = not urgent, but should be done within a 2-3 week time frame. And green = things’ that are not due for a while (i.e a month or so).
Kate Hamill writes a post about overwhelm as a freelance writer, and she uses a similar “de-prioritising” approach. However rather then colour codes, she uses checkmarks. One check means to complete that task as soon as possible, two checks means it can wait, and three means it is relatively not important at this point in time.
I am a visual person, and I find the colour scheme really helps. However if checkmarks or something else works for you then use that. You simply need to find a way that resonates and keeps you on track!
Of course the list need to be updated on a regular basis, but it helps you to continually evaluate what your are putting on there and what needs to be a top priority.
I do harp on about being organised, but it is your saving grace!
Nothing contributes to stress levels and feeling overwhelmed like a stack of papers, tasks and what looks like a never-ending pile of work on your desk. Your motivation will plummet and you will find every excuse to procrastinate.
So how do you overcome this?
Firstly, I break down all larger, complex projects into smaller tasks.
For example if I have a large project I will break it down into smaller tasks.
Example: A 2000 word article on “How to train your dog using positive reinforcement”.
I will break down into the following tasks:
- Outline (introduction, subheadings, conclusion)
- Rough Draft
- Revise and Edit
- Final Draft
- Revise and Edit
With each of these tasks, I usually put a note next to them of their “due date”.
In the beginning you will make mistakes. You will underestimate how much time you need to put towards researching your topics or for editing and revising. But the more you do it the better you become, and the easier you will find the flow of work and estimating time frames.
Once you have this under control and ticking of those smaller tasks for the large projects you will feel as though you are making some headway.
Secondly, having a diary where you write everything down.
You don’t want to forget due dates for projects and have to scramble back through your correspondence with a client to find out when they want it by. It also helps you sort out your workweek if you know exactly what needs to be done that week.
Being organised is a huge component of being a freelance writer, building your own business and especially those of us who are also work-at-home-mums. To really do this topic justice I will post a blog later that focuses solely on organisation, and how it helps us be more successful and stress free!
In the meantime grab your free copy of “12 Tips to Kickstart Your Freelance Writing Business”.
Organisation and re-prioritising of your tasks and to-do lists will help you form a plan and schedule of how to tackle your workload throughout the week.
If you have a plan it will go a long way in helping you feel in control of your work, and therefore alleviate that feeling of being overwhelmed. It gives you a framework of how the day ahead is going to go, so when you start in the morning (or whenever you conduct your freelance and writing work) you have a beginning point.
And as the saying goes…failure to plan is planning to fail!
Part of my plan is to tick at least one thing off my to-do list each day. Even completing one small simple task a day helps to keep me from being overwhelmed.
I feel like I have accomplished something and it makes it easier to keep moving forward and tackling what can feel like a never-ending list of things to do.
Tackle multiple projects at the same time.
When you have multiple projects at the same time how do you normally tackle them?
Do you complete one, then the other, and then the other?
Or do you tackle them all at the same time?
Personally, I find that if I have multiple projects on the go at once that the best way is to try make a dent in each one daily so that I am making constant progress on all of them.
If I know I have a good chunk of writing time, lets say for example a 4 hour block (it very rarely happens, but its been known to happen from time to time), then I will set a block of time for each project. So if I have 4 projects, then I will set an alarm to go off hourly, and at the end of each hour I will swap to the next project. Remembering, of course, the importance of regular breaks!
To really make the most of your time, then you need to concentrate on just that task for whatever time frame you have allocated it.
For example, when I was drafting this blog I eked out a 30-minute window, and for those 30 minutes I focused only on getting this blog written. I closed my Internet browser, email, Facebook or anything else that may have distracted me. I turned my phone on silent and focused for 30 minutes on just writing. You will surprise yourself how much you can accomplish when you take away all those distractions.
You can do it. Repeat after me. “NO”!
It is a simple, two-letter word, yet for some reason many of us have a hard time saying it. NO!
You absolutely do not need to take on every single project that comes your way. It is ok to say NO!
Ask yourself, would a client prefer you to be honest from the start and tell them you cannot take on their project as you already have a full workload, or to hand in poor quality work because you were so overwhelmed by your workload?
It is the smarter risk to turn them away and hope they return when you are not so busy, then to risk developing a bad reputation for poor quality work.
And finally, ask for help!
Like saying no, asking for help appears to be hard for many of us. We hate not being perfect and in control of everything.
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Could your partner help out with the chores so you can spend more time writing?
Can your children (if you have any) go visiting or into care for a few hours so you can finish that article?
Could you ask a fellow freelancer or writer to help you out (for a reasonable payment)?
Can you ask a client for an extension on the due date, without damaging that relationship?
The key is to ask for help, in whatever form that is, when you need it. Why not start by subscribing below!