Welcome to the first rule in “The 12 rules of freelance writing” series – Time management and organisation! This has been so much fun to write, and I hope that you will take lots of actionable tips away from this series. Without further ado, let’s get on with it!
This first rule is the BIGGEST!
Because without time management and organisation your business (and home life) would be a hot mess!
Mastering these really is the million-dollar ticket. But as a WAHM/WAHD it is difficult. There are so many balls we are juggling, it doesn’t take much to muck up the rhythm, and they all come tumbling down.
There is no easy answer here. No one size fits all. What works for one person will not work for another. Our styles of writing, running a business, the demands of our children and home life and how much help we have will directly impact the way we can manage and organise our time and business commitments.
Here are a few things that I use in the course of my days to stay on top of my freelance writing business, and still be present with my family. Try a few out and see if they help you stay organised and on top of your time.
Holy smokes, I love batching. Before I found and utilised this technique I would just work ad hoc, fitting it in where I could and just hoping I would finish it all in time. Enter the incredible “batching tasks” technique that has boosted my productivity and streamlined my day!
What is batching?
Simply put, batching is where you group together similar tasks and complete them all at the same time. You use “task windows” to work on these set projects, and only these tasks. Similar to the Pomodoro technique where you set a timer and work for 25 minutes on a task without interruption. It is a great form of time management.
For example, on Mondays I know that I have three “task windows”. Approximately 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon during my daughters naps, and than usually about 2 hours or more in theevening. I break Mondays into:
Task Window 1: Research Decembers blog posts (ALL of them)
Task Window 2: Outline Decembers blog posts. (Again, ALL of them…so this month it was A LOT).
Task Window 3: Research and Outline client work. If I finish those tasks, I start to write out the blog posts and projects.
Obviously, if things do not go to plan I have to change this up a bit. Say if my daughter decides she isn’t going to nap in the afternoon. Or she only sleeps 30mins. And I am sure it will all change again soon…like when my daughter drops to one sleep a day and my son starts 3-year-old kinder.
Be flexible and go with the flow as much as possible. However, use that window to focus solely on those tasks. No other distractions such as Facebook or Twitter!
I also use batching for home life. Around my task windows for my freelance work and blog, I create different windows for:
- Going for walks (with our dog and the children).
- Cooking/meal prep.
- Play time.
Give it a try and see how it works for you!
Project Management and Planners.
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of a paper and pen planner. I know, I am old school. But I find the act of writing out a plan soothing. It centres me and I find I remember things more clearly when I have handwritten them, rather then if I have typed them into an online project management system or spreadsheet.
I simply have a monthly spread that I write when big projects are
I also use Asana. By looking at my paper planner I can then input the tasks into Asana, breaking them down into smaller chunks with due dates.
For example, for this blog post I knew I wanted to publish it on the 13th of December. I put a post-it note on the 13th December on my paper content calendar with the blog title. Than in Asana I broke it down into smaller tasks with due dates for each:
To keep track of pitches, publications and guest posts I use good old excel spreadsheets! My hubby (computer savvy as he is) has even helped me create one where the cells turn different colours to remind me to follow up!
Create a schedule and STICK TO IT!
The best way to do this is:
- Work out how many hours per week you have to work on your freelance writing business.
- Break those hours down into:
- Marketing (promoting your business, your website, networking etcetera).
- Pitching (contacting potential clients, applying for jobs).
- Developing your portfolio(guest blogging, online publications).
- Client work.
- Decide how many hours you want/need to spend on each of those areas and separate them into task windows.
Now you have your tasks windows, simply put them into your weekly schedule and you, for a productive week!
Never miss a deadline!
I cannot stress this point enough! Building a business and creating a solid reputation is all about good reviews, positive customer experiences and showing you are a professional! Part of that is meeting the agreed upon deadlines.
Last year I did not write down some extra work I agreed to take on for a regular client. It was quite a large company. Long story short, I forgot about the work and missed the deadline. I lost the client and therefore one of my regular sources of income. Yes, some people will argue it was only one missed deadline and seems a bit harsh…however, a large company doesn’t have time to muck around and usually have a huge pool of freelancers they can draw from. Why would they waste their time on one who cannot deliver what they promised?
So do not be like me. Don’t make the same mistake. Write everything down, and make sure you meet that deadline!
My biggest tip to ensure you meet those deadlines each and every time is ALWAYS WORK AHEAD! Set yourself a deadline that is a few days before your client work is actually due. Or even a week.
That way if illness hits (always a high probability with children around), or anything else unexpected you will be on top of your work! And fingers crossed you will never miss a deadline.
Organise and time manage your children!
Time management and organisation is not just for us WAHM and freelance writers. You will not be able to achieve anything if your children are constantly interrupting you.
Utilise family, friends, babysitters and childcare. Even if it is only for a few hours a week, you will surprise yourself how much you can knock off your to-do list during that alone time.
I use childcare twice a week. At the moment one of those days I am at a nursing shift, and the other is a whole day to dedicate to my business! It is amazing. I cannot tell you how much I can get done in 5 solid hours of work.
On the other days, I use batching for task windows during my daughters sleeps (as I mentioned earlier). I set up an activity for my son, such as his train tracks or play dough. Most of the time, he is happy to be playing near me without too much input from me.
We try to be as routine in the evenings as possible, so both children are in bed and asleep by 7:30pm. My hubby and I will take it in turns to tidy, do the dishes and sweep whilst the other bathes and dresses the children. That way by the time they are in bed the house is all nice and clean and I can sit down to work!
My biggest time management hint…
Ask for help!
Yep. Super simple. One little word. Help.
Struggling to keep up with all the cleaning? Ask for help! Perhaps you and your partner can swap out week-to-week who takes on the majority of the cleaning.
Maybe you can fit hiring a cleaner into your budget.
Busy work week? Book the children for an extra day at childcare. Or ask family or friends to entertain them for a few hours so you can get it done.
Do not be afraid to ask for help! It is not a failure. It is not shameful. You are one person and you cannot do everything!
My favourite mantra:
You can do anything, just not everythingDavid Allen
I try to live by it. And the simple message is to delegate. Ask for help. Balance.