Everyone would love to tack on extra hours to each day. Who couldn’t use a little more time to get assignments done, run errands, or check items off that mile-long To-Do list? No magical formula exists to make your days longer, but strategies that can help you use your time better are abundant. One of the major strategies calls for a close examination of the “time wasters” in your life.
We all have them — activities that eat away at our hours without really giving us anything in return. From distractions like TV and pointless websites, to cluttered office space and unorganized working routines, time-wasters can creep in almost unnoticed.
Luckily for you, some new habits will get you back on track in no time.
Nix the Television Obsession
Let’s face it, after an exhausting 8 hours at your day job, or a hectic afternoon of freelance madness, plopping down in front of the latest installment of American Idol with a cozy blanket seems irresistible. While TV has its time and place, indulging in it often will no doubt lead to a time-shortage. Especially if you freelance on the side, while holding down a 9-to-5 job, any spare moments you have left in a day become precious commodities.
A one hour block of free time could mean getting an article written, finishing revisions for a client, or sending off queries to your dream publication — all done in the time it would have taken to watch the a rerun of your favorite TV show. If you find yourself glued to the tube more often than you should, try writing down the times you can give in — guilt-free. For example, you could block out Tuesday and Friday evenings after 8pm for those must-see shows. At all other times keep the TV unplugged or ask your spouse or kids to hide the remote.
One Browser at a Time, Please
As freelancers, we become practically tethered to our computers – whether desktops, laptops, or both. The advent of the World Wide Web has made the writer’s life about seven thousand times easier by streamlining communication, piling on information at our finger tips, and opening up the entire globe for access in our living rooms.
But, for those of us who spend countless hours in front of a computer screen, the Internet can also turn into a great distraction. Habits, like checking email every three minutes, replying to each post on your favorite forum, or updating yourself on the every hot viral YouTube video, consume more of your day than you probably realize.
No worries, though. This type of Internet wandering has a cure. While working on anything related to your freelance writing life, keep only one browser (and one tab) open at a time. While researching background material for a query, searching for a perfect source for your next article, or blogging for your newest client, stay on track. Don’t allow yourself to click over to your favorite gossip blog or check your inbox until you complete your task.
Organize Your Day
Whether you freelance full- or part-time, keeping a schedule will help you stay productive. Having control of your own schedule as freelancer has plenty of perks, but going overboard with this freedom can mean your work suffers.
Write down the hours you plan to spend working on your writing-related stuff, and then fill in the task you will work on during each time interval. Work on the most time-sensitive items first, and then work your way down to less important tasks. This way, when you sit down to begin working, you’ll know exactly what to do. You will be less likely to waste the first half of your days with busywork, while you decide where to start.
Of course, the life of a freelance writer has plenty of unpredictability, but when at all possible, map out your day and then stick to your guns. It will give you peace of mind and help you stay productive.
Get Your Stuff in Order
If you weren’t born as one of those naturally organized individuals, then your clutter slows you down.
How much time do you waste looking for that scrap of paper with an important contact’s information on it? Or that flash drive you swore you put next to your laptop?
No one knows.
The very next time you have the chance, clean your workspace and decide on a specific place for all your important things. For unruly paper messes, use labeled file folders, and invest in (or download a free) contact management system for all those phone numbers and email addresses. Put everything back in its place.
In addition to keeping your physical workspace de-cluttered, make sure to keep your desktop and computer documents in line as well. Create separate files on your hard drive for each type of document you frequently create (i.e. Articles in Progress, Completed Articles, Contracts, Queries).
On a roll?
Make separate folders in your inbox and organize your emails, too.
Everyone has their own time-wasters. You could have ones similar to those listed here, or you may have different ones. Stay on guard for time consuming, but unnecessary, tasks and then find a way to streamline or eliminate them. If you do, you’ll notice your productivity will increase and you’ll have more time for the important stuff.
Your Take: What time wasters have you had to conquer? Any bad habits you still need to overcome? Tell us about it.
Photo credits: prductivity501 dot com and fitnessgurusam dot com, respectively