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time stress

time management bookI mentioned in my ASJA Writers Conference post last month that I picked up What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast after I heard the author Laura Vanderkam speak about efficiently using time. After finishing the book I started implementing more about what I read. I already have a fairly Type A structure to my time management. When my non-writer and non-freelancer friends see my Google Calendar they usually always say things like: “You schedule time to shower?!” or “You have dinner prep and dinner time in your calendar?” or “You schedule time to drive to meetings?” YES, for me to work with minimal stress and interruption, I need to plot out each day and know where my professional commitments lie so that I can plug ‘life’ in around it – and vice versa.

Vanderkam suggested during her talk at the conference, as well as in her book, to maintain a time diary. Spend a day, a few days, a week or longer–whatever you need–to honestly document how you spend all your time. Time sleeping, time exercising, at work, etc. I noticed that although my best intentions are scheduled on my calendar, I was often sidetracked by emails. The two hours I anticipated creating outlines of new web content for a startup? It was there in my calendar, but my inbox hijacked my time and I truly spent it responding to emails.

A few things I decided to do after learning more about different time management styles:

  • Identify most productive time. I’m a morning person. When I first started freelancing I would get up at 5AM most days and start querying magazines. By 9AM I had worked a half day and hadn’t even had breakfast. My rhythm has changed over the years. Now I prefer to use my mornings for exercise first. I like to get it out of the way. For the past few years I’ve been working out as soon as I wake up, with a few exceptions, then I start writing right away. However, when someone asks to grab a coffee at 10AM or review their site at 9AM, it throws a wrench into my whole flow. I focus and produce the most work before noon and that time would get lost. RESULT: No more morning meetings (unless necessary)! I’m guarding my most productive time.
  • Identify most creative time. Outside of my billable writing time, I want to set aside my creative thinking time for my personal writing projects. Ever since I can remember late night just before I fall asleep is absolutely the most creative time for me. RESULT: No more here-and-there random scheduling of short story and poetry writing.
  • Put a price on it. This is not a piece I gleaned from the book, but instead something that many friends have been telling me the past few months in my struggle to balance time. I’ve always given free 1-hour consultations for several reasons. One, it’s a great way to get to know the prospective client and for them to to get to know me. Two, even if it doesn’t lead to work with them they usually have a better understanding of who I am and what I do that they send referrals. Friends have told me not to meet in-person for consultations anymore, that it’s too time-intensive. Friends have also told me to start charging for consults. It would make me feel better to know that I’m not spending 2+ hours out of my day at my own expense (theoretically if I drive 30 minutes each way to a meeting and spend an hour there), and instead get compensated for that or use the time for billable work. RESULT: No more free 1-hour consultations. Instead, I’m offering free 15-minute phone consultations.

Of course, as with any lifestyle change – you need the self-discipline to stick to it! I’ve been fairly successful maintaining my improved schedule this month. If anything, I feel more in control of my time and a bit more balanced.

Speaking of time management as a blogger…registration for my first teleconference Write (Quality) Blog Posts Faster opens today. Not only do I maintain this blog, but I ghostwrite about 600 posts for other site owners annually. I’ve gathered some tips to share. The session starts at 1PM EST on Monday, July 11. Learn easy-to-manage tips for conceiving of valuable content topics and writing blog posts faster. Use these tips to expedite the development of your own blog or blogs you manage for other site owners. This is a 45-minute session followed by a 15-minute Q&A. If you can’t make it on the scheduled day/time, registrants will receive details for accessing a recording of the session. Advance registration required – register here. $29

Did you know you could have pre-registered for the seminar? I offer early registration to my newsletter subscribers.