Want to live happily ever after as a successful freelance blogger?
Then you’ve got to get stuff done, get it done well and get it done on time.
Sounds simple, but it’s not always that easy.
Looming deadlines and a rising workload are sure signs business is booming and the dream is coming true. But when the pressure starts to build and the panic’s setting in, you can find yourself lost in the writing woods.
Never fear. Whether you’re struggling to get started on a project, spinning your wheels in the messy middle or challenged by completion, together we can tame the wolves of time and reach grandma’s cottage safely (a.k.a. meet the deadlines, deliver the goods and exceed the expectations of our clients).
1: Start long before the clock strikes midnight
Far, far away, the fantasy of more time beckons. It’s easy to get caught up imagining how much you can do tomorrow, yet not always making the best of today.
As freelance bloggers, we need a steady stream of work coming in to pay the bills. We can’t rely on the future, we have to make the most of the time we have now.
Frontloading is the ultimate deadline-beating technique. You do a short scan and plan session at the outset of each project, so that you can assess how long the job will take and gather the information and resources you need. Then let the frontloading ball begin!
Frontloading means you target more effort and attention at the start of the project, as opposed to spreading your time equally or putting in more hours near the end. This approach gives you the flexibility and freedom to adapt to changing deadlines and demands.
Getting a large chunk of work out the way early gives you a sense of security and confidence. And if a project’s taking longer than you anticipated, you’ve got some wriggle room, rather than finding yourself in the pit of despair, or worse, grovelling to clients for more time.
2: You can be the fairest of them all (But you’ve got to start writing)
We can’t rely on a magic mirror to declare us the finest writer of them all, we’ve got to get out there and prove it.
Yet the struggle to start and the frustration of being interrupted are common to all freelance bloggers (and all humans). Science reveals why.
Long, long ago, Newton challenged our understanding of motion. He realised that the natural tendency of all objects is to resist movement. To move an object, a force has to be strong enough to overcome the object’s natural inertia, but once in motion, objects can keep going until another force acts to stop them.
Simply put, we all like to keep doing what we’re doing. Starting is the hardest part and once you’re moving, momentum’s got your back.
To triumph over the evil powers of inertia, take these 3 secret weapons and use them well:
Eating frogs – Making us slightly queasy, we’ve all got some important tasks we’ve been avoiding. Hideous and ugly now, these frogs have special powers. If we can take them down, we’re instantly boosted, invigorated and revitalised, like a magic wand cast over our day.
Do it wrong – Escape the evil clutches of perfectionism and start writing. Give yourself permission to write as badly as you can. Only once we start filling our canvas, do we have any hope of crafting a masterpiece. Without a first ugly draft there’s nothing to edit and as we all know, editing is where the magic happens.
Do it now – ‘If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.’ Use the five second rule to get moving before the mental sabotage begins. Counting backwards from 5 down to 1 distracts and occupies our mind. On 1, we act and as we do this again and again, it gets a little bit easier every time.
3: Stop falling down rabbit holes (and get the important stuff done)
Imagine the day as a jar of time, and your tasks as rocks and sand. It’s easy to see how piling in the big rocks, or tackling the most important tasks first, leaves space for the sand to nestle nicely in the gaps.
Fitting in the less significant, though often more pressing tasks, like the laundry, around the high priority activities, like writing, helps you achieve more in a day.
If you start pouring in the sand, distracted by a steady stream of smaller tasks, it becomes more and more difficult to fit those big rocks in your jar. And if you don’t get to them soon, they might just become the rock monsters of your nightmares.
But don’t be seduced by the illusion that endlessly tinkering with your schedule will allow you to cram yet more and more into that jar. ‘Productivity isn’t about doing a lot of stuff. It’s about getting the important stuff done.’ If you keep adding to that jar, eventually it’s going to break.
If you’ve got too much to do, then you have to make some tough choices. Decide what *must* be done by you right now. Defer, delegate or ditch the rest.
4: Always be ready for the elves to show up (and put them straight to work)
If we want to take advantage of the elves of opportunity, those small pockets of time in our day waiting for someone or something, we’ve got to have our shoe leather cut and ready. Quick bursts of activity can yield amazing results, and those small chunks of time can quickly add up. But to make the most of them, we’ve got to know what needs to be done and have the right tools ready.
Create a to-do list of clear action statements (like ’email clients A and B’ or ‘wash kitchen floor’) rather than grand nebulous ambitions (‘complete project X’ or ‘clean the house’) to eliminate the dilly dallying of decision making.
So when the elves of opportunity give you an unexpected half-hour of free time, you could:
- Speed-clean a specific area
- Prepare food or plan meals for later
- Read and reply to emails
- Make short calls
- Finish your filing or clean up your drive
- Conjure up some new ideas
- Edit or proofread a post
- Outline or research an idea
Fitting these small tasks into unexpected time gaps will ensure they still get done, without derailing or distracting you from your larger, more important tasks.
5: Put your eggs in one basket… But make sure they’re all golden
Research shows switching between different tasks can take up to 50% more time than sticking to activities of a specific type. When we jump from one task to another, it can take as long as 23 minutes to regain our focus.
Batching similar activities saves us time, stress and energy. Checking our emails in one session rather than responding to them individually is a classic example, but there are many ways batching can work for freelance bloggers.
If we’re lucky enough to have a flurry of new work arriving, we can scan and plan en masse. Dedicate an afternoon to paperwork, finances, or approaching new clients. Research upcoming projects, schedule social media or fire off some pitches.
Not only will we get more done, but facing these daring deeds as a job-lot, can strengthen our skills and boost our bravery.
6: Plant your magic beans to get more done forever and ever
Checklists, automation, routine and habits possess powerful magic. Tend them well and they can transform our days, reducing anxiety, increasing our energy and saving us time.
Checklists and templates ease the burden of complex, difficult or repetitive tasks, speeding up the process and ensuring we don’t miss any vital steps. Use checklists for editing, creating specific types of blog posts and for crafting quality pitches. Create templates for invoicing and emails.
Embrace the digital age and let online tools and apps become your loyal servants.
Routine gives shape to our lives and minimises decision fatigue as we cruise through our day. Time blocking, alarms, reminders and notes keep us on track and moving forward.
Cultivating the right habits can bolster our productivity – waking up early, writing every day and pre-writing rituals can all set the scene for our success. Harness the power of repetition, habit tracking and habit stacking and those dragons of procrastination, overwhelm and disorganisation will be banished forever.
Which of these strategies swept you off your feet? Let us know in the comments, and share your best tips for getting stuff done.