Why a Structured Work Schedule Is Key to Success as a Freelance Writer

Being a freelance writer comes with many perks. You get to choose your own schedule, work from anywhere and be your own supervisor. Writers and creatives are often drawn to that kind of work freedom, but many quickly realize it’s not as easy as it sounds. When you don’t have to clock in or report to a boss every day, it’s easy to find yourself slacking.

Even as a freelancer, it’s essential to create a structured work schedule to keep up. Following a schedule helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevents burnout when writing. Here’s why a structured schedule is important for freelance writers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

What Are the Benefits of a Structured Schedule?

A structured schedule can help you improve your workflow, productivity and organization. Here’s how it can help freelance writers:                

  • Keeps you on track with priorities and deadlines: A schedule will help you complete tasks on time and see when to work on specific assignments.
  • Reduces stress and decision fatigue: Research shows that the average American adult makes 35,000 decisions daily, which can take up a lot of mental space and energy. Make it easier for yourself by streamlining your routines and workflow. Planning your day saves the time and energy you would use to make decisions so you can get work done instead.
  • Helps you set accurate benchmarks: Over time, you will see how long it takes to complete a task, which will help you create more effective schedules.
  • Maintains your reputation: You want to be known as reliable. Schedules help you allocate time correctly and communicate your availability and capacity. Without a plan, you might spread yourself thin by overestimating how long tasks take to complete.
  • Minimizes mistakes and revisions: Preparation will help you feel calm and collected. As a result, you’re more likely to remember additional information or instructions for projects. You’ll also make fewer mistakes when you’re focused. 
  • Provides better work-life balance: Many freelancers find themselves working at all times of the day. While you do have the flexibility to work when you want to, having set hours will ensure that you don’t overwork yourself. If you have kids or a spouse, try to get your work done while they are at school or work. That way, you can spend time with them when they get home.

How Do You Create a Suitable Schedule?

Creating a schedule that suits your needs will make your workdays more productive. Here’s how to establish one that will improve your life as a freelance writer.

1.   Have a Set Start and Finish Time

A designated start time adds structure to your day and ensures you don’t spend too much time working. You will be able to make the most of your time and finish tasks before your workday ends.

2.   Establish Morning and Evening Routines

Your workday starts long before you sit at a desk and start typing. Everything you do before you start working can impact your productivity for the rest of the day.

Many remote workers fall into the habit of waking up minutes before they need to start working. If you set your start time to be 9:00 a.m., you don’t want to wake up at 8:50. Instead, give yourself time to eat breakfast, exercise, journal, get dressed and do anything else to energize you. Act like you’re getting ready to go into the office, even if you work from home.

In the evening, close your computer and put work issues aside until the following day.

A shutdown routine can look like making a list of incomplete tasks or projects, planning when to finish them, taking your dog for a walk or going to the gym. These habits will relax your brain after work and allow you to enjoy your evening.

3.   Write Down All Goals

Make a list of goals you want to work on for the week or month. Write down five small steps that you can take to reach that objective.

For example, write out all of the current projects you have to work on and give them each a deadline. For each project, write out all of the actions you need to complete, such as creating an outline, conducting research, scheduling interviews, writing the first draft and submitting it. Then, give each task a time block on your weekly calendar.

Breaking goals into smaller tasks will make projects feel less daunting and help you finish them on time.

4.   Create Time Blocks for Every Type of Task

Set aside time blocks for a specific task or a group of them. For example, you could block out 10 a.m. to noon for project outlines and research, noon to 1 p.m. for lunch, and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for writing.

If you repeat these actions at the same time every day, you’ll turn them into habits. After lunch, your brain will know it’s time to write, so you’ll already be mentally prepared to dive in. 

More to Consider

There are a few more things you should consider when creating an effective schedule:

  • Incorporate processing and cleanup time: A clear desk is a clear mind. Clutter and dust in your workspace can cause mental health issues and allergies and disrupt sleep patterns. No wonder work stressors amount to $190 billion in yearly health care costs for American businesses. Wipe down your desk regularly, sort papers and toss unnecessary items. A clean workspace will boost your productivity by reducing stress, maintaining health, increasing focus and saving time.
  • Be flexible: Plan for the unexpected. You may need to change your schedule slightly if disruptions or tasks take longer than expected. Incorporate breathing room and extra time to deal with issues without disrupting your scheduled plans.
  • Use apps and time-tracking tools: You can use Google Calendar or Todoist for time blocking and Zenwriter or Pomodoro timers to help you focus when writing. Find apps to suit your workflow and use them to make things easier.
  • Keep it simple: Whatever time-tracking method you choose, keep your schedule easy to follow and focused.
  • Learn your energy flow: Keep a log of how long it takes to do things at certain times of the day. Plan to tackle bigger projects when you have the most energy to prevent burnout. You may prefer to write in the afternoon and have meetings in the morning. Perhaps you feel more awake after lunchtime and can better focus on creating blog content. Optimize your schedule to work with your energy levels.

Manage Your Time Well for Success

It’s up to you to make your schedule. While this means you can work when and where you want, it can be challenging if you don’t have an effective system. A structured daily routine adds a sense of preparedness to your day and ensures you get everything done.

Author bio: Cora Gold is a freelance writer and editor of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. As a freelancer, Cora writes about wellness and balancing work with family. Connect with Cora on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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