What will you do tomorrow? If you have no idea, you’re probably not a planner by nature.
Unfortunately, good planning is an important part of being productive. Fortunately, you can change your habits and use planning techniques even if you don’t normally plan.
In this post I share four critical tips that will help you to get more done.
You can use these tips for writing tasks, general tasks related to running your business, or just about anything you need to do. At the end of the post I also include some calendar tools that can help you plan your writing.
This is the second post in my series on productivity. The first post in the series is How to Get More Done and Earn More $$.
Tip #1. Have a Good Plan
A good plan needs goals that are achievable.
Your goals need to be realistic. If you set an unrealistic goal, you set yourself up for frustration and failure.
How can you tell whether a goal is realistic?
A warning flag that a goal is unrealistic is that you have no idea how you’re going to reach the goal. Another red flag to watch out for is goals that can’t be measured. If you can’t measure it, how do you know if you’re making progress?
For example, a goal like “I’m going to quit my job and earn a million dollars freelancing by the end of the year” is unrealistic for most writers. But, you may reach a goal like “I’m going to contact five prospective clients a week with a goal of winning two more clients this month.” You just need to carefully qualify your prospects first.
If you can’t tell whether you’ve met your goal, you may need to revisit your plan.
Your plan should also be simple, especially if you don’t normally plan your time or your projects.
Once you’ve developed your plan, you’re not done yet.
Tip #2. Have a Plan B
Even the best plans have flaws. If your plan fails and you don’t have a backup plan, you may feel panic–and with good reason. A major setback could cause you to miss a deadline and lose a client.
That’s why I like to have a backup plan in place for large or critical tasks.
While having a backup plan may sound ambitious, remember that a backup plan doesn’t have to be complex to work. Simpler plans are often better.
An example of a simple backup plan is having writer friends who are willing to step in and cover you if you get sick or face some other emergency.
Although I usually don’t use backup writers, I often include a clause about them in my contracts for larger projects. That way, I know in advance that the client is okay with me bringing on an extra writer.
Like your main plan, you also want your backup plan to be achievable and measurable.
Tip #3. Use Your Time Wisely
For most of us, that means scheduling tasks. It may also mean understanding yourself and knowing what times of the day are most productive for you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you schedule your time wisely:
- What time of the day am I must productive? Some people work best in the morning, while others are night owls. Schedule your heaviest tasks when you are most productive.
- When are my clients most likely to need me to be available? Location may affect your client’s needs. Plan some of your working time so you are available when your client needs you.
- How long do I think each task on this project will take me? Many freelance writers underestimate how much work needs to be done. Be careful with your estimates and keep records for future estimates.
- How much time can I realistically spend working each day? Can you actually work as many hours as you think you can? Keep in mind unbillable and personal tasks that will affect project hours.
The answers to these questions can definitely help you manage your time. For even more tips on time management check out my post, 6 Steps for Managing Your Time as a Writer.
Tip #4. Don’t Put Tasks Off
Don’t feel like working today? Work anyway.
Procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles to productivity. This is why self-discipline is important.
One of the dangers of freelancing is that no one is looking over your shoulder or checking to make sure that you are getting your work done. It’s all up to you.
A simple way to make sure that you don’t put important tasks off is to track the time you work on project-related tasks. (This will also help you estimate the time you need for future projects.)
You don’t need a complex tool to track your time (although there are tools available). I use a spreadsheet. I enter the time I start a work-related task and the name of the task. If I switch gears or quit working I enter that time to.
At the end of the day, I know exactly how much time I spent working and what I worked on.
After tracking your time for a while, the number breaks you take during the day might surprise you. Or, you may be startled to learn much time you spend on non-project related tasks.
Calendar Tools to Help You Plan
There are a lot of content calendar tools that can help you to manage your writing. Here are just a few:
- All Indie Writers Template. This is a free spreadsheet template to help you manage content creation and promotion.
- Co Schedule. (Pricing starts at $17 a month, but there is a free trial). This tool not only helps you to plan your web content, but also helps you to schedule content promotion through social media.
- Edit Flow. This is an open source WordPress plug-in to help you manage your content.
- MarketingNut Template. Not only do you get a free editorial calendar template, there is also a 30+ minute podcast that explains how to use it.
- WordPress Plug-in. WordPress has its own editorial calendar plug-in. This plug-in allows you to manage your planned and scheduled blog posts in calendar view.
This post has some practical steps and tools to help you improve your productivity as a writer and as a small business owner. Share your own favorite productivity tips and tools in the comments.