Scheduling Tips for Freelancers

I don’t understand why focus is so difficult these days. It never used to be. When I worked for someone else, I knew what time I started, what time I finished and I knew exactly what to do and when to do it in between. Now, working for myself, I just don’t seem to know – when to start, what to do first, when to quit. It’s frustrating as all hell. Grant proposals to write – for pay. Business plans to write for pay. A poetry manuscript to edit. A short story manuscript to compile. A website to complete, both personal and for pay. This whole blogging thing to work on. And then of course there are dishes, laundry, and cooking, cleaning, building relationships. On and on and on. Ahhhhhh! The whole thing about setting a schedule to work by is psychological. I get this feeling then that I’m no longer independent, once again on a timetable. Yet here’s the thing. If there’s no timetable, then nothing really gets done. Haphazard and scattered bits and pieces. I’ve had no customer complaints, except the one internal customer – me!

So, I’ve started something I’ve never done-a to do list. Not in any kind of order, the first thing to do is get it all down, brainstorm, everything that can be thought of that needs doing, keeping household separate from both personal and paid work. Then decide which takes priority. Sometimes this can cross over because sweeping or cooking can free up the mind to receive ideas for the others. It’s gonna take at least a day to get everything organized, at least for me, to have all paid stuff ordered together, all personal, etc.

Then calculate at least an 8-hour day, just like a job. When I first became self-employed I used to get up and prepare myself just like I was going to the office. I’ve since gotten lazy and usually get up, grab a cup of java and sit down at the computer. Wrong! Shower, brush teeth, get dressed and then go to work! There’s an old saying about saving money that you pay yourself first, otherwise it’ll all be gone by the time you get around to you. The same holds true for work. While we think that we should do paying jobs first, because after all, that’s what’s keeping the roof over our heads, when we’re done, we have no brain power left for our personal stuff. So, my choice is “me first.” Read my email, gather ideas for writing & blogging, then do the actual writing and blogging. Spend some time marketing, checking out submission guidelines, publishers, etc. At least half of the 8-hour day should be spent on personal work otherwise the success will never come. And breaks have to come in somewhere. Breaks were taken at corporate so why not at home? Stretches, coffee breaks, lunch, and all away from the computer. Again, it frees up the mind to receive.

Now, all is ready for the customers. The remainder of the workday is spent on the paying gigs with a fresh, alert and relieved mind, unhurried and unscattered. As I’ve said, I’ve yet to have a customer complaint but I can see the difference, if only in my approach to their project. And approach, with presentation, is everything.

Then dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning if it wasn’t used as a release earlier. Time for the significant other and even some time left over for a bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book. There’s really nothing magical about it, just harnessing the psychobabble that says, “you’re scheduled, you’re not free.” it’s that internal critic again, tying up and saying it can’t be done. With a little of the old hocus, pocus you can focus and poof, those ties are broken.

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