A Freelance Writer’s Confessions: How I Stay Focused and Use My Time Efficiently

As a freelance writer, you probably have to manage several projects at a time, don’t you? And it can be tough when the latest YouTube fitness video catches your eye, or there are hilarious doggy memes to scroll through, can’t it?

When I have a couple of different projects on the go, I find it helps to have a checklist of steps to manage my workload. Let me share my checklist with you.

  1. Create a Schedule

This is the easiest way to keep on top of things, but when you have a few projects to work on at a time, keeping track of your deadlines is not enough. I keep a simple spreadsheet of my main deadlines, and then I set smaller deadlines for myself for each step of the project, like creating a plan and outline, doing research, putting the first draft together, and so on. This helps me avoid trying to finish everything on the day the project is due.

I go one step further here and set a schedule for work times for each part of the project. I block off, say, two or three hours for research, depending on the project, and this helps me stay focused.

If I really have a lot on my plate, I find the Google calendar app helps me stay up to date. I set aside a few minutes at the end of my working day to update my lists and calendar so the next day is accounted for and I can sit down and carry on the next morning.

  1. Getting Priorities Right

When I have multiple projects going on, I do find myself bouncing back and forth between tasks to try and get everything done on time. So, I take a deep breath and prioritize each of the steps I set out in point one. I then make sure I finish each step of each project before moving on to the next.

Most of the time, this means I have to start with the things I need from other people – usually that’s a clear brief, any required resources, and any necessary collaborations. It can take time for people to get back to you, so while I’m waiting for that I start doing my research. This way, I get all the information I need together well before the deadline and still leave time to follow up with contacts.

Then, I set to work on projects according to due date or the intensity of the piece – whichever works well with the current workload.

  1. Keep Organized

I find it’s easy to feel scattered when there’s a lot going on, especially working from home when there are chores to be done, a family to look after, and deadlines to meet. By keeping organized I don’t have to spend a second searching for notes and I greatly minimize my stress levels.

I keep all my folders on my laptop clearly labeled and even assign individual folders to each client and project. It’s as easy as that!

  1. Start As Soon As Possible

Never wait until the day before, or worse, the day of a deadline to start, especially when your schedule is full. You never know what hurdles you could come across and starting early can help minimize surprises sneaking up on you the day before a big deadline.

I like to start my projects early so I can work through my ideas while driving around, doing the housework, or cooking dinner. That way, I keep working through my plan before I even sit down to write.

  1. Batching The Work

Batching the work helps keep me productive and focused. I try to work on specific pieces of projects on the same day, instead of sitting down and trying to complete the entire thing at once. For instance, if I need to make calls, I schedule them for the afternoon so I can do them all in one go and not interrupt my writing time. It also means I get to write down all the interview questions in one preparation session.

What’s important here is to understand when your energy is at its best. For instance, I find it a breeze to conduct a couple of interviews in one day, but I certainly can’t schedule several different writing projects in a single day – that requires a high-intensity of focus and energy.

  1. Staying Focused

When I block off time for each project, I make sure that time is dedicated to the project so that I can create quality work. In other words, I only do what I have scheduled at that time. I shut down my email programs, switch off my phone, and don’t go near social media. I also don’t put a single thought into another project, remaining focused on that one item that I have scheduled.

If a genius idea does happen to pop into my head for another project, I make a quick note and come back to it later.

Final Word

Getting your priorities right and finding a good way to balance multiple projects is difficult at first, but with the above techniques and enough practice, it does get easier. In fact, you’ll find yourself finishing work on time, at a high quality, and still have time for a glass of wine and a chapter of the latest thriller!