When you decided to become a freelance travel writer, you probably thought you would have more freedom than an employee in a traditional job. And in many ways that’s true.
You can wake up without an alarm clock, take time off to exercise, and take vacations whenever you want.
Freedom is wonderful - but there's one big obstacle: WORK. Some people never get around to doing their work.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says:
Some of us call this procrastination. Others call it overwhelm.
Sometimes people are "waiting for inspiration". Mr. Pressfield calls it
Resistance with a capital “R”.
Call it what you will, it’s something we all suffer from, especially when we’re just starting out.
My work has been published a lot – more than 1000 times in nine years. Fellow writers have often asked me “how do you get so much done?” I can tell you, there’s no magic involved.
To be successful, I’ve evolved a number of systems and habits to get my work done – things that work well for me and help me to increase productivity. They can work for you, too.
This article is about seven habits that will increase your productivity. They can help you to get control of your time, increase your article output, become more productive, and ultimately earn more money.
Which ones are already part of your daily routine?
Some things simply won’t get done unless you build some structure into your day. It's not any different than when you worked a job as an employee. You had to show up at a certain time and you were expected to stay there for a specific number of hours.
If you want to be a full-time freelancer, that means scheduling eight hours a day, five days a week. The good news is that as a freelancer you can choose the days and the hours.
But to increase productivity and get the work done, you must block out this time on your calendar and sit down and work at those times.
Let your family know what time you will be “at work” so you won’t be bothered with interruptions. Friends also need to know when you're at work.
Being "on the job" during specific hours each day will increase your productivity fast.
Freelance writing is a business and you are both boss and employee. Be a good employee and show up for work every day. Remind yourself that if you had a job, you would be fired if you didn’t show up.
What if you only want to write part-time? Fine. Decide what that means - does it mean 20 hours/week? Then do the same thing. Block out the number of hours each day when you will sit down and work. Then stick to it.
This will initially feel like you’ve just lost your new-found freedom as a freelancer. But before long you will begin to get things done. You will see some accomplishments. And you'll realize how good it feels to have some structure.
And the best part: Not only will you know when you need to start work – you’ll also know when you’re finished. Overtime not required.
After you decide when you will work, you need to decide what to do. That’s where weekly goals can help.
Without goals you tend to drift and be unproductive. After all, there's no clear path forward without goals to lead you.
Here's an example.
Did you ever go on vacation without a destination in mind? Probably not. It would be a big waste of time and how would you know if you arrived? You wouldn't. That's why you always decide where you're going on vacation.
Having clearly stated goals is the same. They help you get focused and they increase productivity.
Every Sunday night, take a few minutes to list the things you want to accomplish during the coming week. Then prioritize your list and read the next section.
Now that you have your goals prioritized, it's time to pull out your calendar.
For your top three goals for the week, list the tasks you need to do to accomplish those goals. Schedule those tasks.
Take a few moments to decide when you will accomplish each task throughout the week. Make your best guess about how much you can do each day.
Every day before you stop working, or in the evening after dinner, review your tasks for the next day.
In the morning, get to work. Stay focused on the things on your list. Check off each task when it’s complete.
If you complete your three highest priorities before the week is over, move on down the list to the next goal and schedule in the tasks. Or take some time off if you're pleased with your progress.
At the end of the week, review what you’ve accomplished by looking at all those "check" items. Feel good that you worked through your tasks. Pat yourself on the back. Then repeat these steps for the next week. Your productivity will improve.
A lot of people say they want to be a writer, but then they never seem to get around to doing it because they’re always too busy. Where did the time go, they wonder?
It's time to find out. You won't know what's eating up your time unless you take a closer look.
Here's your task: for the next week keep track of everything you do. List every activity that you do each day: writing, selling, cooking, building distribution lists, doing emails, paying bills, watching TV, reading, grocery shopping, researching, cooking, running errands, volunteering, hanging out on social media, and so on.
As you start every activity each day, make a note of your start time. When you finish it, make note of when you stopped. At the end of the week, add up your hours in each category.
How much time did you spend doing productive work? How much time did you spend on "home" duties? How much time did you spend doing things that were truly non-productive and time-wasters?
Your answers should be enlightening.
Once you’ve identified the biggest time wasters, try to cut them out completely. You will increase productivity immediately by eliminating the time-wasters and gaining back your time.
For example, the average person spends three hours a day watching TV. If this is one of your time-wasters, take back that twenty-one hours of wasted time each week.
Same goes for Facebook, YouTube, and surfing the internet or whatever else is killing your time.
If you can’t completely eliminate a time waster, find a way to minimize it.
For example, watch only your favorite TV show and then turn off the TV instead of channel surfing.
Put a time limit on time wasters – and then stick to your time limit. Use a kitchen timer or the timer on your cell phone to help you keep them in control.
If you want to be a freelance writer, your time is your collateral. Time really is money!
My least favorite writing task is creating new magazine distribution lists. It's time-consuming, requires a great deal of concentration and many details.
When it's time to create another distribution list I do it first thing in the morning, when I'm well-rested and refreshed.
If you do the hardest task first, you don’t have to stress about it all day. The rest of the day will feel easier.
Doing just the opposite of the suggestion above is a good approach if you're having trouble starting a big project.
Big projects come with lots of tasks and often feel daunting. If this describes your day, pick one easy task and do it first.
After you finish the first easy task you'll feel a small sense of accomplishment. It's likely you'll feel like continuing. Pick another easy task. Repeat as needed.
Before long you’ll be into the harder stuff without even realizing it. And you will have accomplished a lot.
What time of the day do you do your best writing?
I tend to write my best early in the morning and again in the early evening hours. That’s when I schedule most of my writing.
What do I do in the afternoon? That's when I do article research, reading and sending out query letters. I also schedule less-productive tasks like email.
Pay attention to when you're at your best for writing and schedule it on your calendar. Save the less creative, administrative tasks when you’re not in the writing flow.
It's also important to keep the pot boiling by doing some pitching every day. You want assignments to come in consistently, and that only happens if you pitch every day.
Every thriving business has work in progress, work going out the door, and proposals in circulation. Using this business model, you’ll avoid the “feast or famine” of a disorganized business—and you’ll have regular paychecks coming in, too.
These seven effective habits will help you to gain back your time and increase your productivity.
I won’t pretend it’s easy, but I will say that you'll be pleased with your progress if you incorporate these habits into your work every day.
When you have control of your time, you will get published more often and ultimately make more money.
Having effective work habits is one way to increase productivity. But there’s more - you can also create more time with smart processes and systems. Here are my favorite ways to do this.
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past nine years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.