Procrastination

Procrastination

Today was one of those days – I have several big projects for private clients waiting for me and I just couldn’t seem to get started. After messing around doing little chores around the house, playing with the dogs, running a few errands, it dawned on me that I procrastinate. Having never thought of myself as one to wait until the last minute, I started wondering why I am doing that now. I’m not lazy or usually distracted, rather what I think the problem is, is that I want to do such a good job on certain projects that I sike myself out. I will finally have a shot at a project that I really wanted or a magazine article that I know I can nail, but for some reason I freeze, get nervous and can’t produce – it’s like I’m afraid that my work won’t be good enough. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to suffer from this.

Here’s how it usually goes for me: First I put off that big project for a few days and spend my time working on smaller less meaningful projects. Then, when I finally designate a day to work on it, for the first few hours I mess around on Facebook or Twitter or like today I do things around the house that could wait until later. Then I start checking things like my eHow account, my bank accounts, my email (about 50 times in an hour) and so forth until before I know it half of my day is wasted and I still haven’t started said project.

What I have found is that after I waste a whole bunch of time and I finally get to work on the project, it goes pretty fast and I produce high quality work. The problem is just getting started. It’s like I have nervous energy that I need to get rid of before I can get down to business. Hopefully acknowledging this problem will help me work through it. While I have made massive improvements in my time management skills, I can’t make a living by messing around up until the last minute on the big projects. What do you do to stop from procrastinating?

The Key to My Time Management Success

timerI know that I’ve covered the subject of time management, or my lack of it before. Well, today, I’m happy to share that I’m kicking time management’s butt! For a while, I’ve really been struggling with this, as I know other writers and freelancers struggle with it too. Let’s face it, when you work from home there are a lot of distractions and at times a lot of other things that feel more important than work.

Over the past few months I have done a lot of reading on time management and how other people tackle it and I am completely convinced that there is no one size fits all solution. I think that we each need to find the right combination of techniques that work for our unique needs. Now before I tell you the key to my time management success, here are some small tips that are helping me and may help you too.

  1. Schedule time to check your email. I could spend hours on end on email, so scheduling times into my day to check it is very effective.
  2. Create a to do list. As long as I have been a working adult I have had a to do list. Every day before I stop working, I make my to do list for the following day with the most important things at the top – and let me tell you, it is a great feeling to check things off of that list.
  3. Set goals. I set weekly goals, monthly goals and yearly goals in order to make the income that I need to make. In addition to having my daily to do list, I also have my weekly list of goals to keep me on track.

While these three things help me, I am happy to report that I have stumbled upon my own time management jackpot. Are you ready for this? It’s a kitchen timer. Now you are probably wondering why I have made such a big deal about a kitchen timer and I’m sure I’m not the first to discover this, but it has completely transformed my work life, I just had to share.

The idea came to me because I needed a way to track my time for clients that I charge on an hourly basis. So, I brought my kitchen timer upstairs to my office and here is what I have found works for me: I set it for one hour increments of time. During that hour I don’t check twitter, I don’t answer my phone, I don’t talk to my husband – I completely focus on what I’m working on for that hour, be it an article, a resume, etc. When the timer goes off whether I am done or not, I take a ten minute break. If I finish before that one hour is up, I immediately start working on another project until the timer goes off. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made!

It’s perfect for me for a lot of reasons. It allows me to track my time, to take breaks regularly and to ensure that I’m not spending too much time on low paying projects. In addition, if I have my timer going, everyone in my household knows not to disturb me. Literally, my husband won’t even try to talk to me when he sees it going and my dogs are now trained that they lay down until the timer beeps. Although, when it beeps, they usually jump up and run around.

During my ten minute breaks, I get up, stretch, make a snack, do small household chores, check my Twitter, etc. And I have found that I look forward to my ten minute breaks plus I get a lot of little chores done around the house which my husband loves.

Quite honestly, it’s gotten to the point where everything I do during my working day is by my timer. If I check my email I set my timer for an hour, if I’m doing my writing job search – you guessed it, I set my timer, if I’m checking my Google reader and networking, I set my timer and if I am doing bookkeeping, I set my timer. It works like a charm. I’m so excited with the results that I’m seeing, I just had to share!

I even finished this blog post in an hour. Time for a break!

Tackling Time Management

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I really thought that I was well equipped to handle time management as a freelance writer. I have been to time management trainings and I have read many, many great posts by my fellow freelancers on time management. Plus, I was really good at this in my previous full-time job, so naturally, I thought I would be good at it right off the bat. Well, sadly I’m not. Here are some reasons off the top of my head as to why I may not be succeeding at time management:

  • I don’t have a set schedule yet. Why? I’m not really sure, but I’m working on getting into a schedule. For some reason, the gym seems to throw me off and I get less accomplished on the days that I go workout before I start working.
  • I can’t yet decide what is more important to spend my time on. For example, I need to make a certain amount of money a day to meet my goals, but I also need to apply for higher paying jobs in order to give me time in my day to focus on other aspects of freelancing like accounting, networking and looking for other jobs.
  • There are a lot of “time stealers” that I keep getting distracted by. When I say time stealers, I mean things like Face Book, Twitter and various household chores that I sometimes find myself doing when I should be working.

The point is, I need to come up with a schedule that works for me and that I can stick to. If I want to meet my goals, I have to become more efficient and productive with my time.

Also, I really want is to be done working at a decent time, so that I can spend my evenings with my husband. Lately I have found myself working late into the night because I wasn’t efficient with my time during the day.

I’m working on developing a plan to help my time management issues and hopefully I’ll have a good plan in place next week.

What are your time stealers? What do you do to manage your time efficiently?