Tag Archives: time management

Productivity x 3

ManageYourDaytoDayIn recent weeks I have been using my annual spring/summer sabbatical from publication layout work to develop several of my own creative projects…simultaneously. What I’m hoping is that by summer’s end, everything will come together in one grand fait accompli. I have a detailed game plan for each project. I have to-do lists based on ‘Critical Inch’ thinking. And each morning, I put my feet on the floor and get right to work. But it’s a rare day that I actually accomplish everything I set out to do.

It seems there’s always something to derail my best laid plans: a loyal client in need of a random project with a tight deadline, a roadblock created by equipment or software conflicts, or a seductive offer by someone who wants me to play hooky for the day. So although at the moment my time is completely my own, I don’t always make the best use of it to further my creative goals.

In the past month however, I have discovered three inspiring resources that have made a tremendous contribution to my productivity: one book and two apps.

The book is titled Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Published by 99U, it contains a series of essays by freelancers and entrepreneurs offering their insights on how to maintain creativity and productivity in an increasingly distracting world. No matter how busy you think you are, it’s well worth taking time to read it. And if you have a Kindle and subscribe to Amazon Prime you can borrow it free of charge!

App #1 is called RescueTime , a free downloadable app that monitors how you spend your time on the computer and generates a weekly report. It’s customizable according to your routine tasks and activities and can be a real eye-opener for those who are wondering why their days disappear so quickly without yielding productive results.

App #2 is called FocusBooster, another free downloadable app that consists of a simple 25/5 minute timer. It’s based upon the Pomodoro Technique, “a time management method created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s. The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals (referred to as “pomodoros”) separated by breaks and is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.” Although deceptively simple, this method of dividing your workday into manageable bursts of activity with breaks in between is a remarkably effective productivity tool.

CelesteHeiterFZBioCeleste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.


Multi-Tasking with MS Outlook

FZOutlookI tend to multi-task. And since I work from a home office, this often means that while I’m writing a book or working on a large publication layout project, I’m also doing laundry, prepping meals, and tending to the everyday needs of my freelance clients. How is this possible?…Microsoft Outlook.

While many of you probably think of Outlook primarily as an e-mail client, I use it as a task manager and the hub of both my freelance work and household activities. In addition to its function as an e-mail program, Outlook has several nifty little features, including a calendar, pop-up reminders, and a task manager, which help me run my blended business and household like a Swiss watch.

I use the calendar to schedule appointments and deadlines, as well as recurring events such as holidays, daylight savings time, birthdays, and anniversaries. I also use it to schedule smaller events, such as taking vitamins and medications, recording television programs, watering plants, and keeping up with my son’s academic and social schedule. Each time I schedule an event, I create a pop-up reminder that can be customized to notify me anywhere from one minute, to days or weeks in advance. There’s even a *snooze* function that allows me to postpone or procrastinate if needed.

My favorite Outlook feature is its To-Do Bar. This customizable list-making device sits just to the right of my e-mail window; its width can be sized according to the screen space; and it’s divided into six sections: Today…Tomorrow…This Week…Next Week…Next Month…and Later. On it I can jot down a quick note to make a phone call, create a small errand/shopping list, schedule a recreational outing, or make a list of goals for the day. And much like the calendar, I can also note future tasks or events. Tasks may be color-coded for organizing and prioritizing; and the drag-and-drop feature allows me reshuffle the tasks on the list, or move leftover tasks forward to another day. Best of all, Outlook’s To-Do Bar has almost eliminated my need for Post-It Notes.

Outlook has become such an integral part of my daily life that I also use it to compose drafts of all my writing. To begin a blog, article, or even a book, I open up a new e-mail document and use it like a word processing program. If I need to take a break, I can close the document and store it in my Inbox or in a separate e-mail folder for that specific project. I create all my research notes, outlines, timelines, and drafts as e-mails in Outlook, and I send myself a copy of the e-mail to leave on the server for safekeeping. Once I’m done with the project, I create a permanent document in MS Word and save it to my hard drive and back-up drive.

No doubt, there is an array of similar programs out there for both PC and Mac that will function in much the same way, but for my purposes, Outlook has everything I need in one facile suite. It’s the first program I open in the morning…and the last one I shut down at night. I’d be lost without it.

Celeste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine (http://www.amazon.com/Turn-Your-Freelancing-Machine-ebook/dp/B008LOX1MQ), the creator of the LoveBites cookbook series for Kindle Fire (http://lovebitescookbooks.com), and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children (http://pottypalsbook.com). She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press (http://thingsasianpress.com); and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema (http://chopstickcinema.thingsasian.com)

Visit her website (http://celesteheiter.com), and her Amazon Author Page (http://www.amazon.com/Celeste-Heiter/e/B002OXU6S2)

Four Essential Components for Finding Your Freelance Zone


Although there are many paths to freelancing success, as ho-hum as it may sound, developing a routine is the keystone of a successful freelance writing career. Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but wise consistency equals profitable productivity. With that goal in mind, it is also imperative that you set up a quiet, comfortable, efficient workspace and spend as many hours as possible in it.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place: The first step in establishing yourself as a successful freelance writer is to create a place of your own in which to ply your craft. Your workspace should be convenient, inviting, and absolutely off limits to everyone except you. While this may be impractical or even impossible in many households, anything less will only create chaos and conflict. Although not ideal, your creative space could be something as simple as a lap desk and a comfy chair in a corner of the living room, a roll-top desk in your bedroom, or even a cozy cubby in a spacious closet. No matter how humble or small, stake your claim on a few square feet of the family real estate and hang up your ‘No Trespassing’ sign.

First Thing in the Morning: Once you’ve marked your territory, it’s time to get started on your routine. As soon as you’re awake in the morning and put your feet on the floor, your private workspace should be the first place you go; although a small detour to the bathroom, with a brief stopover at the coffee maker are perfectly acceptable. Just be sure you don’t get sidetracked along the way. If you have children who begin vying for your attention first thing in the morning, then it’s important that you wake up a few minutes before they do, to focus your mind and get your day started. Even if you don’t begin writing right away, that first focus will set the tone for your whole day.

The Hours: For many if not most freelance writers, time management is the most crucial yet difficult element of their lives. Chances are, unless you fit the perfect stereotype for a freelance writer (you’re single, childless, live alone, do not have a close-knit family, and you’re not romantically involved), life can be both hectic and complicated. And as a freelancer, the people in your life may tend to view you and your workday as endlessly flexible and available to accommodate their every whim. This can be a huge disruption and a source of conflict. But if you truly hope to make a living as a freelancer, carving out several hours a day to focus your undivided attention on writing is an absolute must. Of course, everyone’s schedule, lifestyle, and creativity patterns are unique, so each individual freelance writer will have to arrange an ideal routine. Maybe your best time for writing is during the day while the children are at school. Or maybe you prefer doing your errands and physical activities in the afternoon, and your writing in the evenings when it’s quiet and the cares of the day are behind you. Perhaps you need long, uninterrupted blocks of time and can arrange your lifestyle accordingly. Or maybe you are adept at multi-tasking and can write for a couple of hours between bursts of phone calls and household chores. Whatever suits your creative temperament is perfectly acceptable, as long as it allows you to be abundantly productive.

Last Thing at Night: The last piece of the puzzle is a few quiet moments at the end of the day to develop tomorrow’s agenda. This is the time for setting goals, making lists, jotting down ideas and looking back at what you’ve accomplished today. Waking up with a clear map of where you’re headed each day is a surefire way to facilitate your success as a freelance writer. So, sit down for a few minutes before bedtime each evening and make a to-do list for tomorrow.

*Content for this article is adapted from Celeste Heiter’s Amazon Kindle ebook Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine.

More Time = More Money

dollarby Catherine L. Tully

Cash. Moohla. Money. Dollars. Bucks.

If you want to make more, you aren’t alone.

As a freelance writer, it’s up to you how much money you make. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to work harder. Being smart about what you are doing, who your clients are and how you manage your time are all part of the deal.

Let’s concentrate on the time part here. I’d like to share some of my top tips for maximizing your income without spending every moment working:

+ Separate out your paying gigs from things you do that don’t directly make you money (such as blog posts, tweeting, posting on Facebook, networking, etc.). Then, dedicate one or two blocks of time per week to the non-paying tasks. If you want to do more on these, do some double-duty and dip into your TV time or your surfing for pleasure.

+ Schedule your paying gigs out for the week. Leave one large chunk of time open and use it to look for and research other paying gigs.

+ Get those receipts organized. Make sure you are taking all the deductions you are entitled to. Again, schedule in time to do this each week.

Here’s a sample schedule:

Monday morning – receipts, social media and answering e-mails.

Monday afternoon – work on paying gigs.

Tuesday morning – look for and research new paying gigs.

Tuesday afternoon – work on paying gigs.

Wednesday morning – write and schedule blog posts.

Wednesday afternoon – work on paying gigs.

Thursday – work on paying gigs.

Friday morning – open for whatever you need.

Friday afternoon – work on paying gigs.

It doesn’t really matter how you schedule things–do what is comfortable for you. The key is to make sure you have a plan. Managing time is crucial to being a successful freelance writer, and thinking through your week ahead of time can really help you make more money in the long run. Give it a try!

Five Tips for Writers for Avoiding Procrastination

by Erin Dalpini

It’s 2:35 p.m. and your piece is due in less than two hours. You’ve known about it for a couple weeks, but here you are with a deadline looming and no copy to show for it. Clock ticking, heart racing, palms sweating, you type and type—like a no-nonsense secretary—and manage to finish your piece well with ten minutes to spare. Proof it, attach it, hit send. And pour yourself a cocktail.

I’m sure this isn’t you.

But if it is, take heart. Up until college, I was quite possibly the worst procrastinator when it came to writing. Somehow, I still managed to get high marks on my papers, but not without the stress and lost sleep that curses habitual procrastinators. Not to mention, I lost out a lot on the writing process, since I was turning in work that could have been better polished. Over the years, I learned to change my ways for the better, and you can too.

Arm yourself against the procrastinator’s curse with these five suggestions:

1. Dive in. The best way to avoid procrastination seems like the simplest one. You have a pile of papers or file folder awaiting your attention, or you’ve just received an assignment (yess!), but your Id would rather eat some pizza or catch a good flick. Pick up that folder, open that email or file, take a good, long look, and just dive in. Allow yourself to get completely immersed in the creative process of planning and drafting your assignment, which is always a good reminder of why you chose to write anyway (rather than doing anything but to avoid a looming project). Continue reading Five Tips for Writers for Avoiding Procrastination

Writers: Time Is Money

timeby Catherine L. Tully

After reading Yo’s post today on how to manage money, I realized something. Many of the things that we talk about on blogs are things we see writers doing wrong. Sometimes they are mistakes we have made ourselves, but more often than not, posts relate directly to actions we see writers taking (or not taking) that can hurt their career. The one I see most often is… Continue reading Writers: Time Is Money