Know that feeling you get when you have a million looming deadlines and zero willpower to meet them?
You stare at your task list, wondering how you’ll ever get anything done. You’re beyond stressed, because you’ve procrastinated for so long that everything is due at the same time. And before long, you’re using your English degree to wipe a stream of hot tears from your face while questioning your decision to become a freelance writer in the first place.
Yikes. You’re a hot mess, my friend.
But all hope is not lost — you can meet your deadlines every time. Here’s how:
I’m not talking about jotting down your tasks on a piece of paper. I’m talking about being so organized, you’ll make Monica from “Friends” look like a slob. But don’t let that scare you too much — using one of these tools, it’s actually pretty easy to organize your tasks, even if you’re more of a Phoebe (which I am):
Google Calendar. If you’re a fan of Gmail and Google Apps, you’ll probably love Google Calendar. It’s easy to use and allows you to create multiple customized calendars for your tasks. And more importantly, it’s free.
ClearVoice. When you accept freelance writing assignments via the ClearVoice Talent Network, you’ll see them in an editorial calendar and get email notifications reminding you of your due dates, making it pretty much impossible to miss a deadline. Joining the marketplace is also free. Awesome.
Basecamp. If someone told me I had to give up Basecamp, I’d need a 12-step program to do it. It’s that good. In Basecamp, you can organize your tasks and client meetings in calendar or list view, and you’ll get email reminders for both. Plus, you can upload documents, take notes and easily reference previous tasks. It costs me $20 per month, but it’s worth it.
Figure out what you’re going to accomplish at the start of each day
Don’t roll out of bed with no plan in mind for the day. If you start the day with no goals, you’ll find yourself on the couch binge-watching “Game of Thrones” and stuffing your face with cookie dough ice cream (you know it’s true).
Start off each morning by figuring out exactly what you want to accomplish, and give yourself a specific amount of time for each task (like mini deadlines). Doing this will help you hold yourself accountable and give you the push you need to get a lot done.
But don’t just store your daily goals in your brain — make a note of what you’re going to accomplish so you can reference it throughout the day. You can do this using a note-taking app like Evernote, a Word or Google document or a text document in Basecamp.
Try a few productivity hacks
If productivity is a major problem for you, you’re going to have a hard time meeting deadlines. Don’t let that happen. Instead, try these productivity hacks:
Take a break. Struggling to meet your deadlines because you’re feeling burnt out? A break could be all you need. If you have time, plan a vacation so you can disconnect completely from work. If you can’t afford a real vacation right now, try to schedule at least a few hours where you can take your mind off of your task list.
Use the Pomodoro technique. If you’re serious about getting productive, use a timer to work in 25-minute bursts separated by quick breaks. You can read more about this popular technique here.
Figure out the best time of day to write. Some writers work better in the morning. Others work better at night. Try both, figure out which one is better for you and stick to it.
Outsource if you need to
If you just can’t bring yourself to write, it might be time to outsource some of your work so you can figure out what’s causing your writer’s block and fix it.
You can also outsource if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you have some tasks that you simply don’t feel like finishing. I personally outsource most of my editing because self-editing has been a huge time suck for me in the past (hello perfectionism!). And that time I save editing is time I can spend writing and making more money.
And who says you can only outsource writing-related duties? Maybe you should hire a cleaning service to clean your place, a personal assistant to do laundry and make meals or the kid down the block to mow the lawn. Outsourcing certain household chores could save you so much time and energy (which you could spend writing or marketing your business) that it’s well worth the money. Try a service like Thumbtack to connect you with local service professionals.
(A word of warning: Choose the people you outsource to carefully — your goal is to reduce your stress and list of tasks, not add to it.)