By Judy Ann Crawford
When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, “Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”—Dr. Maya Angelou
It’s the freedom. Freelance writers say that’s the best thing about their job. They sometimes even gaze dreamily into the middle distance as they say it (drama goes with the territory), but just give them a few seconds. Their smiles soon dissolve and their faces cloud over because, ironically, the freedom can also be the worst part.
Personally, I’ve found that being the boss of my own time is really awesome. For example, if I want to celebrate that new assignment with a Starbucks venti vanilla latte and browse through Chapters for a while, that is entirely my prerogative.
Sometimes, during such excursions, while waiting in line and debating a sweet treat to go with my coffee, common sense will elbow me sharply. This is ridiculous. You can’t celebrate every new project this way! I nod solemnly. Good point, common sense. I should do what is best for my career. So, I downgrade to a plain latte (hold the cake pop). I don’t even browse, except for a quick glance at the new titles (and the magazines, obviously). I head straight home to corral all the fabulous ideas that the caffeine spike has inspired.
Corralling does not go well. The rush has dissipated and my brain is a desolate wasteland. I need a quick power nap. Just 10 minutes, tops! Of course, somehow the power nap morphs into a regulation-length nap, and by that time, it’s already after school. Time for my other “jobs” to begin (Mother, Uber Driver, Chef, Domestic Affairs Coordinator). Writing gets bumped until the evening.
Except, when the time for writing finally comes, I find that my advanced scheduling system (jotting notes down on scrap pieces of paper) has encountered a glitch. I’ve forgotten about the band concert at the school. The writing is put off again while I search for black shoes, tights, skirts, and blouses—my teenage daughters are close to my size. If I did have an office job, I would probably have 15 variations of these available. Right now my closet is simply “A Study in Yoga Pants.”
I make it through two hours of the squeak-and-honk versions of classical holiday music and come home to face my word count for the day. It peaked at (quick tally) zero. Yes, being the boss of my own time is awesome.
So, where does the key to successful time management lie for a freelancer? Some say it is simply discipline. The closer your schedule resembles that of a typical office job, the better your odds of success. Others say they definitely remember seeing a key somewhere (while shoving aside papers and dirty coffee mugs on their desks).
Through trial and error (aka Monday through Friday), I have arrived at five personal tips for freelancers—use at your own discretion:
- Chain your ankles to your chair and send the key away with someone who is leaving for the day. Keep lotion handy, as chains tend to chafe.
- Eat protein bars. Drink nothing (bathroom breaks are distracting). The chains will help with this latter problem.
- Do not leave your smartphone within reach. Log in to Twitter and LinkedIn the old-fashioned way: on your PC.
- Do not log in to Twitter or LinkedIn. Make new passwords, write them down, and leave them out of reach. The importance of the chains cannot be overstated.
You could skip steps one through four and just do number five, depending on your resolve and tenacity. If you do, I will applaud and admire you and, honestly, kind of wish I was you. For the rest of us, however, these steps should, at least in theory, work.
This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.