Staying productive is a big part of being a successful freelance writer, yet many writers struggle to manage their workflow.
There are lots of reasons for low productivity; many of which I’ve struggled with myself. Common causes include procrastination, lack of confidence, low motivation, overwhelm, laziness, and lack of accountability.
It’s a pretty depressing list, right?
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With a little experimentation, I’ve been able to create a routine that keeps my productivity high. That’s not to say I always follow it perfectly – I definitely still have days where my productivity takes a nosedive! But most of the time my routine keeps me on track.
I highly recommend that you set up your own productivity routine. It’s a great way to banish doubts and excuses and keep you focussed on your freelance writing goals.
Need some inspiration on ways to improve your productivity? That’s what this post is all about. Keep reading for 3 of my favourite ways to stay productive as a freelance writer. These methods have worked for me, and they may just work for you too!
To get the most value out of this post don’t just read it then forget about it. Read it through, then choose one or two methods to act on right away.
Just a small increase in your productivity can generate big results in your business over time. More freelance writing gigs won. More projects completed. More money in your bank account.
Sound good? Then let’s get started …
A Super Simple Method to Eliminate Procrastination
Planning my day the night before is a simple practice that’s had a huge impact on my productivity.
If you’re anything like me, mornings really aren’t a good time to plan anything. You’re probably a little sleepy, and making decisions can sap your motivation. When this happens, it can be hard to get down to work.
Have you ever noticed how lots of successful people dress the same each day? Steve Jobs always wore a black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers. Mark Zuckerberg wears a grey T-shirt every day. Barack Obama recently told a magazine that he pared down his wardrobe to only grey or blue suits.
There’s a good reason for this (and it’s not about fashion!). In fact, it turns out that it’s just one way to eliminate unnecessary decisions each day.
There are lots of things you can do to plan your day the night before, and it’s really up to you how thorough you are. Some people find it useful to prepare every little detail – from setting out their breakfast bowl, to placing their slippers at the end of the bed!
The most useful way I’ve found to plan for the next day is to write out a schedule the night before. I usually do this mid-evening, or just before I go to bed.
To do this I use a daily planner – the kind that has a page for each day. The planner I use divides each page into time blocks of 3 hours, from 6am-9pm. This allows me to write down the tasks I’ll work on during each part of the day.
Using this method really helps me get down to work each morning. There’s no question about what I should be doing – all I need to do is look in my planner.
After I complete each task I place a checkmark next to it on the page. At the end of the day, I can see at a glance what I’ve accomplished.
Writing out a schedule the night before is a great way to eliminate procrastination and keep you laser-focussed on your daily goals. I find it useful to be quite ambitious, and plan a busy schedule. This means I don’t always finish every task on my schedule, but I’m always pushing myself to get more done.
One word of caution – don’t forget to schedule breaks! Periods of downtime throughout the day are an important part of staying productive. Experiment with the frequency and length of breaks to find out what works best for you.
How to Batch Your Tasks for Maximum Productivity
Another easy method I use to boost my productivity is batching my daily tasks. This means that I schedule a block of time in my planner to focus exclusively on the same type of task.
For example, I may plan a block of time to outline next month’s blog posts for a client, a second to send cold emails and follow-ups, and another to edit first drafts of my articles.
This may sound simple, but it’s often overlooked by beginner freelance writers.
When I first started I was always jumping between tasks. I’d be working on an article and get an email alert. So, I’d read the email. Then I’d follow a link in the email. Before I knew it I was completely off track, clicking between articles online and wasting huge amounts of time.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there.
When you switch between tasks you dilute your efforts and drastically reduce your productivity.
Each separate task you complete throughout the day uses a different part of the brain, and requires a different skillset. Batching tasks takes this into account, and allows you to approach each task with your undivided attention.
One last tip when it comes to batching tasks: it often helps to sandwich shorter, simpler, or more mundane tasks with longer and more complicated ones.
As an example, you could schedule a block of time for cold emailing (a relatively simple task), before writing the first draft of an article (a more complex task). After that, you could schedule a period of time to complete another simple task – such as updating your social media profiles.
Sandwiching tasks in this way prevents overwhelm, and breaks up your day so you don’t become burned out on any one task.
Using Smart Online Tools to Boost Your Productivity
My final tip for boosting your productivity is to select smart online tools to help you work faster and more efficiently.
There are lots of great tools out there to choose from, and it’s worth doing some research and signing up for a few trials to see which work best for you.
I’ve been freelance writing for just over a year now, and have tried lots of tools that promise to boost productivity. Here are a couple of the tools that work best for me:
Mixmax describes itself as “the essential productivity suite for Gmail and Google Inbox”, and it’s a claim that I think it lives up to. The tool has a host of features including the ability to track email opens, clicks, and downloads, set reminders, schedule emails, embed calendar invites and media into the body of your emails, and store templates of your most regularly used emails to save you time.
In fact, this tool has so many features that it could warrant an article of its own!
So, how does it help me as a freelance writer?
Cold emailing can be a laborious process, and it’s so easy to forget to follow-up and miss out on opportunities. Simply put, Mixmax saves me a ton of time when sending cold emails, and automises the process so I never forget to follow-up.
To check out features and pricing and to sign up for a free trial, visit the Mixmax website.
Airstory is a drag-and-drop document builder designed and developed by one of my favourite copywriting sites on the web, Copy Hackers.
It’s writing software built by writers, and it just works.
So, what makes it better than writing software such a Microsoft Word or Google Docs? Here are a few of the features that help me create content faster and more efficiently:
- An import feature for existing Word docs and PDF files
- Ready-made templates for different writing projects (or the ability to create your own)
- A Card Library within the interface that stores notes and links that can be dragged into the main body of the document (eliminating the need to have multiple open tabs when writing)
- ‘Time Travel’ that allows you to return to previous versions of the document
- The ability to export the document to a WordPress blog
If you’re a busy freelance writer, I highly recommend giving Airstory a try. It definitely improves my workflow and helps me get more done, in less time.
Find out more and start a free trial by visiting the Airstory website.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post, and come away with some fresh ideas to boost your productivity. Don’t forget to put some of these ideas into action, and experiment with other methods to see what works best for you.
Need more tips to help you stay productive as a freelance writer? Just go here.