Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to be your own staff

As a self-employed, professional writer I have no boss and no staff. I have no accountant, secretary, janitor or many other skill driven jobs that make up normal businesses. Yet I still have to take calls, schedule appointments, pay bills, keep up with my taxes and clean my office just to name a few of my many daily jobs other than writing. So how can writers manage all these tasks while still staying on task with daily writing goals? How can we be our own staff? I conducted a study on myself about a year ago and I’ve found my results most helpful.

I began by writing down everything I did during the day in a log. I made sure to include the time and then would write a note off to the side of the task about how effective and efficient I was at the task. I would move routine tasks around each day so that I eventually would do different tasks at various times of days. By doing this for a month I began to see what tasks I performed best at in the morning versus the afternoon and evening.

Everyone is their best at different times of day. I simply studied myself to determine when I needed to put my most thought provoking tasks versus tasks that didn’t take as much thought. For example, I’m my best first thing in the morning so I use that time to work on reaching my daily writing goal for my fiction work. Before lunch I’m starting to get a little tired so I use that time to follow up on emails until I can recharge with some lunch. Early to mid evening is my worst time of day. I’m tired plus I want to spend time with my family. It’s during this time that I devote to cooking and cleaning house, including my office.

At 8 p.m. after my daughter is in bed, I sit back down at my desk and work on any blog or column assignments for the following day. Now on Sunday’s I map out my weekly blogging and column topics but it is the night before when I write them. After I’ve done that I read any craft articles that I pulled from Twitter during the day. I go over my list of daily objectives for the next day and read a book for an hour or so before going to bed.

The next morning I’m up at 5 a.m. and at my desk by 5:45. At that time I proofread that days blog and column and publish them before diving into my daily writing goal and the process begins again.

This schedule works for me but everyone is different. I highly recommend taking some time to study your habits. When are you at your best? Assign certain times to certain tasks when you can complete them most efficiently. By knowing yourself you will know how to successfully master and be a jack-of-all-trades.

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