Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the tag “how to meet your deadline”

How to juggle multiple projects…and a family…and a life!

How to juggle multiple projects

Life as a freelancer isn’t always on an even keel.

You’ll have periods where the work dribbles in (or even stops for a bit), and then you’ll have times when the work is flooding in and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get it done.

And while others around you might say ‘don’t take it on’ or ‘tell them you’re too busy’, you know there will be times when the work won’t be so plentiful, so you elect to make hay while the sun shines.

But in the meantime, how do you juggle it all, particularly when you have a family and a life outside of writing?

Plan, plan, plan

I’ve just come out of one of the busiest periods I’ve ever had. In a nutshell, I have written 35 articles over three weeks — 30 of them were part of a big project for a leading health fund. In that time, I still had to find time for my other clients, my family, my training, social life and writing my novel. (Did you know I’m working on my first one?).

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer you is to plan out your week before it begins. I have this amazing planner I use every week, and I write everything on it — training sessions, kids’ activities, medical appointments, deadlines, reminders, social activities and what bills are due that week. My life is that planner. And the great thing about it, is that I can see my week at a glance.

Colour code and write ‘to-do’ lists

I like colour. It brightens my day, but it also helps me see how my week is panning out. Work time is assigned a colour, as is deadlines, kids’/social activities, training and household chores. I also write to-do lists and tick off or cross off my tasks as I get them done. Not only does it feel good, but it tells me whether I have attended to that task or not.

Prioritise

We all have the same amount of time, so why do some people get so much done and others don’t? It’s because they prioritise their time. Focus on the things that are important (e.g. working on your projects, feeding the kids) and letting some of the other things go for a few days (e.g. ironing, housework). Those things will always be there, but when you have deadlines looming over your head, you really need to work on those first. And be disciplined when it comes to social media. You may need to use it for your business, but schedule time for that. Don’t let it suck your day away.

Make time for you

When you’re snowed under, you may feel tempted to keep ploughing on just to get the work done. You’ll skip lunch (and maybe dinner), and will only leave your desk for a bathroom break. But if you make time for yourself and schedule breaks (and eat lunch and dinner), you will be more productive. If you are a regular exerciser, keep that up. Exercising is a great way to clear your head, de-stress and recharge your batteries. And don’t forget to take regular breaks away from your computer to avoid headaches and neck problems.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’

You know, there’s a bit of an assumption that freelancers have all the time in the world because we work from home and are ‘flexible’. While flexibility is great, too much flexing will leave you with too little time to get your work done. During busy periods, be prepared to say ‘no’ to that coffee date, or shopping with your friends. Get your work done first, and use social activities as a reward for when it’s done.

Ask for help

Sometimes, it’s just impossible to keep doing everything you usually do, and complete your writing projects on time. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your partner or kids to hang out washing, chop the veggies for dinner or clean the bathrooms. Ask a friend to bring your kids home from school so you get another precious hour of writing time. Ask someone else to cook your meal for you (aka take-away). Whatever help you can get, make the most of it. It will help you stay calmer and more productive. And you know it’s only for a short time.

Take time off

When your project is finally completed, and your client has signed off on it, take some time off. It may be a day, a couple of days or a week — depending upon how long your busy stint has been. Don’t be tempted to keep going, or you will run the risk of burning out. Get away from the computer and your phone and re-engage in the world around you. Go for a walk, go shopping, or just sit and read your book. Everyone needs a break from work — even us freelancers.

And on that note, my final task on my ‘to-do’ list has been ticked off. So it’s time for me to shut down the computer and take my book outside.

If you would like to engage me for one of your projects (after my break), then please contact me.

 Cheers
Nerissa

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12 ways to beat writer’s block

12 ways to beat writer's blockYou know the feeling. You have an article due, time is ticking and you’re coming up blank.

The more you try, the more blank you become (if that’s even a thing?!).

Then you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed — the article you thought would come together relatively well, now seems more complex than ever.

ARGH!

Writing can be a tricky business. You need to be creative, coherent, and concise. Most of the time, you have to be ‘in the zone’ to get the job done. The zone is where the magic happens. It’s when your fingers can barely move across the keyboard quick enough, as the thoughts tumble out of your head. Adrenalin flows through your veins and words appear on your computer screen with little effort. What’s even better is that when you go back to edit them, you marvel at how well everything flows and fits together.

Yet ‘the zone’ doesn’t always happen. It can come and go — usually disappearing when the pressure is on and you MUST meet your deadline.

So what do you do, when writer’s block sets in?

12 tips to beat writer’s block

I have suffered from writer’s block numerous times. I will probably continue to as long as I write. However, I have found the following tips have helped me. They are in no particular order, and some days, I need to engage in more than one of them, before my brain kicks into ‘writing gear’ again.

  1. Relax — It’s important to remember that writer’s block happens to everyone — even the most experienced and proficient writers. So chill out, and don’t get upset about it. The more you can relax about it, the quicker you will return to your ‘creative self’.
  1. Just write — “But I’ve got nothing!”, I hear you say. It doesn’t matter. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be as simple as: “The cat sat on the mat.” But set yourself a goal to just write whatever comes into your head for 10 minutes non-stop. Most of it will be rubbish of course, but the simple act of writing, will help your head get back into the game and beat that writer’s block.
  1. Write a plan — If you are stuck on how to start your article, plan it out. Write simple bullet points of the key things you want to cover. Then start to flesh those out with one or two sentences. Come up with a working title (you can change that to something more snappy later), and you are on your way.
  1. Read other articles — Research other articles online that are similar in topic to the one you need to write. Sometimes seeing the way someone else has approached the topic can get you thinking differently, unlocking your creativity.
  1. Listen to music — Sometimes you just need to do something totally different, but something that will make you feel good. Put on your favourite song and sing along or dance. It will relieve stress and anxiety, and may unblock your writer’s block. Just make sure you put a time limit on your dancing, otherwise your writing time may turn into a dance party for one!
  1. Write down some goals — Forget about your article and do some goal setting. Think about what else you want to achieve in your life and make a plan, using the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Write down action steps. The simple act of goal setting can stir up a fire of motivation and excitement. All of a sudden, you will feel ready to take action — and you may be ready to put that form of action into writing your article.
  1. Research — Leave your current article for 30 to 60 minutes and conduct some research for another piece you need to write. A page of links to information you require for other articles gives you a good starting base for them, and it leaves you feeling like you have actually accomplished something, other than banging your head against the keyboard in frustration.
  1. Rest your brain —Fatigue can lead to writer’s block. If you have been doing a lot of writing of late, or if you have just come out of a particularly productive ‘zone’, your brain may get tired. Give it a break and do something else that doesn’t take much brain power. Tidying your desk, folding the washing (if you work from home), or cleaning out your filing cabinet are pretty mindless tasks.
  1. De-clutter your desk — Our environment often influences our productivity. If you workspace is cluttered, your mind is likely to be as well. Take 30 minutes to clean your desk and declutter. You may be surprised at just how motivated you are to work once you have a clear space in front of you.
  1. 12 ways to beat writer's blockRead something — Pick up your novel or that magazine you’ve been itching to read. Give yourself 30 minutes to get lost in another world. Reading someone else’s work sometimes motivates you to write your own!
  1. Go for walk — Research has shown that going for a walk can boost your creativity by up to 60 per cent [i], so don those runners to get over your block.
  1. Grab a coffee — A cup (or two or three) of good, strong coffee can help you focus, and get your brain into gear.

All of us think differently and work differently. So try a few strategies and see what works for you. And if you come up with any more ideas on how to beat writer’s block, I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers

Nerissa

References:

[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

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