The best part of becoming a ‘full-time’ freelance blog writer is the freedom of time. Instead of my 9-5 Mon-Fri working week I can work when I want for as long as I want.
This is great in theory, yet anyone who has turned to working from home has found this is fraught with pitfalls.
Why You Must Have A Schedule
When you have all the time in the world for work, you end up using all that time to work. If you resign to the fact you have the entire day to finish your workload, it will literally take the entire day to finish. It just happens to work that way.
I can speak from personal experience, I work better with time constraints, and you probably do too. If I limit my working time to 4 hours, I’m betting I’ll get all the work done. I’ll find a way to.
If I don’t make that distinction, my day is scattered and I’ll find myself in front of the computer the whole day, doing the same amount of work.
Set A Time
If you have a partner, or a housemate, a common problem is your work time gets interrupted. If you’ve stressed the fact that your time is so free that you can work whenever you want, other people will believe you are accessible all day. And you’re not. Work is work, and you want to get it done. So make your schedule known. Between 1 and 5pm I am working. Talk to me afterwards.
Flexibility in Numbers
When you’re making other plans, it’s nice to be able to factor in your work. Something my previous day plan didn’t allow. I knew I could finish the work in a day, but how long did it really take?
If I know I have 4 hours to do my work, I can make plans around that. Want to have lunch and see a movie? Sure. I can bump my 1-5 to 2-6pm. Likewise I can split my work day. I’ll do two hours in the morning and the rest when I get back home.
That’s obvious, but since I have a clear number to work with now, I can split that how I like, as long as I have 4 hours free to work throughout the day. If it’s a nice day, I’m probably going to do only an hour at a time. Breakfast – work – market, lunch – work – music – work etc.
Make Other Plans
One of the saddest things is having this kind of freedom and these kinds of hours and not utilizing the free time. I don’t mind ‘veging’ out on the internet all day in between work, but if I do that often I start feeling like I should just work at an office and get paid the whole day.
So make plans. The movie, the coffee and lunch. Working from home is kind of lonely, even with a Twitter obsession. It’s good to get out for many reasons. Most importantly, to just get away from your work environment.
Schedule the most mundane activities like TV and mopping the kitchen. Although these are sometimes spontaneous inclusions into my schedule, the fact that I keep in mind what’s planned for the day, nothing feels like procrastination.
Evening and Nighttime
Working after hours is terrible. I don’t mind working on music or something late at night, since my creativity increases for some reason after dark, but finishing my writing duties before bed just doesn’t work.
Unwind and relax. A problem I had with my old schedule was, in the back of my mind, I knew I had the whole night to finish the work. It’s that old idea of putting it off until I had only a limited time left to finish. Then it got done.
Making Plans + The Nighttime
This is my big payoff for two reasons.
Firstly, the idea of scheduling play before work. I have the reward for finishing work ahead of me and so feel instant gratification while finishing each project. It’s all one step closer to the reward.
I can’t put anything off because I’m going to be out, far from a computer. I’m forcing myself to stick to the schedule because if I don’t, I have to stay home.
The second payoff for nighttime plans is the freedom I have for the next morning. I can be hungover, I have till 1pm to start work. If I can’t even start then, because of a particularly big night, I can push my schedule later. This is the kind of freedom I wanted from freelancing.
Generally this time isn’t a factor in my 1-5pm work day. However, I like to use it productively if I can. And I do this by doing the less productive kind of things in this time.
Emails, for instance. These don’t do any good to me while I’m working, but are great to sort out before the day starts. Anything related to business has usually come in overnight or that morning, so I can respond promptly without it affecting my work. If they relate to something I must do today, I schedule it in, but emails are never part of my work time.
This is also a great time to get out of the way general web surfing. The casual reading of anything that interests me, video and audio downloads and instant messaging.
The number one benefit during this time is it is great preparation for my work day. I get a general idea of what’s going on in the world, and then pick out what’s relevant to my work. That way, when I begin work at 1pm, I am already on my way. This is when to plan any changes to my simpler than simple 1-5pm schedule.
What If I Work More Than You?
Of course, the schedule is up to you. The main point to take away here is to restrict your working time. If you don’t limit your working hours you will end up with no freedom at all.
Next time we’ll talk about how to find the right amount of time to schedule and optimizing your working hours.