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Freelance Blogging: Why You Should Schedule

Freelance Blogging: Why You Should Schedule

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.

Freelance Blogging: Why You Should Schedule

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    The Morning

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    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.

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    Craig Childs

    Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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