How To Structure Your Day As A Freelance Writer
The secret to allocating your time when you have total autonomy.
Happy Friday everyone!
I hope you’ve had a fabulous week.
Once again I’m writing this far too late in the day (currently 20:16), so I’d like to kick off by saying I absolutely cannot be trusted to follow my own advice here.
I’m about to talk about structuring your week efficiently, when it couldn’t be more apparent by the hour at which I’m typing these words that I have utterly failed to do so.
Having said that, I think it’s valuable to have a voice that’s tangentially influenced by ‘productivity Twitter’ actually admitting that I regularly fail to follow the advice I dish out.
Nonetheless, I do think it’s good advice so let’s get into it.
A couple of people have asked me about how I structure my week as a freelance writer.
And when I tweeted about this yesterday, my friend Becky pointed out that my advice is probably applicable to any job where you have some level of autonomy.
It’s also useful for anyone who’s doing the side-hustle thing, because it revolves around self-awareness and energy management.
This is my four-step system:
Let’s expand on this a little.
🧠 1 - Identify ‘Big Brain’ Tasks
Big brain tasks are anything that requires deep focus, zero distractions and (ideally) long periods of continuous work to make progress.
For me, that’s things like writing the first draft of a script or brainstorming a new one.
I even find writing Twitter threads falls into this category, because I’ve tried to ‘slot those in’ at the end of the day before, but it actually takes a lot of focus and iteration.
For Becky, ‘Big Brain’ tasks included spreadsheet work and creating design briefs.
For you, it might be something different. (Let me know!)
Whatever it is, it probably won’t take you long to think of it.
✋2 - Accept Your Limitations
I can do Big Brain tasks for 3-4 hours per day. Max.
I wondered if this was below average, so I asked on Twitter.
Here were the responses:
Seemingly, 4 hours is pretty common.
So it’s likely that you can spend approximately half the day working on your most difficult tasks.
So the next question is obvious:
Which half of the day?
⏰ 3 - Listen To Your Brain
Well, it might not be as simple as a.m. or p.m.
You might find it effective working in 2-hour bursts like Abdussalam (above).
Or there might be set times of day where you feel yourself naturally becoming more productive, like Becky:
Personally, I find it can totally vary depending on the quality of sleep I’ve had, how late I’ve been working the day before, and how much I have on my mind.
The key is to figure out when you have the most mental energy, then make sure you proverbially drop everything to start on a Big Brain task during those periods.
Big Brain Task x Maximum Mental Energy = Significant Progress
But once you start to feel that fatigue setting in…
🥶 4 - Chill Out
…it’s time to change tack.
I’m not telling you to stop working completely.
But when you start to reach that level where 1% progress is taxing you 10x longer than it was a couple of hours ago, you’re wasting your time.
Unless you are literally going to lose a client by not getting this project done right now, it can wait until tomorrow.
Now you need to identify the tasks which don’t require that high level of focus (I’m reluctant to call then ‘Small Brain’ tasks because I feel like I’d be insulting you.)
For me, that’s email, Twitter replies, and extracting YouTube Shorts from already-written scripts (here’s a fun one Justin Moore and I made this week lol).
Again, I’m sure you can pretty quickly figure out what these are for you.
Maybe you’ll get another burst of Big Brain energy later in the day, but I tend to find that once it’s gone, it’s not coming back until I’ve had a long break or a decent sleep.
That really is the only guiding principle I have for structuring my day.
It has to revolve around my mental energy.
But I’d love to hear any kernels of wisdom you have on the subject! Hit reply and let me know so I can try and get these late finishes under control! (Now 21:11… first time sub-1-hour!)
I’m actually taking next week off writing this because I’m going to France with my girlfriend Julia 👧🇫🇷👦
So wishing you all the best until September!
Julia and I have been bopping to this recently. I dearly hope you’ll bop to it too.
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