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scheduling the freelance writer’s day

My family is currently marinating in an incredibly structured schedule. It includes meals, naps, errands, cleaning, dates – the whole shebang all carefully mapped out. At first it freaked me out, whatever happened to just letting things happen, right? Not really…

We’ve been at it now for about 2 weeks, and I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it has made in our lives. All four of us have entered some sort of rhythmically syncopated, ulterior universe that is lulling us all into, well, a happy place.

So, all of this order and ease, got me thinking – the daily life of a Freelancer is somewhat similar to the daily life of a house with two 2 year-olds and two 85lb. dogs. They both include:

  • an extraordinary amount of work
  • frequent distractions
  • multi-tasking
  • incessant demands from needy customers
  • messes
  • successes
  • things that beep, whir, bark, whine and blink at you
  • undulating energy levels
  • and, total exhaustion.

So, why shouldn’t a structured calendar also transform my life as a freelancer? Think of all the time that will not be wasted because I’m efficiently shuffled from one task to the next. I already succeeded in turning off my social media while I was writing a project, this seems like the logical next step.

I’m going to make my calendar now…and then I’m thinking about a one week challenge – to really see if this raises the bar on my productivity. Yes, I will schedule Twitter breaks throughout the day. And, yes, I’m hoping I don’t have to hire an office mom to make this work.

Anyone want to join me in this endeavor?

UPDATE: I’ve had a fantastic response to this challenge, brave souls, each and every one of you! I’m away for the long weekend, so here’s what I propose: take the weekend to work on your calendar. I’ll post mine here by Tuesday and we’ll begin on Wednesday morning. I’ll also send you all an email to remind you, bust on you, and even, possibly inspire you. Thanks for your patience on the start date, I have to go to Vermont, my family is making me take a vacation.

Can’t wait to see how we all do and what we find…

Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • Ron Miller says:

    I might. I find myself floating from one task to the next and when I create a To Do list and follow it I’m much more productive. The only trouble with this approach is my total disdain for authority (even my own). One of the chief reasons I became a freelancer in the first place is because I never got along with authority (and I wonder why I have trouble with my kids) and I would probably chafe at my own schedule. :-)

    This is not to suggest that I lack self-discipline because I couldn’t do what I do week in and week out without. I tell friends I work at home and they can’t believe it. They talk about how they would watch TV or do house work. I don’t do that (to my wife’s great chagrin–the housework part), but I manage to meet my deadlines every time (knock wood) and make a good living (knock wood).

    I’m not sure I need the structure of a two year old, but a little time focus on a single task, that I wouldn’t mind.

  • Lisa says:

    Not naysaying … But I tried this not too long ago and found that the schedule sent me into high-anxiety mode because projects never seemed to fit into the allotted times.

    I enjoy the organic nature of inspiration and talking with people who “stop by my cube” (aka Twitter). I do turn off the noise when I’m writing a feature, but smaller pieces generally benefit from stimulation and interaction.

    And yeah, I missed seeing your Tweets for a while there this morning. ;)

  • Anne Mayhew says:

    I think this time of year brings out the desire for order. Kids back to school, coming off a busy season in my case, order and structure help make the transition. Not too much but some basic tasks to get the flow of the day going!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ron, you crack me up – and I too have never been tempted to do housework as a form of procrastination! Not once. Who are those people?

    Also, let it be known that the scheduling benefited the two year-olds but was created for the sanity of the parents.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Lisa – this is a great point – and one that does not escape me. This will certainly be an experiment. I’m spurred on by the fact that I thought it would never work in our house, and it has…we feel like we have more time. But ‘dinner’ doesn’t have writer’s block, so the time constraint is less of an issue!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Anne, I think you’re right. When we instituted the schedule at home, there was a clear sense of, ‘it’s fall now, summer’s over, party’s over’…

  • Karen Putz says:

    I’m game–if someone could send a fairy to my house and wave a magic wand. I’m kicking myself off the computer RIGHT NOW to tackle the office which is maddeningly choking me.

  • Julie,

    One of the things I found that helped is to get a spiral notebook and write down the 5 most important things for the next day on the page. I know, I know…there are SO many things that need to get done, but just bare with me here.

    Write down those 5 things that you REALLY want to accomplish tomorrow. Once you get each task done, check it off or scratch it off (I enjoy this part). I get a big sense of accomplishment by doing this. Now, once these 5 things are done, you can allow yourself to start adding tasks one at a time and when you are done check them off or scratch them off.

    When I started doing this, I was able to successfully maintain my balance and happily sustain a sense of accomplishment throughout my day.

    I wrote a more detailed description of this simple time management system in WE Magazine for Women. If you would like to read the article, you can go to

    I hope it helps!

    P.S. Another great thing I really like to use especially when I am on a “deadline” to write…a kitchen timer.


    Teresa Morrow

  • Julie Roads says:

    Karen! I like your determination! So enthused to find so much support and so many willing accomplices!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Teresa – this is excellent…and something that I do. I especially like to do it the night before so I don’t have to busy my brain with trying to remember ‘what needs to get done tomorrow’ all night long! Nothing feels as good as crossing off a task accomplished…it’s one of the things I love most about writing on this blog every day! Thank you for the link and the advice!

  • Dave says:

    OK, I accept. I’ve been meaning to create a strict daily schedule, and this seems like the perfect opportunity.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Dave! The gauntlet has been thrown!

  • Ron Miller says:

    Hey Julie:
    I get that. Two-year olds need a lot of structure or they can drive their parents bananas. I’m not sure I could impose structure on myself even if I wanted to. Consider my afternoon so far.

    Even before this post today, I told myself at Noon that I was going to take a half hour to peruse my RSS feeds in Google Reader and try to find some ideas for my newsletter (and for tomorrow’s morning blog post). I ended up taking 45 minutes and was about to work on a training course I’m developing when my Google Calendar beeped at me that I had a 1:00, which I had forgotten about. (Thank goodness for Calendar notifier.)

    The training was pushed aside while I wrote some questions and prepared for the meeting. I got off the, realized I hadn’t looked at Twitter for 2 hours, checked that, checked the headlines, opened PowerPoint to finally work on the training, then saw your post. Opened it read it, responded to it and it was after 2. Went downstairs, had some soup, looked up and my son was home from school. Talked to him, came back up, checked my email, saw all the responses to this post including yours. Came back here, wrote this and now finally at 3:00 I am turning my attention to the training.

    You see why structure can’t work. There is none. I don’t have two year olds running into my office either (although I think that would be a fantastic distraction), but my work life is chaotic because I take on so much. It’s just nature of the beast.


  • Julie Roads says:

    Okay, I’m waving the white flag of surrender with you, Ron! I totally hear you…but let me flirt with the idea of a schedule NOT making my days look like that…because they presently do!

  • --Deb says:

    I’ve never been able to really schedule my day like that–much as it sounds good, in theory! And yet, I’m a very structured person, so you’d think I’d like that….

  • Audrey says:

    Great idea, I’d love to have a go…

  • Lorie says:

    It definitely has its advantages. I like to schedule down time in too! And the fun part about the weekends is the schedule is more relaxed! Makes them even MORE fun!!

  • misty says:

    Hi Julie, I loved your list…I could have written it myself! I run my site, My Inspiration Lounge, from home with my 3-month old right by my side. My 4-year old stayed home this week since she was sick. It was completely chaotic. I say test out the structured calendar and see how it works! I think you probably find something in between that works best! I need to do something similar…

    Misty with My Inspiration Lounge

  • Julie Roads says:

    Hi Deb, Lorie, Audrey and Misty! I’m so sorry for lumping this response together, but I’m doing it because the clock it ticking! I can’t wait to start this experiment with you!

  • Heather says:

    Hi Julie, I’m so glad I found your blog! I’ve been whirring and whizzing myself, just going nuts really. I too plan to spend the weekend writing a weekly schedule to follow for say, a month. I hate schedules but really need to focus my energy.

    For I second I thought I read that you schedule cleaning dates. Now THERE’S a good idea! These days that’s on the bottom of the totem pole.

    Look forward to reading your blog and learning from you. Happy Friday!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Well, Heather, we do schedule cleaning and dates…and we do clean together…so they kind of are cleaning dates!

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