6 Ways to Waste Your Time as a Writer (Hint: Don’t Do Them!)

A Guest Post by Cori Padgett of Big Girl Branding

‘Freelance writer’ is a pretty hard hat to wear at times.

Not only are you the sole – well everything – when it comes to your business, you are also easily susceptible to distractions. Much more easily susceptible than say Writer Jonah that lives up the street and works for that big swanky office.

See, Writer Jonah has a schedule and an office he has to commute to at certain times each day. Heís got responsibilities that he has to leave at home to focus on the job at hand. Not to mention things like strictly enforced deadlines and such. Writer Jonah has a J.O.B.

That means his day and your day as a freelancer likely looks vastly different.

And let’s face it, we like that it looks different. As freelancers, that’s why we set up shop for ourselves to begin with. The allure of freedom, the promise of lazy days, a steady influx of cash, and ahh… “The Writer’s Life”.

Only the “Freelance Writer’s Life” is in all reality a landmine of potential distractions, derailed plans, and a constant niggling feeling that there was something you were supposed to do today and itís still not done, whatever it was.

Sound familiar?

That said there are 6 ways to royally distract yourself and waste some time if you’re so inclined. Although I suggest that if you have deadlines to meet, clients clamoring for your attention, and potential money to be made…

Perhaps skip these 6 time wasters and jump right into the being productive part. You’ll thank me later! And I bet as a bonus, your clients will thank you.

  1. Sleep late. Like – every day or something.Seriously, I know it feels great to sleep past 10am on a lazy Sunday morning but letís be real. Everyday isn’t Sunday, and you shouldn’t treat it as such. While you’re happily ensconced in your bed snoring like a freight train, the rest of the working world is up with the birds, and banging out results like there’s no tomorrow.If I start my day at 7am and you get up at 11am… I’ve now got 4 hours of work on you. And unfortunately the later the day runs, the less productive we tend to get. So do yourself a favor and make like the birds. Rise early and start your day off right.Or not, but don’t complain and wonder where all your time went when suddenly itís 8pm and you’re exhausted…and still not done.
  2. Keep irregular hours. Break for movies … and brunch … and a haircut while you’re at it.Yes, I know that one of the biggest draws of being a freelancer is setting your own hours, and having the ability to catch a mid-day movie if you feel like it. However thatís not conducive to a productive day, and there is a reason businesses have ‘office hours’.Put simply, having set hours works. It keeps you on track, it keeps your business thriving, and it keeps your cash flow in the black. So keep crazy hours if you want, maybe just to prove you can. But if you’re serious about your success, set yourself a schedule and stick to it.Does that mean you can’t be flexible sometimes?Of course not.You are your own boss after all. Just don’t make it habit if you’re in it to win it with this whole freelancing gig.
  3. Forget to hang your ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign when you begin working.OK, so really – if you allow yourself to be sidetracked then what are you accomplishing for the day? When you’re working, make it clear to all that youíre working. That means close your door and hang a sign or take off to the library if you must to get some blessed peace and quiet.Peace and quiet means you can think straight which means you can write. If you leave your door wide open, it’s like inviting your kids or your spouse to come inside and interrupt you. And guess what? They’ve got no clue if youíre on a roll and more often than not what happens next?That interruption totally ruined your writing mojo and itís going to take time for you to get back into the ‘flow’. Interruptions = Time wasters.So do yourself a favor and discourage distractions, don’t invite them.
  4. On the topic of distractions – go ahead and let technology have its merry way with you.We live in an age of technological wonder. Everything is there, right at our fingertips. Unfortunately for you as a freelancer this means you’re vulnerable to massive amounts of time wasted on a daily basis.And the sad thing is that the time is often gone before you even realize it’s gone!Things like email, web surfing, Twitter and Facebook are all great tools for inspiration. As a writer you need things that can trigger a bit of inspiration sometimes. But beware that these tools don’t end up eating you for breakfast and leaving you wondering where the heck your day went.Not to mention other technology like phone chats, instant messenger, television, video games and the like – all massive time wasters when you allow them to get between you and your goals. So have fun and enjoy technology, but I highly recommend you don’t allow it to rule your life.
  5. Think about writing, talk about writing, dream about writing – do everything but…Actually write. Thinking, dreaming, and talking about writing doesnít get it done. Anything youíre doing along those lines, while it may ‘feel’ good, or make you ‘feel’ like a writer – doesnít make you one. It’s a time waster.The only thing that makes you a writer is writing already. And then writing some more.And some more after that.Until literally your poor little brain is so drained not another word can be eeked from within its murky depths. Then you might be a writer. But by all means, if you’ve got time to spare go right ahead and think, talk, and dream of writing. Just don’t expect to get very far, please your clients, or meet your goals. Just sayin’.
  6. And finally? Scoff at being organized.Really do you know how much time is wasted each day when you’re less than organized, and less than efficient?OK, so I haven’t exactly timed it, but I know it’s a lot!I know this because I am notoriously disorganized. But Iíve forced myself to become a semi-organized freelancer simply because…stuff gets done.If you can’t even implement a simple system to keep track of your projects, your client projects, your notes and ideas, and your commitments- you can bet that a huge chunk of your time is out the window.It’s gone while you hunt around for that quote you gave that client that time – or you dig furiously looking for that little scrap of paper you wrote that book idea on – or you sit and ponder about that appointment you ‘think’ you made for tomorrow (but in reality it was for yesterday).In that last particular situation, not only have you wasted your time youíve also wasted your potential client’s time who booked the appointment in the first place.Great way to impress folks with your freelancing prowess I might add! (That was sarcasm in its nicest possible form by the way.)

Moral of this little story?

Do all of the above if your goals are to waste time and not actually write. However if you really want to be a writer

  • Rise early.
  • Set a schedule.
  • Discourage distractions.
  • Ban technology.
  • Get organized.
  • And write already!

Now.

How about you?

Got any tricks to keep your time wasting to a minimum? I’d love to hear them.

Cori is a wildly hire-able freelance ‘ghost’ as well as the creative brains and dubious brawn behind her blog Big Girl Branding. You can also stalk her on Twitter if you really want to.

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Cori Padgett

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