Writing is one of those tasks that we constantly are trying to complete. However, the multitude of sources and items published every day distract us from our work. If you ask most writers what they struggle with, most of them will say that they wish they were more focused during their writing, so they could get more of the writing done and use their time more effectively.
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This struggle is even more apparent for freelance writers. Most freelance writers know that the more pieces they finish, the more they get paid. Any moment that they aren’t working costs them potential money.
So, how can a freelance writer make his time more focused? There are four areas in particular that writers can work through in order to improve their ability to be productive. And the first thing is Putting First Things First.
“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” – Stephen Covey
Freelance writers certainly need to make sure that they have everything in its place. Every writer should determine what really matters to them. Are things like family, work and relationships first for you? Is entertainment, and your own self-fulfilled joy the only thing that matters? You should answer these questions before moving forward. Then you will be able to determine what you can cut from your life so you can focus more on your writing.
Another method to consider for using time effectively is setting a deadline. By having a deadline, you are more likely to stay focused. A great way to implement this on a daily basis is setting a timer for your writing. If you know how long it takes you to write X amount of words, you should use that information, and determine how long it will take you to write about your subject. Take that time amount and set it apart. Then, set a timer that will buzz about 10-15 minutes past your estimate of time, for the sake of being flexible. This timer will instill a sense of urgency in you, that will make focus easier. And if you are able to make your goal, go ahead and get a treat, or check your email. Reward yourself for your focused attempt. It’s best to start out this method with smaller articles and go onto bigger projects as you go.
This is the biggest hindrance for writers. We can set our time, and our efforts aside. But when we see that link to a funny cat picture our friend emailed us, or the latest article on how to succeed in blogging, we remove ourselves from our place of writing, and start to eat our time away. The five-minute video leads to another, and another. Eventually, the time adds up, and we lose track.
The best way to remove yourself from that funk is minimal writing software, such as Darkroom, iAWriter and Byword, which we have mentioned on FYW before. These create a full-screen environment that allows you to write without distraction. Also, you should consider creating a set-up where your writing computer can be separate from other devices, like a phone, or a clock. The less things to pull away from your focus, the better.
You can always try listen to music. Some writers consider music to be distracting, while others see it as essential for getting work. Both groups are correct, since some music can be very distracting, and some music can refine your focus. It all matters on why you’re using it, and what you are going to do with it. The best music is instrumental. Soundtracks are often really good. You won’t be distracted by lyrics, and it’s unlikely that you will get as picky about what you are listening to. It’s especially helpful if you use music sources like Pandora to create a constant stream of this music, so you don’t have to worry about picking and choosing.
Writers often know what they want to say, but don’t know how to say it. So, it’s always worth returning to that principle we were taught in high school: researching and outlining your thoughts. Make sure that you know enough about your subject to write about it. If you don’t, then you can complete the research, and turn it into an outline for the piece. Once you have the outline, you’ll know what you want to say up front. Transferring it to paper may be easier. It also makes the editing process faster and allows you to focus on your main objective.
These four areas will help you to focus your energy, use your time wisely, and be able to write more than ever before. Like all things, it will require practice. It will be hard. But if you are willing to work, then you will find it profitable, and worth your time.