Tick Tock Tick Tock… Time Management and the Business of Freelancing…

carson-brackneyI have recently determined why I am not filthy rich.  I thought I’d take a moment to share my conclusion with you and how it relates to the business of writing.  I’d also like to solicit your assistance.

I’m tempted to blame the fact that I wasn’t born into old money or even enough new money to hang out with old money, but I think my parents more than compensated for that shortcoming in a number of other ways, so I left that off my list and opted to isolate a singular cause for my lack of a massive fortune.

It’s because I have an amazing ability to mismanage time.  I’ve been relatively successful in beating back that particular weakness by sheer force of will.  I’ve built up a massive sleep deficit in the process.

However, tenacity will only get one so far.  At some point, one must realize the truly awesome power of time and its management.  After studying my own habits with some care recently, I’ve concluded that I’m doing a horrific job with time.

Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to beat time to a pulp instead of living within it.  That’s a  fool’s errand.  I know that physicists have all sorts of ways to explain relativity and the theoretical means by which one can bend time, but your average (or even above-average) Joe or Jane can’t turn seconds into hours.

Time is time and it’s kicking everyone’s ass one second at a time.

You can get by with that when someone else is writing your paycheck.  The only good thing I can think about when it comes to being an employee is the fact that one gets paid for the countless hours spent doing nothing in particular.  Even employers realize that they’re paying for idle time; they accept it as part of the cost of doing business.  Very few people really work all day at their jobs and those who do…  Well, I hope they find better jobs or are duly compensated.

Things change when you own your shop.  If you don’t work, you don’t earn.  Yes, there are “passive income” pseudo-exceptions, but we don’t really need to muddy the waters with that conversation right now.  The fact of the matter is that if you want to make money, you must earn money and that generally means creating and pushing out product while you manage lining up additional opportunities.

You can compensate for unyielding nature of time by doing things that bring in more cash per unit of time.  I think I do pretty well in that regard.  On the far end of the spectrum (and for those with more limited earnings goals), that might be enough.  Not so for most of us.  And even when that is enough, it requires properly utilizing time in the first place in order to do that.

So, that leaves me with a burning professional question.  How am I going to make better use of my time?

This really is an exceptionally important question, too.  I don’t want to get too serious here, but we’re all going to die.  Time runs out.  We need to do our best to maximize its value.  We need to protect it for our families and passions and to improve the yield of the portion set aside for our professional endeavors.

I’m guessing that Deb expected me to provide some helpful hints when she asked me to contribute these posts.  However, this time I’m going to try to use this pulpit as an opportunity to get your wisdom.

What are you doing to turn eight hours into the equivalent of ten, twelve, or sixteen?  What massive time-wasters have plagued you and how did you fight back (or have you)?

What is your top time management trick?

I’ve discovered that my favorite just doesn’t work any more.  For years, I’ve relied upon sleep deprivation as a means of making up for time management blunders.  Now that the big 4-0 approaches, I’m realizing that my ability and willingness to greet the sun on a regular basis without the benefit of sleep is waning.

That’s why I’m working on systematizing some aspects of my professional life that I’ve been managing on an ad hoc basis.  That’s also why I’m trying to resist the siren song of some of my favorite time-wasters.

So, readers, lay it on me.  What are your time-sucks?  How are you beating them?  What have you done to make your days seem longer or to boost your productivity?  Did you find a great way to tame the email monster?  A solution to feed overload?  A cure for your Twitter addiction that didn’t require a 12-step program?  The intestinal fortitude to not watch the Tivo’ed episode of your favorite program?

As Red Green says, “We’re all in this together.”  Do share.







9 responses
  1. Jack Busch Avatar

    I’ve found that my biggest time suck is low paying work – but I’m addicted to it. It’s really hard for me to say no to people, especially if I’ve been working with them for years. So, my solution is to simply raise my rates across the board. That way, they end up saying “no” to me instead.

    How’s that for a tip? How to lose business… Hmm.
    .-= Jack Busch´s last blog ..Google Goggles: The World is Your Hyperlink =-.

  2. JulieF Avatar

    So…basically you’re saying I am good for a few more years? 40 in 5 1/2, so maybe it can be beaten before then.

    Twitter/FaceBook/Whatever-else-addictive: Found a sure fire cure. I have a level 80 warlock on World of Warcraft that needs attention. Can’t let those pixel monsters rule the world!

  3. Nacie Carson Avatar

    My biggest time problem is I get lost in projects and spend too much time on them (especially website projects!). The result is that I spend hours doing that and no hours doing the other bazillion things I need to be working on.

    The cure? Setting limits. When I sit down to start something, whether it is a new website design or a freelance client’s work, I look at the clock, and then make a mental note when I am going to stop and start working on something else. This serves the purpose to both make me more productive within that limit and also keep me from spending all day tweaking a twitter button design instead of, you know, making money on projects that pay immediately 🙂

    Good luck as you continue to build your empire!
    .-= Nacie Carson´s last blog ..Creating Yourself, Not Finding Yourself =-.

  4. Laura Spencer Avatar

    “If you don’t work, you don’t earn.”

    IMO nothing summarizes freelancing better to the uninitiated.

    I can remember thinking that I had unlimited amount of time as a teenager. Time loomed ahead of me–huge, empty, and promising. That was mainly because I was unchallenged and had little responsibility.

    The discovery a few years later that there actually a shortage of time hit me like a slap in the face. The reality is that there are some things that we’ll just never get a chance to do. There’s not enough time.

    That being said, the trick is to determine what’s truly important and devote your time to it. Not just in your work, but in your life.

    Am I there yet, not quite. It is a handy filter to help me make decisions, though.
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Are You Trapped in the Writing Web? =-.

  5. Anne Wayman Avatar

    I schedule my writing… actually, day by day, hour by hour and mostly I stick fairly close to that.

    I also look over my calendar and my projected earnings before I take on a new project to see if it fits the time I have available.

    It’s still a guessing game, but I at least have the illusion of control 😉
    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Jobs On Wednesday, February 24, 2010 =-.

  6. Kim Avatar

    I just started keeping track of how much time I spend on every assignment and task using timeclock software (I use OfficeTime). I’m doing this to track my effective hourly rate on various projects, including those that pay per word, so I can figure out which are the most and least lucrative. But there’s an added benefit: Knowing that I’m “on the clock” is making me more conscious of my time and helping me work more efficiently.

  7. Jessie Haynes / JHaynesWriter Avatar

    Carson, I had a looooot to say so please visit this blog post at my organizing blog to see my top tips and what I would suggest you do: http://whichplanner.com/2010/02/25/organized-workflow/
    .-= Jessie Haynes / JHaynesWriter´s last blog ..Popular Freelance Writing Blog Releases Keyword Density Analyzer that Focuses on Readability =-.


    Hey Carson,

    At age 61 I retired less than 4 months ago from a 35 year career in trucking. If my wheels didn’t roll – I made no dough. I cannot tell you the hours I worked per day, nor the miles I drove per day. It could get a lot of people in trouble if a gung-ho federal employee read this. Besides, most people would think I was not telling the truth anyway. After all, I was a truck driver. I will just say that for the past 4 months I have been learning a lot about how the human species lives. And, it has been a treat, but there are far too many whiners amongst us. They need to trade homes with the people in Haiti. They might learn something.

    I am not a good Christian, but I believe. And, I also believe that people are a part of nature as much as any other animal. And, I believe there is a daily biological clock within each of us. But, most of us abuse it on a daily basis. At any rate, I will break it down in a biological sequence for you.

    1.) We take care of business. That is we work. We earn what is needed to survive. And, if we are productive enough we earn what is needed to buy toys. If we do it right that should take up no more than 8 hours of the day. Uh, most of us do not do it right. I plead guilty.

    2.) But, why do we need toys? Hmmm. We need toys for amusement and entertainment. And, we need time to relax, or to learn and experience new things. We need time to interact with our families, friends and others. And, we need to have the time to unwind. And, that should take up about 8 hours of the day.

    3.) That leaves 8 hours of the day to rest. At my age I feel best if I can sleep at least 7 of those 8 hours.

    Mother Nature has a way of telling us if we are treating ourselves wrong. She
    made me lay on a table while men and women stood above me and played with my heart. I have a fifteen inch scar from my neck to my belly to remind me of that day. There are more scars down the length of my right leg. So, yes I know what mismanagement of time (and other things) can do to the human body.

    So, what am I doing about time management now. Well, for the first time in my life I am getting good solid sleep even though it is not on a constant basis. That is, I may get to bed late at times. And, my days are still a little hectic. Without even noticing it I sometimes put in at least 12 hours or more at the activities I am trying to turn into commercial enterprises. That has something to do with loving what I am doing. But, I believe I am using my off-time wisely. I just finished 2+ miles on the treadmill right after I watched a movie. I am cooking real food (as opposed to convenience store $%$##^#$%$), and eating just like I was a human.

    About 3 or 4 months ago someone on the radio was talking about a writer who lives in (I think) Vermont. This writer has made a ton of money with his craft. And, he claims that he works 40 hours a week, 5 days a week and 8 hours each day. He says he may work less because he can afford to do so. But, he never, never, never works more. Now, when I grow up – I want to be just like him. And, I don’t even know his name.
    .-= KEITH BIRMINGHAM´s last blog ..PLUS – Picture Licensing Universal System =-.

  9. Imogen Avatar

    Great post! Literally made me lol, and I’m not a huge user of that little acronym.

    My best time management trick was to give myself permission to fire-gaze. You know when you’re idly surfing the net, or pottering around in the back-yard? It feels like you’re wasting time when suddenly – out of the blue – comes the inspiration you’ve been waiting for… and the piece practically writes itself. I now factor this in as a real and legitimate use of my time, now that I’ve shaken the constant feeling of ‘The Invisible Boss is Watching Me!’
    .-= Imogen´s last blog ..Pet Peeves of Freelance Job Ads =-.

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