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384472_10150370255946867_270838901866_8795042_317292409_nNow that spring is here, things are starting to pick up for me. I can look at my calendar and see more speaking events and weekend signings and festivals appearing. It seems odd that my first outdoor event for the year is in a couple weeks and we just had snow in Gettysburg yesterday (April 2)!

Here’s how the numbers increase:

  • March – 5 events
  • April – 8 events
  • May – 10 events

As my events increase, my free time begins to disappear. I still need to do the writing that I was doing earlier in the year, but now dozens of hours each week are being taken up by events. I don’t mind all of the activity because I can see the results with increased sales. It also gives me a break from my writing without feeling guilty that I’m not working. I just have to watch myself so I don’t burn out.

This is all part of an indie author’s marketing efforts. It takes a lot of effort to get your stories out there when you’re a one-person show.

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2061471151-rijagd4irI’m often told that I get a lot done in a day, so I must be a good time manager.

I don’t think so.

I think I get a lot done in a day is because I have a lot to do. One of the things about being self-employed is that unless you want to pay someone to do it for you, you have to do everything. So not only do I have to be an author, I have to be a salesperson, book designer, social media marketer, blogger, accountant, PR rep, graphic designer, and more.

My to-do list every day is longer than two people could finish. It helps that I don’t have a long commute that eats up an hour or two each day. It also helps that I’m finding new technology all of the time that helps me automate some of the routine things that I need to do.

So even when I accomplish a lot each day, I always know that more needs to be done. I just keep chipping away at the list like a man trying to eat an elephant. I take small pieces, knowing that eventually, I will finish the whole thing. I do a little bit of each project every day to keep them all moving forward. It takes longer to finish any individual project, but I don’t fall behind on any of my projects. Doing things this way means that if I run into a problem with one of the projects, I have the time needed to fix things without having to pull an all-nighter. It’s something that I learned to do in college while taking a full course load and working a full-time job.

Since college, I’ve learned two other techniques that help me.

The first is that I reprioritize my list every day. Projects that are due sooner are at the top of the list and get a bit more attention. I have found that by doing this, some projects consistently fall to the bottom of the list, and I might not even need to do them.

The second thing I did was to watch less television. Some studies show that the average American watches five hours of television a day. Now I’m no saint. I still watch an hour or two a day, but that still saves me three hours a day. Also, I stream my shows or watch DVDs on my computer on half of my computer monitor and work on other projects on the other side of the monitor; nothing complicated, just routine work.

One final thing is that I have gotten used to things getting done a little slower than I would like, but they get done. That’s the important thing.

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I once saw a performer in a Cirque du Soleil show who juggled seven balls at once. He wasn’t able to do it for too long before he started tossing balls out from the moving circle. I have never been able to juggle. Sometimes, I’m challenged to toss one ball back and forth between my hands.

I can juggle projects, though. I have gotten very good at doing it over the years. It’s not surprising since I have to deal with writing projects from around eight writing clients each month, and I’m often doing multiple projects for each one. That means I have weekly, monthly, and bimonthly deadlines that I need to meet. Some of the projects are long-term and others are rush jobs. Plus, this doesn’t include my own writing projects.

I usually work on each project for a little bit each day. I might do interviews for one article, the rough draft for another, transcribing notes for a third, a partial draft on another, and a final draft on a fifth project.

It keeps me busy, and all of the projects move forward. It works for me because I don’t feel overwhelmed by how much writing I have to do on a project. I can see forward movement on the project so I don’t feel anxiety as the deadline approaches.

I also like that I can usually see potential problems coming far in advance of the deadline. Maybe I need to do more interviews or research. Maybe I need to completely rewrite an article. By doing a little bit each day, I can see the problem coming rather than having to scramble when I’m doing a lot of writing only a few days out from my deadline.

However, just like the juggler couldn’t maintain seven balls in the air for a long period, juggling multiple projects can wear me down after a while. When I start to feel that way, I also have to back off. This usually seems to be a time when I have an unusually high number of projects that I’m trying to keep moving.

I do this by focusing on one or two projects each day and trying to finish them or at least make major progress toward finishing them. These are usually projects that have looming deadlines or a project that doesn’t require a lot of research and preparation. Finishing a project is like removing a ball from the juggler’s moving circle.

Some of the advantages that I’ve found with this method as I talk with other writers are:

  • I don’t get bored because I’m working on different things.
  • I can avoid writer’s block. If I get blocked on a project, I just jump to a new project.
  • The projects get daily attention so I don’t go cold on a particular project.

This is something that works for me. Maybe it will help you get more out of your day if you try it. Good luck.

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Working as a freelance writer can be like trying to herd cats, as the saying goes. In this case, the cats are the projects and other jobs you have to do because you do it all as a freelancer. Right now, I’ve got 8 articles I’m working, 2 more that I need to do some planning for, a manuscript I’m formatting, a manuscript I’m editing and a manuscript that I’m writing. This also doesn’t include the forum posts, invoicing, queries and job estimates that I need to do. Instead of freelance writer, the job should be freelance writer-editor-designer-marketer-CPA-purchaser-CEO.

Most days, I find myself working my way through my to-do list doing a little bit of everything. This keeps all my project up-to-date, but it takes longer to get them finished. This means my to-do list gets longer as more things go on the list than come off of it.

My solution to this came about more from instinct than any great insight on my part. As a deadline draws near, I focus more on that project and at some point, I’ll drop a lot of other work for the day and just  finish a project that is probably 75 percent done.

I feel such a nice sense of relief to be able to cross it off my to-do list, which in actuality is really no shorter. But it feels like it is because it’s one less project I’ve got bouncing around in my head trying to get my attention.

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