Practical Problogging Tips: Structure Your Writing Time

Do you ever get into a frame of mind where you have too many ideas to write about and end up “spinning your wheels” a bit? Very recently, I had a bit of difficulty getting posts out on Performancing. I have about a dozen partially written posts and ideas for literally dozens more, though I found I couldn’t complete any and get them posted. Part of the problem comes from overloading myself, the other part from being caught up in “research mode”. The solution: self-imposing deadlines and structuring writing time.

My unfinished writing is unfinished because it’s lackluster, which is giving me the boring content blues. I have been working on some very large projects of late, each of which might take 40-80 hours of work but pay off well. It’s what I’d call working in my dream market, though it’s easy to get caught up in those projects and neglect my bread and butter daily freelancing work. The other problem is that I like to spend time thinking about my posts, and if I’m spending 40-80 hours over 1-3 calendar weeks (on top of regular work), there isn’t a lot of time for that. Unless I enforce a timetable.

Organization is key for success as a freelancer (or even just problogging), though the laid back environment of working at home isn’t always conducive to having a structured work day. I have to find my own discipline. While I don’t like to apply too much scheduling to blogging, I do block off parts of the day for clusters of activity. I still have some freedom of task choice within a specific block.

  1. Early morning to 12:00 noon – browse and answer email, browse sites in my “daily sites” folder, plan posts, run custom searches and bookmark results, do some initial writing. (I have found, since 2002, that if I write at least 1000 words by 11:30 am each day, I always have a very productive day. Though I was more successful at this with short fiction than I have been with blogging.)
  2. 12:30 pm to mid afternoon – focus on writing a single article/ project (or two). That is, apply very dedicated time.
  3. Mid afternoon to 5 pm – edit recent writing, post some completed work, answer email, review tasks, or sometimes complete personal tasks (e.g., grocery shopping).
  4. 6 pm – 8 pm – focus on big projects, personal projects, personal tasks, as necessary.
  5. 8 pm – 11 pm – watch TV, research online, watch a DVD, or go to the theater.
  6. 11 pm – 3 am – pretend I’m relaxing but I’m actually catching up reading the million blogs I follow.

However, if I find I’m falling behind on something, I’ll use Google Calendar to block out a specific time for a must-do task. Google Calendar has an immensely annoying but very practical feature: a reminder option. You can specify the time frame for a reminder, and how you receive it. My calendar reminds me of a pending task by displaying a browser popup 10 minutes before start time. (You could choose the email reminder option, but that’s not really annoying enough.)

Now from the above schedule, you might assume I’m obsessive. That’s probably true, though in the last 3 months or so, I’ve blocked off a lot of “play” time on Friday night through Sun evening, sometimes even through Tues evening. (My fave TV shows are on Mon nights.) I still work over the weekend, but the emphasis is on relaxing.

What about you? What do you do to meet deadlines, and to ensure that you’re balancing your life with some play time?

6 thoughts on “Practical Problogging Tips: Structure Your Writing Time

  1. Mariella: I’m actually the opposite. If I sleep more than 5.5-6 hours in a night, I wake up groggy and non-functional. 5.5-6 hrs is my sweet spot. I’ve been like this since I was in my mid-teens.

  2. When exactly do you sleep?

    As for me, I have to get in at least 8 hours of sleep per day or I’ll be non-functional the next day, and end up staring at the screen like a zombie.

    Mariella Moon
    I Twit
    I Stumble

  3. Keeping organized is a MUST if you are going to work for yourself (at home or anywhere else). I block out time like you do as well. Each block of time is specifically for work and I squeeze my fiction into the daily errands and chores I have to do (like waiting for the kids at practice). It is important for me to have time set aside when I know (and the people around me know) that I will be working. Otherwise I will continue to put it off until the deadlines are long gone.

  4. I tend to do the same with my todo-list as I do with my suitcase when I pack for a holiday. First I stuff in everything I know must be there, and then I remove the stuff that didn’t need to be there in the first place after all. What I’m left with is the basics, the really important things.

    If you find yourself too organized to have time for fun or relaxation, I guess you just have to schedule it in. On days when the pressure is low I tend to use my egg timer as a tool, and schedule 45 minutes for alternating between important/difficult and unimportant/enjoyable things to do. But then again, you have to be able to take a day off from time to time.

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