Monday, January 14, 2013

Organizing the Assignments

Being a freelancer means being your own boss.

And that translates into constant self-discipline to work as if someone is standing at your right elbow shouting, "Deadline was 5 minutes ago!"

The problem is that there are some mornings where there are so many pieces of things to do that it's hard to get started with just one. This is one such morning for me.

Now I don't know if you've ever taken a Myers Briggs personality test, but in one of the categories, I consistently score 100 percent as a "J," or "Judging." Basically, that means I live a structured and decided lifestyle. I'm a planner to the nth degree.

So on a morning like today, I put my J skills in action. Here's how I tackled the mountain of tasks. It's a very simple solution for you, too:

Get out a blank piece of white paper and a black Sharpie. Why use a magic marker rather than an ink pen? I find that if I write my tasks in thick, black ink, my mind snaps to attention. The larger letters command my action.

Now draw two vertical lines down the paper and two horizontal lines across. This should give you boxes in which to write.

In each box, write and underline the name of a task. In my case, three of my boxes had titles of three different stories I'm working on. One box was for personal errands. One box was for correspondence with current editors. One box was for business development.

In the boxes with the story titles, I listed what had to be done for each story. Which sources do I still need to contact? Which line of research still needs to be unearthed? Which one has a pending interview? And what time will I start writing each one?

The box for personal errands lists things I have to do this afternoon that have nothing to do with work.

The box for correspondence with editors included a list of phone calls and emails for pitch follow-ups, story planning sessions and other housekeeping matters, i.e., checking on when I can expect my money for work completed.

And the box for business development? My list includes time to work on my book project, time to redesign my business Web site and time to research new companies to pitch.

As you can see, no wonder I had such a mental block when it came time to diving into my Monday morning! The list was enormous! But by dividing these tasks up in categories and looking at them on this sheet of paper in capital letters written with a fat Sharpie, I'm now focused and ready, and I've already crossed several things off the list.

Which brings up my last point .... When you complete a task, cross it off. I don't know why this psychologically helps me, but doing so gives me a boost of energy because of a sense of self-accomplishment. I have more drive then to tackle the rest of the items.

Will I get to all of them in one day?

Certainly not.

But the list will stay in front of me all week, and by Friday, I'll feel like I've earned the downtime I will so richly reserve.

You will, too! Try it!

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