P / P Master Class Lesson 1: Time Management and Discipline – It’s Not What You Think

P / P Master Class is a series of writing advice for aspiring writers.

Read tips below on how to sculpt your freelance writing routine

I’ve had a string of emails from young students and aspiring writers asking questions about how I broke into the writing industry. Before I can explain how to become a full time professional independent writer, author and journalist, I have to talk about time management and discipline. Since it’s the holidays and it’s too busy a time to give in person workshops, I’m going to be sharing professional advice on Publikprivate.org.

People who know me now think of me as a “morning person,” but the fact that I consistently get up early was totally circumstantial.

I’ve lived bi-coastalally for at least a decade. I would spend a 2-3 years in California (Los Angeles or the Bay Area) or on the East Coast (New York or Baltimore/DC) working, lecturing and writing. I learned how to wake up early by living in California which is three hours behind/earlier than New York. If my NYC or east coast deadline was noon, my deadline was 9am in California. Back then, there were times when I didn’t write my first draft until the morning of, so I would have to get up between 5am and 7am to write and hand in my article on time.

After a couple of years of having 9am deadlines, I naturally learned to get up early. The process wasn’t forced, it was motivated by the fact that I wanted to keep my job. It wasn’t something I was actively training myself to do. So, when I arrived back on the east coast, I’d get up between 8 and 10 am every morning and was able to focus on my work while living alone.

Now that I live in a family environment with a partner and have access to a larger kitchen and home in general, I began to really focus ro create a disciplined and consistent morning routine that started between 7:30am and 8 am every morning.

Time Management & Discipline – It’s Not What You Think

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Don’t just go with the flow in the morning – even if it is working well, you can always do better.

I started shaping a strict discipline though household management. I’d get up around 8am and immediately make a pot of coffee, clean my kitchen (and sometimes bathroom) and cook breakfast. I know this seems simple and old-fashioned, but if you want to be a freelance writer, you’re most likely going to be working from some form of home office. So, essentially you’ll be going from your bed straight to work without a commute.

I personally started looking at preparing breakfast and cleaning my home almost like a military discipline. Since I don’t jog in the morning or have a formal exercise routine, cleaning is my way of staying in shape, getting my heart pumping while providing a healthy, clean environment for myself and the other members of my home.

By the time I’ve made coffee, cleaned, cooked and took out the trash, my mind is sharp, my body had been active for 30 minutes to an hour, and I am ready to sit down and work on a tedious work project.

Your home IS your office.

If you don’t have a designated place to write and work at home, create one. Buy or attain a desk, and keep it organized. An office with papers, files and mail all over the place is not going to make you feel prepared to truly focus on what you have to do. It’s ok to work in your bed if you enjoy doing that, but make sure you make the bed before you get back in, maybe take a shower. Try not to work in your pajamas. Have accessible, comfy clothes you can change into before you get to work.

Getting up early is essential.

I am very aware of the “night writer” and the “day writer”. Some people are naturally nocturnal, but it is very likely as a freelancer, your editor or project leader works in a newsroom or is active and available to answer emails between 9am-5pm. It’s very important to have your first emails and replies in to your boss between 9:30am and 11am. That’s when they’ve had time to get their coffee and finish their own routines. Continue reading

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