Keeping On Task

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As a freelance writer, my life is full of deadlines: for writing articles, doing research, sourcing images etc.  For some people, this would be the stuff of nightmares but for me, it works…usually.  It means I can plan ahead, working out what I need to do and by when.  In the fourteen years I’ve been freelancing, I’ve never once missed a deadline, even when I was juggling writing with a full-time job.  It’s the first golden rule you learn as a freelance writer: editors need reliable freelancers who can deliver on time when they say they will.  Missing a deadline would be tantamount to the kiss of death on a freelance career.


You would think these deadlines would give my working day some sort of structure and keep me on task.  Usually they do, but it’s the self-imposed deadlines I have a problem with.  They’re the ones when I’m trying to work ahead and set myself a target to finish an article by the end of the day, even though it’s not due in for two weeks or so.  The trouble is I have to do a lot of research on the Internet, and there’s almost always something which distracts me from what I’m actually supposed to be looking for. 


Whole mornings can go by without me having done anything productive.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  I find myself reading the Guardian news pages and Strictly gossip, or looking at houses on Right Move, my book rankings on Amazon or other writers' blogs - anything other than the task in hand.  It’s even started to filter into time when I should be writing articles which don’t need any Internet research, so much so that I’ve resorted to writing them longhand well away from a computer to give myself a headstart.


To keep on top of things, I’m trying to be more disciplined about my work, starting and finishing as I would if I was in an office.  I had become very lax about this, but oddly enough, I’ve been helped by the overzealous decorator who’s painting our windows at the moment.  He gets here just after 8 in the morning, so now I take our dog Domino out between 8 and 9 to be sure of being at my desk ready to start work at 9.  I fully intend to continue this routine when the decorator has finished.  I’ve also discovered another trick to get myself started in the mornings more quickly – I make sure that I’ve started a piece of writing the afternoon before so that I can pick up where I left off.  Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it?  Wonder how long it will last…!

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