It’s hard to schedule writing projects, no doubt about it. One project? Sure. Twenty projects for different clients on a rolling basis? Not so sure.
Keeping a full pipeline that involves twenty different projects for multiple stages, including pitching, agreeing and signing contracts, writing, editing and finalizing?
Um … yes?
Oh, and that’s just the client projects. Most writers, myself included, also have their own work – in my case, blogging and writing books. All of which also exists in an ongoing state of brainstorming, writing, editing, finalizing and posting.
Aaaaaaaaaand time to find some sand and go all ostrich up in here.
Which is to say: It can be scary.
Never fear, though. With this handy scheduling flow, you’ll never again lose track of projects, find yourself overwhelmed or head to a playground in search of a sandbox. Time to learn to schedule writing projects like a boss.
Want to get something done? You have to start with picking a date. A real one. A date that’s close enough to really motivate you, but far enough away to ensure you have time and don’t freak the eff out. If you work for clients, this decision is often made for you. With your own projects, it’s a little looser, so make sure to hit that sweet spot. With practice, you’ll get better at it.
Now, here’s the real trick: Break the project down into the teeniest, tiniest parts you possibly can. Miniscule. There’s no rule saying you can’t do those parts together in clumps, but you still need to know what they are. For a client project, that might include:
See? That’s a lot of detail, and that’s only for one client assignment. Now, if you add all these things to your calendar for each client, that can quickly get overwhelming. Instead, I recommend you keep running checklists for each client in a document or spreadsheet until you get good at doing this stuff in your head.
Once you have those parts, schedule them out. Many of them might fall on the same day. Cool beans, but put them down separately anyway. It’s less stressful when you can visualize each piece of the project and you know you’ve done a total brain dump. Plus, more to check off. Morale booster!
You might think it makes sense to be in a tidy cycle of pitching, writing, editing, finalizing for all your projects. That way you always know where you’re at in the cycle, and all you have to do is rinse and repeat. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Once you ramp up to full-time copywriting work (and round out your dance card with approximately 8239028390480 personal projects), you’ll find that it’s not only impossible to keep projects on such a tidy timeline, it’s not actually that great either. You need to be at all stages of the writing process at all times, always pitching new clients while writing for current clients, planning new blog posts while posting current pieces, etc.
So here’s my advice: stagger freely, and schedule writing projects where they make sense. Make sure you have a healthy number of each stage of each type of writing, which not only matches reality more closely than “Editing Thursday!” … it’s also more fun.
If you have to push back a project, choose a specific date. Don’t just kick the can down the road, which is a surefire way to ensure you’ll just kick it further and further.
Instead, when you reschedule, pull up your calendar and pick a real date for completion. Then, just as with the first step, work backward and break down what needs to happen to get it done between now and then.
Hate the thought of doing something? Try doing it for 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes. If you really can’t do it, fine. I understand, and I’ve been there. But you won’t know until you try, and a shocking amount of the time, just sitting down and starting transforms “Oh God, sweet Lord, please don’t make me” to “Huh, this isn’t that bad.”
Honestly, this tip should be No. 1, because it’s so dang reliable, and probably the main reason I get as much done as I do. Trust me.
Enough said. Laziness doesn’t count; a new season of your favorite show on Netflix doesn’t count.
(Things that do count: brutal colds, broken legs, alien invasion, your boss was a total dick and you spent two hours crying today, monster periods. Also regular periods. Because f*** periods.)
So, I’ll be honest … despite using this workflow for several years now, only about 80 percent of my writing projects get done on the timeline I forecast for them. That’s okay. I follow the 80/20 rule, which since adopting has made my life so much better.
This rule is actually pretty misunderstood, though. Many people assume it means “If you do something 80 percent of the time, you’re fine!” A principle I actually agree with, but nevertheless, the 80/20 rule of Pareto principle actually states that 80 percent of your results stem from 20 percent of your efforts.
This will manifest differently for you than it does for me, but chances are good that only about a fifth of the work you do is truly important – the work that makes your life tick. The rest is busywork, aspirational, dawdling, etc. So when something doesn’t seem that important to me, I freely push it back or – when truly necessary – just cancel it. Start to recognize when this is appropriate, and cancel or delay with terminal prejudice. It makes room for the things that really matter, and that’s worth a lot.
Perhaps you’re already a boss at this skill, and instead just need to get more into the nitty-gritty of direct marketing and copywriting. In that case, more power to you, and I hope to see you in the courses! If you’d like a lower-stakes intro to the world of writing copy, please feel free to check out the Free Resource Library instead!
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