If ever there was a time of year to come up with a productivity formula for getting more done as a freelance writer, it’s fall.
Know why I say that? Well, fall is a special time because:
- Editors and marketing managers get back from vacation
- Companies plan next year’s marketing calendar and start assigning projects
- Editors complete their editorial calendar, and look for special-section writers
- If you do marketing now, you could still book more writing income this year
- Kids go back to school, and writer-parents suddenly have a lot more time for freelance writing
See the potential fall has to ramp up your writing income?
Except that you’re suddenly transitioning from sleeping late as you like to having to get up at 6 a.m. to put kiddos on that early school bus. And you’re…dragging.
Also, maybe feeling the pressure that now, you’re out of excuses and actually need to do this thing.
And the fall productivity formula is just the thing to help you grow your freelance writing business. Ready to get started?
New season, new habits
How can you get in a super-productive fall groove and make the last quarter of the year your best-earning one? Wondering if there’s a fall productivity formula successful freelancers use to move up and earn more?
Well, I was recently discussing this very topic with my Den 2X Income Accelerator mastermind grads.
Many of these women are in a $20K-per-quarter club. They are high-powered and super-organized. (In one case, they wanted to be anonymous.)
And they all shared how they’re getting back in the fall groove. I’ve added a few tips of my own, too.
Plus: There’s a recipe link! Dig in:
Are writers tired? Let’s listen…
Amy Hardison White: Morning y’all. So, I was thinking I am going to get so much more done with the new school year. The kids get on the bus at 6:53 am.
However, I am having a lot of difficulty getting used to the early wakeups. I get back here after the bus and I am EXHAUSTED.
It’s been almost a month, and I was hoping to be used to it by now, but no dice. Anyone else having this experience as well? If so, what do you do during the mornings to feel productive, even if you’re exhausted?
The brainstorm begins
Kimberlee Morrison: I used to wake up at, like, 4:00 a.m., and after sending the kiddos off to school in the morning, I was so tired. I’d just work when I woke up and napped after I sent the kids.
A 20-30 minute nap can work wonders! I find that naps are super important for keeping me productive.
I find exercise absolutely crucial for a healthy body, and a sharp, creative brain. When I skip yoga (the only exercise I do) I find myself sluggish and in pain.
So take a nap, get into a regular exercise routine and give yourself permission to adjust to the new schedule.
The power of sleep + exercise
Anne Marie Hardie: Amy, I hear you. I’m exhausted after the drop off.
I usually try to get in a 15-minute walk (weather permitting). Lately, I’ve been downloading copywriting podcasts [to listen to during the walk], so it puts me in a frame of mind.
And yes, writing a task list the night before is key (or right before you end your work day is key). If I can’t do that, I’ve been trying to do 15 minutes of yoga (I love Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube, as she has short and long sessions), just to get my brain going. It’s just 15 minutes, but it makes a huge difference.
I also have smoothies in the freezer already made and protein balls so I can get a healthy burst of energy when I need it. And drink lots and lots of water.
Live by the to-do list
Melinda Rizzo: Hey Amy, I’m with Anne Marie about doing routine stuff to get it out of the way.
Now’s the time to observe what tasks you do best and when–and try to be kind to yourself. A month really isn’t all that long to adjust to a new normal. You’ll find a rhythm.
I also find if I’m blocked or “wrung out” doing one activity, I switch to another for a fresh take, and to remain productive.
Better than beating the dead horse and coming up dry. And yeah, naps are huge. If I have a long day (evening meeting to attend or cover), I try to get a nap in during the afternoon.
Boost energy levels with simple changes
Caitlin McCormack: What time are you going to bed at? We just went back last week, and I had to give myself like 9-930pm bedtimes to cope with the shift back to 6:30 a.m. wakeups for a few days.
Can you try getting to bed earlier and see if that helps? Otherwise I’d take a 20-30 minute nap after drop off and then get to work
Anonymous: I want to second the exercise suggestion. I’ve had a terrible time sleeping for the past couple of months, and I know it’s mostly because of two things: I don’t get to bed early enough (and I’m not consistent), and I’m out of my normal exercise routine. I was sleeping SO well earlier this summer, when I was exercising regularly.
Also, exercising first thing in the morning is extremely helpful. It feels like the worst time to do it, but it gets your blood flowing. I make sure I’ve at least walked a mile before I start work, and I can really tell the difference when I haven’t done it.
Carol: For me, I love to put walking/biking/gardening/swimming or whatever exercise I’m doing at the end of the day. Sooo helps me to blow off the stress!
Amy: Thanks, y’all. I appreciate all the input. I am taking a nap, but it’s generally much later in the day (2 or 2:30, before I meet the bus at 3:20). And I’ve been going to yoga or a dance class around lunchtime, so I’m getting some exercise in.
Anne Marie, I bet your protein balls/smoothies make a difference! I’m also having this issue where I get hungry at weird times, and then I have a dip in energy. Need to whip up some of those, so I have them ready!
And @Caitlin, you are right – I don’t go to bed early enough. Usually lights out at 10:30 and I’m up at 6. BLECH. I may try the morning nap and see how it goes.
Brain food for freelance writers
Carol Tice: Personally…we now have one kid who needs to hit a 7:30 bus, she switched to the arts-magnet school in downtown. AND wants to go on a dog walk with Daddy before that! So we’re back to 6:00 am wakeup, from 8-ish.
Secret for me is: gotta go to bed earlier. Seriously. I also take melatonin, if I’m not winding down properly.
It’s always a brutal transition, rolling back the bedtime. Also, I often wake up at dawn anyway, so now I just GET UP instead of rolling over and trying (often unsuccessfully, anyway) to go back to sleep.
I always have my to-do list for tomorrow done before I end each work day, so I have that to guide me if I’m in a fog. 😉
Amy: For right now, I’m thinking that it would help to make a short list of “brain-dead” activities each evening. That way I have the list ready in the mornings, and I don’t have to think about anything. Invoicing, LinkedIn updates, website tweaks, etc.
Also, maybe just take a walk after I get them on the bus. Might as well get a little exercise.
Carol, you are so right about going to bed early, and just getting out of bed when you wake up. I have been waking up at 5:00 or 5:15 and going back to sleep, and then I feel like arse when I get up at 6:00. BLECH.
I wanted to share this protein bites recipe that I made yesterday. The kids are eating them up, and I’ve already eaten one this morning to help with my mid-morning slump.
Carol: I love these type of breakfast-bar/energy bite snacks. My webmaster Keira brought some with peanut butter and big hunks of chocolate when we went to Playa Del Carmen, and I keep meaning to make them…got the recipe.
The productivity formula
Let’s boil all those ideas down into a handy, 6-point fall productivity formula:
Roll back the bedtime. Then, keep rolling it back until you wake up naturally at your new get-up time. Take melatonin if you’re not sleepy.
Get up early if you wake, instead of struggling for an hour or two for more sleep you may or may not get. Nap later!
2. Eat & drink
Have protein smoothies, energy bites or other quick, healthy hits ready to counteract a slump. Good nutrition helps you transition to the earlier wake-up.
Also, stay hydrated! Time for a nice new, big water bottle for your desk, or maybe a beverage warmer.
Whether you walk before you start working, or bike after work, make sure exercise is a daily habit. Our bodies need the break from the screen.
Carol’s rule — if I’m still having trouble sleeping, I need to work out more. Lift some weights or add a second workout session to the day. Sound sleep is key!
Write down tomorrow’s key tasks before you leave today. That way, you’ll still recall them quickly next day, even if you’re in a fog.
Write what you’re feeling in the groove with — and if not, take a break and come back to it. Switch to something else!
Respect your chronobiology and try to write when you’re in the zone.
Make marketing a regular part of your weekly schedule. Even if you’re pretty booked, find 15 minutes a day first thing, or maybe a couple hours each week to get a bit more pitching out the door.
Give yourself permission to take a little time to get up to speed! Beating yourself up doesn’t make this go any better.
It helps to talk productivity tips with your writer community.
Thanks to all my mastermind students who contributed to this brainstorm to develop a fall productivity formula for freelance writers!