Work flow: ‘Work, Play, Fit, Push’
In this Fast Company article, freelancer Amber Rae shares about how she plans her week to get the most out of her time.
Rae, who goes between San Francisco and New York for different projects, found it difficult to be productive while still fulfilling herself creatively when she first went freelance four years ago. “At first, the idea of systems and planning made me cringe. I felt like they would hold back my creative potential,” she writes.
But things got out of hand. That’s when she decided she needed a little more structure in her life. Reflecting on it, she asked herself, “How do I make sure I’m getting stuff done, taking care of myself, making time for play, and actively pushing myself outside my comfort zone?”
I can relate to those questions; I’ve certainly had my moments where my work suffered because I wasn’t active enough. Especially during the frigid Minnesota winters, I’ve been known to hole up too much. That has a negative impact on my physical and mental wellbeing, too. Other times, I’ve scheduled too many meetings in a row, not giving myself enough time to focus on more immediate assignments. And still other times, I let other things slip, like socializing.
So, I’ve learned the hard way that I need to make room for different kinds of goals. I’ve found that even if I have to rearrange things, sticking to my now more enlightened to-do list gives me clarity. Although I parcel out my time somewhat differently, I think Rae’s time management tips are helpful for a freelancer working in any discipline.
For starters, I like the way Rae uses her Sundays to set priorities. She went so far as to create a map wherein she outlines several main goals for each day of the coming week. She makes sure she builds in time for work, play, staying fit and pushing her self on a weekly basis. Hence, she has a system she calls “Work, Play, Fit, Push.”
As a part of that, she “batches” certain types of actions on specific days, similar to scheduling people for different shifts for a job. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for example, “I create holes in my schedule for thinking and creating,” she says in the piece. Her least favorite tasks, like paying bills, are slotted in on Wednesday mornings. On Saturdays, “I let go and go where the day takes me. Balancing structure with a day of free-spiritedness makes me feel whole.”
For me, most of my reporting and writing happens between Monday and Thursday. Even when things are busy, I’m trying to remind myself to take walks or hop on my bicycle. In fact, I’ve come to enjoy mini bike rides, just to go after a loaf of bread or go to a meeting. I like to use Fridays to catch up on things, including networking. I don’t always get to relax on the weekends, but I still see it as a chance to regroup. It’s great if I can meet a couple of friends for brunch on a Saturday or a Sunday.
Making time for each of these priorities is a way to avoid the no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel feeling that’s inevitable when we get swamped. How do you spend your freelance days? Do you have a plan for the week or a system to keep you energetic, thoughtful and on top of your workload? If you haven’t devised a formula of your own yet, Rae’s map seems like a good starting point.
As a staff reporter-turned-freelance journalist, Anna Pratt, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn., has ventured into garbage houses, spent the night in a homeless shelter and witnessed a fistfight in a church basement, all for various stories. Over the past nine years, her byline has appeared in the Star Tribune, The Line, the Southwest Journal, the Minnesota Independent and several suburban and community papers, web publications and broadcast media in the Twin Cities. She’s had many beats, including education, community news, business, development, arts, civil/human rights and immigration. Pratt chairs the programming committee for the award-winning Minnesota Pro Chapter of SPJ and she’s running for president-elect of the chapter. She also serves on the organization’s national programming committee. To read more, visitannaprattjournalist.com.