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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Freelancers and the Importance of Socializing

Socializing with “normal” friends can help ebb eccentric tendencies and keep you from alienating your clients.

I own that outfit in real life

A completely accurate portrayal of what I look like when left up to my own devices

 The Anti-Social Freelancer

Most freelancers, especially freelance writers, work from home.  They pick their own clients and plan their own schedules.  Unfortunately, many of us forget to schedule a little “free time” into our dayplanners, leaving us anti-social and isolated.  (Or, if you’re like I am, being alone for long lengths of time can lead you to start humoring your more eccentric personality traits).

The Problem with Isolation

Isolation might not bother you.  In fact, many of us enjoy being alone on our days off.  However, the problem with complete and total reclusiveness from your fellow humans is this: Your detachment will start to affect your work.

Think of it this way:

  1. Your clients are probably humans/people.
  2. If you have no contact with humans/people other than yourself, you probably can’t relate to humans/people (or at least can’t in a way that’s considered “normal”)
  3. If you can’t relate to humans/people, you can’t relate to your clients.
  4. If you can’t relate to your clients, they won’t hire/pay you!

Oh noes!!

Keeping in Touch: What Can Help

I’m not saying that you have to start partying or even that you have to go out and physically see your friends every week.  There are lots of ways to stay “in touch” with the human race…

  • E-mail.  Making an effort to e-mail a friend (or friends) each week—particularly one who’s on the “outside”—can help to keep you feeling “connected.”
  • Phone.  Same thing as e-mail, but with more talk-y and less write-y.
  • Watch TV.  No, they aren’t “real” people (I’m not telling you to start thinking of Quinn Fabray as your girlfriend and Barney Stinson as your best friend), but real people are watching these shows: By watching—or at least knowing about—what’s on television, you start to absorb the lexicon (most of humanity’s common “slang” originates from the media) and get to know what people are talking about around the proverbial water cooler.
  • Know the News.  One of the first “tip offs” that you’re “out of touch” is when you don’t know the news.  For instance, if I had made a comment like “If we ever catch Osama Bin Laden…” after the events of May 1, 2011, I’d certainly get more than a few funny looks.
  • Get Out of the House.  People are EVERYWHERE.  No matter where you go, you’re bound to run into someone.  Even a simple “How are you today?” exchange with the bag clerk at the grocery store can give you some much-needed human contact.
  • Hang Out with Friends!  Hey, sometimes the classics just can’t be beat!
 
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Planning Your Days by Using a Day Planner

Even if you have a fantastic memory, you might get confused if you’re juggling too many balls at once.  I know I do!  And there’s nothing quite like that chill of terror that comes with suddenly waking up at 3am and saying “I forgot to do ___________!”  That’s why I’ve taken to writing down my day-to-day tasks in a day planner.  It works for me and it may work for you as well!

If you go against the planner, the planner means nothing!

I'm the first to admit that I can sometimes be hard to live with...

A Glimpse at my Private Life: A Day in the Planner

All right, all right…  I’m not exactly the most private person there is.  Many of you have come here from my Personal Blog (which updates every Monday with a blow-by-blow of my personal life); however, no one but my guy and me has seen the inner workings of my day planner.  Not so anymore!  Here is a peek at a page out of one of my most precious work tools:

How I spend my time

Mmmm...steak...

That’s actually only a small section of one of my planner’s pages (my planner is 10×8″).  And that first entry had a lot more tasks than what’s shown there!  Looking at my planner, you probably noticed a few things:

  1. I write down menial tasks as well as “important” ones – I have two reasons for this.  One reason is that I sometimes get so busy, I sometimes forget to do simple things.  The other reason is explained in the section below (“given” tasks).
  2. The entries are highlighted – They didn’t start out that way!  I only highlight the tasks that I complete successfully.
  3. My planner has advice on it – that particular week it was “Compromising your principles is never a good choice” (which is absolutely true!).  On that same page it also has encouragement (“Think win-win!”) and a fun fact (“There are twice as many chickens as humans in the world”).  And it also has a slot to write down what book you’re reading that week!  I try to read two books per week.  That particular week, I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (gotta refresh my memory for the last movie!) and The Bedwetter: Tales of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman (if you liked her show, you’ll love her book!).  Anyway, the point is: my planner suits me perfectlyFind a planner that suits your personality and not only will you use it, you will love using it.

My Patented Tips for Day Planner Success

Everyone has their own way of doing things.  As you get used to having a day planner, you’ll probably come up with your own methods for using it efficiently; however, here are a few things that I do that may help to get you off on the right foot:

  • Choose the right planner for you – I suggest one without too many bells & whistles.  For instance, I’ve seen planners with Velcro tabs and/or zippers…  Personally, I wouldn’t use one of these.  If your planner isn’t easy to access, you probably won’t use it very often.
  • Write down a few “given” tasks.  I always write down a few super easy tasks that I know I’m going to complete successfully that day.  Like cooking dinner or scooping out the cat litter box.  It’s a “given” that I’m going to do these things, but having them written down in my planner gives me a.) something easy to do when the rest of my tasks are “too hard” or unappealing and, b.) gives me that same sense of getting-things-done satisfaction when I cross it off my list as successfully completed.  For me, if my planner were composed of nothing but super hard or un-fun tasks, I would feel defeated before the day even started!  Having a few “given” tasks can be a great way to “warm up” to the bigger, more important, stuff.
  • Remind yourself of due dates ahead of time!  If you have something important due, don’t just mark it down on the date it’s due (though you should do that too), give yourself a reminder in advance.  You don’t want to turn the page in your planner and get a nasty surprise!
  • Write it down as soon as you think of it.  Or at least try to!  Your planner can’t help you to not forget if you forget to use your planner!
  • Leave some space for fun.  “All work and no play…”  Well, you know the rest.  Make time for yourself!
 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Drowning In E-mails?

How many e-mails do you have in your inbox right now?  Chances are you said a number higher than “zero.”  Probably much higher.  So what can you do to deal with an ocean of e-mails?  Read my tips below!

Drowning in E-mails!

If my e-mails were snail mail, this is what my "inbox" would look like

Make a Date with Your Inbox

There are two types of e-mails that I respond to immediately:

  1. E-mails from work/a client
  2. E-mails from my mom (What can I say? She worries if I don’t write back).

Everyone else can wait ‘til Friday.

That’s right, every Friday I have a standing date with my e-mail inbox.  I take her out to dinner, we have a nice chat, and then I go through and reply to all the e-mails that have stacked up throughout the week.  (One-third of that last sentence was true).

Why this system works:

  • Your clients/work will always get swift replies.  That’s just good business!
  • It increases productivity during the week.  Instead of spending your hours replying to all your e-mails, you’ll be spending your hours actually working on stuff!
  • You won’t go into “e-mail overload.”  Trying to reply to/please everyone at once can make you feel overloaded.  Which can lead to procrastination…  Which could mean that those e-mails never get a reply!
  • It’s kinda nice to save all your “friend” e-mails for the end of the week.  After spending the bulk of the week dealing with business e-mails, it can be sort of a special treat to finally sit down and see what your buds have to say.

Remember: If it were an emergency, your friend would call you—e-mails can wait.

3 More Tips For an Empty Inbox

  1. Delete, Delete, Delete!  Use your delete button.  You know which e-mails don’t even need to be bothered with.  Get rid of them!  (Or unsubscribe!)
  2. Know when to stop replying.  Have you ever had an e-mail come back that just says “That would be fine” and you say “okay” and then the other person says “okay?”  You don’t have to write back to everything.  Recognize the end of the conversation when it comes along.  (This bothers me with text messages too.  I hate it when I say something and I get “k” as a reply).  Not only does this waste your time, but it’s likely to annoy the other person as well!
  3. Use the phone.  I’m not a fan of the phone (I prefer writing), but my bosses at my new job swear by it!  And, I gotta admit, some situations are easier to clear up with a quick phone call then a long string of e-mails…  And it saves space in your inbox!
 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Let’s Talk About Procrastination

Well, I’ve put this article off long enough.  It’s time to talk about procrastination!

Procrastination

Everyone has their "Devil" on one shoulder and "Angel" on the other when it comes to getting work done...

What is Procrastination?

Oh, come on.  You know what procrastination is.  It’s the exact opposite of “never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.”  Procrastination is putting things off.  Way off.  We all do it!  (And that’s not just me being presumptuous; there have actually been studies on this).

My Name is Lauren and I’m a Procrastinator

I was recently made aware of a Procrastination Survey.  I took it.  I scored a 69 out of 100 which meant that I “rank in the top 10%-25% of the population in terms of your level of procrastination.”  Yikes!  And, to be honest, taking the survey was a form of procrastination itself—since I was supposed to be working on something else at the time.

But if I’m such a horrible procrastinator, how do I ever get anything done?

How I Get Things Done:

  • Stop lying to yourself.  When you say “I’ll feel more like doing it later” will you really feel more like doing it later?  Probably not.  So why not do it now?  And don’t tell me “I work best under pressure!”  Believe me, I’ve used that excuse before too.
  • Take baby steps.  You don’t have to do your project all at once!  Break the task down into smaller segments.
  • Be organized.  I like to use a dayplanner.  You can use a notebook, a calendar, Post-It notes, an organizational computer program, or whatever else it takes: Just make sure you make a plan—or at least a sketchy outline of a “plan”—and try your best to stick to it!
  • Be neat.  I’m talking about your work area.  If your desk is so messy that you can’t find the project you were working on—how do you expect yourself to actually get it done?
  • Don’t take on too much.  Often, the reason people procrastinate is because they don’t know their own limits.  If you take on too many tasks at once, you’re bound to put at least a few of them off.
  • Set deadlines.  Even if your project doesn’t have a strict deadline, set one for it!
  • Treat yourself!  When your cat or dog does something extra good, you give them a treat, right?  Do the same for yourself when you complete an especially difficult task!
 
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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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