We’ve all been down there, right?
Struggling with our every sentence and every phrase that we use, while the clock is ticking mercilessly. While the deadline looms on the horizon like doomsday.
As it is neither our first nor the second time being in this stressful situation, we are making a deal with ourselves that it is definitely going to be our last.
So, what exactly can we do about it?
Choose Your Priorities
Being a content marketer nowadays, especially if you are a freelancer or growing your own business, may seem like a dream job. Especially bearing in mind that you get to organize your time and your workspace for yourself.
But there is this other reality not even everyone in our “business” is aware of. Our freedom in handling our own time frames doesn’t mean that we have more than those 168 hours per week. We can’t somehow “make” more time when our deadline is approaching.
We must set our priorities right from the very beginning.
Nobody likes to get into the position to choose between meeting a deadline for that important project we’ve been working on and having dinner with a dear friend who is leaving the town tomorrow.
Tracking our time for a week or two can help us with that. This way we’ll get a clear picture of what exactly we are wasting it on without even being aware.
And this means tracking all the activities we engage in during the time we consider ourselves to be “working”. Including social media interaction and browsing, internet research, phone calls, breaks, etc.
If you realize that you’ve got too much on your plate, there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing a portion of your work until you learn to prioritize. It’s better to look for some help on freelance jobs websites and find someone to jump in. If you can’t handle your workload you’ll stay in the vicious circle of procrastination and missed deadlines.
Very soon we’ll identify the traps we are constantly falling into, and what keeps us away from reaching our goals.
Make Peace With Your Procrastination
What we are going to do with this realization depends on a lot of things, but the one that influences us the most is admitting that we’re prone to procrastination.
And let me tell you something. Even if you realize that you’re a great procrastinator, it’s not the end of the world. Many famous people were prone to procrastination and still had their masterpieces done.
Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, missed his deadline for the famous Virgin of The Rocks by 24 years, and Victor Hugo had to lock away all his clothes in order to sit down and finish “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
All the same, this “giving in to feel good”, as Tice and Bratslavsky defined procrastination, can very often put us in trouble instead. We end up in emotional distress and anxiety, which subsequently results in poor work performance.
There are things we can do about it, although they might seem like playing psychological tricks on our minds.
We tend to procrastinate to keep ourselves away from unpleasant, complicated or boring tasks. We need to somehow overcome this urge by making the task ahead seem doable.
- The two-minute rule is a method we can use to approach the tasks we would rather skip. Next time we have such a thing ahead, we could try doing it for two minutes, and see how it works. If it is a simple task, we can even get it finished. And if it is a bit more complicated one, we can take action towards achieving our goal and set the process in motion. Who knows, soon we might end up with a full page instead of a single sentence which took us 2 minutes to write. The same goes for the 15-minute rule. Your outburst of energy focused on undesired task just lasts a bit longer.
- The Pomodoro technique. Mishael Slawinsky, founder and CEO of Nozbe and Productive Magazine uses the Pomodoro technique for overcoming procrastination problems. Especially on his bad days, when time pressure and simple task focus help him get back on the track. It consists of scheduling four 25-minute sessions, with a 5-minute break between every session, and a 20-minute break after each cycle. Frequent breaks ensure you get enough physical activity or meet your other needs, as well as refresh your concentration.
- Eat that frog is another technique worth trying for overcoming procrastination. I personally find it a really challenging one. “Do the hardest thing first”, it commands, because delaying will only make it even harder. In order to somehow adjust it to my needs and make the frog easier to swallow, I started combining it with the 2-minute or 15–minute rules. Enough for eating a leg or two. It still does the job when it comes to taking the bull by the horns. However, once you start working, it often seems much easier to continue.
Make an Appointment With Yourself
We all know the meeting etiquette, right?
No mobile phone calls, no social media, no chats, and emails, just working on the agenda.
So, if we want to make progress with our content, maybe we should try making an appointment with ourselves for starters? Then we just try to follow the same rules.
Here are some tricks that can help us handle this kind of appointment effectively:
- Choose the right time and since you are making an appointment for yourself only, let it fit your biological clock. If it is an important task, choose your prime time, that is the time during the day when your energy level is at its peak.
- Choose the right place, that is the one where you won’t be distracted by the surroundings. In other words, this place should eliminate all distractions regardless of whether they come from the mess on your working table, TV screen, or other people wanting your company.
- Make an agenda, especially if the content you are working on is going to take a bit longer to finish. Schedule your tasks, schedule your breaks, and try to follow this agenda through. You can follow the Pomodoro technique for this one. A kitchen counter may come in handy.
- No time snatchers is a rule during the appointment. If you can’t resist the urge for interaction on social media, for example, limit it to those planned breaks. This will help you set your priorities in order.
No matter if you are an experienced content marketer, a freelancer, or a newbie in this industry, it’s essential to learn how to control your time. This needs to be done in a systematic and organized manner or it will control you.
Marko Maric is a marketer and a blogger. He frequently covers topics about business, marketing, and productivity. Marko currently works at Clockify where he’s trying to make the world a more productive place. Follow him on Twitter @mmmaric.