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How to Stay on Track with Your Freelance Writing Goals: 5 Easy Things You Can Start Doing Right Now

The following is a guest post by Tiffany Howard.

First let me say, Happy New Years Eve! I hope you’re looking forward to what the New Year will bring. Now let’s get down to today’s post, which is designed to help you stay on track with your professional goals next year.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

To say that freelance writers deal with distractions on a daily basis would be an understatement. Working from home is like working around dozens of landmines ready to demolish your focus. With a traditional job you constantly have cues that keep you on task, whether from co-workers, a boss, or regular company meetings.

When you work from home, it’s tempting to put off work in favor of doing things you would regularly do when you’re … well… at home. For a freelance writer, distractions are a daily part of life that we must learn to deal with. This is especially true if you live with other people. But remember, your long-term goals are a direct result of what you accomplish (or don’t accomplish) daily.

How to Stay Focused as a Freelance Writer This Coming Year: 5 Tips

So, if you’re having trouble staying on task during the day, here are some tips to help you stay on track so you achieve your freelance writing dreams in 2014.

I. Go easy on yourself. Remember that few people are born with the military resolve necessary to stay on task one hundred percent of the time. There will be always be distractions that you give in to, and issues that come up that you must resolve immediately.

A valuable skill to develop is the ability to quickly refocus and get back on task instead of beating yourself up for not planning your day better. The following quote kinda sums up nicely how I feel about beating yourself up — as in, don’t. It’s not worth it, as Ms. Tyson so eloquently points out …

When I attack a role, be it TV, film or stage, the first thing I say is, I don’t want to know anything. If it’s good I don’t want to hear it; if it’s bad I don’t want to hear it. The only thing either thing can do is distract me. I like to stay focused.~Cicely Tyson

How to Stay Focused as a Freelance Writer

Again, the important thing is to stay focused on your overall goals — and when you veer off, simply refocus.

II. Think ahead. You know that your mother usually calls to chat about the same time every Monday, that the kids get out of school at three, and that you need to have dinner on by six. Be prepared to deal with these things ahead of time to avoid that last-minute panic.

Plan to tell mom you’ll call her back in the evening, wrap up your first draft before the kids get home, and cook something quick and easy for those super busy days.

III. Time-block your day. Time blocking has been the salvation for many a freelancer, including the famous Chris Brogan. (Yuwanda swears by it too!).

List your most important tasks for the day, and assign blocks of time in which you’ll complete them. By structuring your time and solidifying that structure on paper, you’re making yourself into a lean, mean, focus machine.

IV. Block out online distractions. If you are truly one of those people that can’t seem to stay away from social media during the day, then you might need some outside help.

I’ve found that Leechblock is a great plugin for Firefox that blocks websites for a set amount of time. This has been very helpful for me, as I tend to absent-mindedly click over to Facebook whenever I get stuck on an article. If you use Safari or Chrome, try WasteNoTime.

V. Change scenery. Sometimes being at home really is too big of a distraction to deal with during the work day. If this is the case, get out of the house and work elsewhere.

Go to a coffee shop, sit at the park, or otherwise put yourself in another environment where you won’t be distracted to do other tasks. I have a friend who does all of her research for an article, then goes to work in the backyard where her WiFi doesn’t reach.

If you really need to feel like you’re at work, then you might consider getting your own office space. Many cities have office co-ops (also known as co-working) where a group of independent professionals pitch in to rent an office that they all share. The feeling of professional camaraderie might be just what you need to focus your energies.

Staying on task is indeed a challenge for freelance writers, but not one that you can’t overcome. Staying focused is a habit to be developed over time, and everyone can use some fine tuning in this area.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you do during the day to keep yourself on task? In fact, how do you stay on track all year long with your freelance writing dreams?

About the Author: Tiffany Howard is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, press releases, blog posts, eBooks, white papers, special reports, and sales copy, and her concentrations include science and nature, real estate, travel, and nutrition and wellness. When she is not at the beach or playing tag with her little one, she can be found blogging about online marketing and social media. Connect with her on Twitter @THowardWriter.

coverP.S.: Want to start a career as a successful, home-based freelance writer?

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For some reason, I thought your advice would only work for you. I know, call me naive, but I guess it seemed too good to be true. Luckily, I discovered you and liked what you had to say. If it wasn’t for you, I think I would still be trying to break into magazine writing.

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