Batching Your Work for Greater Productivity

Is time getting the best of you? Do you want to work less while maintaining your current income? If you’re nodding along, then batching will be your new favorite thing.

One of my favorite productivity hacks is batching. Batching is the process of grouping similar work together and completing it in one sitting. Batching your tasks can free up your time and mental energy.

As a freelancer, here’s how to realize the benefits of batching!

Find your batchable tasks

Think about the types of tasks you do. Which tasks do you need to do frequently? Which tasks are similar in nature? Your batchable tasks can be for the same client or for multiple clients.

If you can’t think of any tasks that you could batch off the top of your head, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you use the same program/application/software for several clients?
  2. Do you write content for multiple clients?
  3. Do you invoice clients at the end/beginning of each month?

How to batch

  • Gather all similar tasks
  • Figure out what you should work on first
  • Complete all like tasks before moving on to another category of tasks

For example, if you write copy you could batch it in the following ways:

  • Complete all first drafts before making any edits or doing read-throughs
  • Write all call-to-action prompts in one sitting

Benefits of batching

1) Your brain loves batching

  • Batching forces you to single-task

Our brains aren’t very good at multitasking, but we’ve tried to force it on them for a long time. Your brain will thank you if you can stay on one task for a few hours. It may get a bit boring, but you’ll get faster at doing the task and stay more productive.

  • Batching reduces stress and anxiety

Every time you open a new browser window and follow a new whim, you get a tiny dose of dopamine. It may feel awesome at the time, but doing it throughout the day can cause you to feel flustered, disorganized and overwhelmed. Staying on one task gives your brain space to relax.

  • Batching helps you enter the flow state

If you keep doing one thing eventually you’ll reach the elusive flow state where your work seems easy and effortless and you’re completing things more quickly than you normally do. This is especially true for writing or any other creative pursuit.

2) Batching saves time

Even though it seems like the seconds it takes to open a browser window, login to a program, refresh your email or check your Facebook feed don’t add up – they sure do! A minute here or there ends up being hours of unproductive time at the end of the week.

Doing your work in batches saves time logistically as well as mentally. You don’t have to get focused and refocused on the same task several times. You complete them and move on to something new.

3) Batching increases energy

Jumping in and out of work wastes your energy. It can take an average of up to 25 minutes to refocus on a task once you’ve been interrupted. In an office setting, you don’t have much control over other people interrupting you, but in any setting you have control over interrupting yourself with distractions.

Batching your work and staying focused will give you a jolt of energy and pride once you finish a group of tasks.

Batching for increased productivity

Some things we do on a daily basis are complete time wasters. The greatest one of all is email. Batching the tasks that tend to waste time is a great way to increase your overall productivity.

Batching suggestions

  • Answering all emails at set times per day

Three times per day, set your timer for 30 minutes, get in your inbox and clear it out. Answer all emails, delete all junk, forward, and delegate. Once you’re done, do another task. Don’t check your email again until the next designated time. If you use less than 30 minutes on this task, great! Move on to your next task or take a break with your remaining time.

  • Writing all blog posts in one sitting

Once you’ve figured out a blog posting schedule, hunker down and write all of that week or month’s blog posts in one sitting. Even though the topics will differ, the process will be the same. Doing this without interruption could help you get ahead in your content planning.

My habit of writing for 30 minutes per day has helped me plan out and write content through August 2017.

  • Doing all the work you have in one program

Whenever you go to a website or login to a program, take a moment to list all the tasks you need to do in that website or program. Then do them all in one sitting. This saves the time of opening the program, logging in and getting set up and it also keeps you in a state of flow. For example, if you need to edit images in Photoshop for several clients, stay in the program and edit all items before moving on to another task.

  • Scheduling/posting/moderating social media

If you are moderating several Facebook groups, set up a schedule for responding. Go into each group, answer questions and comments then stay out until your next designated check-in time. And, turn off notifications! You don’t need to be interrupted by someone asking what time a store opens while you’re doing a batch of unrelated work.

Keep in mind: batching goes beyond a single client’s tasks.

When batching you want to think about the big picture. What else could you be doing in the same vein for someone else? Once you get used to batching and realize the benefits, you won’t want to work any other way.

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How to Get Over Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs can be one of the biggest barriers to success that a freelancer can face. These negative thoughts can be confidence killers that cause you to doubt your ability to make it on your own. Self-limiting beliefs are the negative opinions you hold about yourself and your abilities. They may manifest as a voice in the back of your mind that says things like “You can’t do it…You’re going to fail…You’re not smart enough…Don’t bother.”

Getting rid of self-limiting beliefs isn’t easy. Doing work on yourself and your mindset is the hardest work you can do. If you’re struggling with self-limiting beliefs, here are some things you do to get out of that negative headspace.

Read self-help books and articles

One of the best, and cheapest, ways to get over your self-limiting beliefs is to learn how to combat the negative voice in your mind. You can find books on the topic at your local library or on Amazon.

Here are some books that I’ve found helpful:

Mastering Your Mean Girl: The No-BS Guide to Silencing Your Inner Critic and Becoming Wildly Wealthy, Fabulously Healthy, and Bursting with Love by Melissa Ambrosini

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Do the (self) work

A lot of people are running around desperate to avoid silence and thinking about their lives, their actions, and their mentality. The world makes it very easy to keep yourself incredibly busy. You may never have to deal with how you feel about yourself. But if you never address your negative emotions, then you’ll eventually find yourself in a very unhappy place.

The people who become comfortable dealing with their emotions and looking at themselves with a critical eye are the ones who make the most spiritual progress in their time on Earth.

Not only is self-work spending time thinking about yourself, it’s also reading self-improvement books and trying the strategies you read about. It’s about changing your behavior as much as it as about observing it. If you are completely self-aware, but never make any changes, you won’t grow as a person.

If you’re having negative thoughts about yourself, challenge them! If you are feeling bad about yourself, ask yourself why. Have you been making poor choices that don’t reflect your desires or morals? When you act in a way that goes against your core values, you will always feel uncomfortable until you get back on the right path.

Make changes

People who say they can’t or won’t change make me very sad. In my opinion, they either think that they are perfect and could use no improvement or they think that negative traits are set in stone and it’s a waste of time to make changes.

You are on this earth for any number of years. You are not the same person in grade school that you are in college. You do not have to ‘lock in’ to any one persona or belief system, especially if it no longer works for you. If you want to change, you can. It doesn’t matter what you did or how old you are, change is possible if you want it.

Mantras and affirmations

Two more tools to fight self-limiting beliefs are mantras and affirmations. Mantras and affirmations are things that you repeat out-loud or to yourself throughout the day. These positive phrases work to “record over” the tape of negative thoughts in your mind. For example, if you’re struggling with feeling like you can’t find quality clients, you could tell yourself a few times per day, “I deserve quality clients and I will find them.”

These phrases can work for a number of self-esteem issues. Some therapists suggest looking into a mirror while you say your phrases. This may help you form a deeper connection to the message.

When I remember to, I try to recite a few mantras and affirmations throughout the day. If I’m feeling anxious about a project or meeting, I will repeat something like “I will do my best. Things will work out.”

Mantras and affirmations are easy to add to your daily routine and can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself.

Talk to a therapist

If your self-limiting beliefs are very strong and you believe they have their roots in your childhood, you may want to see a therapist. I did a very helpful stint of therapy in my mid-20s to deal with issues surrounding my dysfunctional upbringing. The therapy helped immensely. Sometimes people are able to get over things from their past on their own, but other times people need help to work through their experiences and feelings. Therapy is great if you want help sorting out your thoughts.

Everyone struggles with self-limiting beliefs and negative emotions at different times in their lives. Self-limiting beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies, but it’s not hopeless. At some point, a person will become so uncomfortable doing what they’ve always done, that they will crave a change. When this happens, progress can be made. Doing the hard work on yourself can make a world of difference in all areas of your life.

**This post includes affiliate links

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10 Things You Can For Yourself During Naptime

Some days you feel ultra productive. You work on your business during your child’s naptime. But what about those days when you’re drained? Self-care is very important especially as a freelancer. Self-care activities are positive stress relievers that relax you, inspire you, or recharge you.

Here are ten things you can do for yourself during your child’s naptime:

1) Meditate and stretch

My most important tip for naptime is to meditate and stretch. The whole routine can take less than 10 minutes, but it clears your mind and makes your body feel limber. I use the Stop, Breathe, and Think app to meditate. There are many meditations on the app that are five minutes or less. I usually do at least 10 minutes of meditation during naptime.

I do a simple stretching routine to keep my muscles from getting tight.

2) Take a nap

One of the most obvious things you can do is take a nap. A quick 20-30 minute snooze can give your brain a rest and recharge you for the rest of your day.

3) Read a book

Whenever I open a book, I take a tiny vacation. Try spending 20-30 minutes reading a book during your child’s naptime. It doesn’t matter whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, just choose something that interests you. I do almost all of my reading during naps and in the 10 minutes before I go to bed. I usually end up reading around 30 books per year. It’s possible to get a lot of reading done if you spend 20-30 minute each day doing it.

4) Take a bath or shower

As work-at-home or stay-at-home mama, we don’t get a chance to shower during the day without an audience. When your child takes a nap, you could spend some time relaxing in a hot bath or taking a shower. Having a peaceful shower that’s not rushed always makes me feel better.

5) Watch a show

Sometimes I’ll take a Netflix break during my daughter’s nap. I recently got through all seasons of Scandal. I don’t like having the TV on too much during the day and my daughter is not happy when a “Mama show” is on. I do my TV watching in the evenings or on weekends.

6) Get outside

If the weather is nice, I spend 20 minutes outside while Norah naps. I take the baby monitor outside and either read, do work, or just sit and enjoy the sunshine. Sometimes I walk laps in the yard to get a little exercise. If you have front porch or deck, try getting a little sunshine while your child is sleeping.

7) Have a snack

We all have those snacks that we don’t want to share with our kids. Get into your secret stash and have a snack during naptime. Whether your favorite treat is salty or sweet, it will be that much more delicious because you don’t have to share it.

8) Connect with a friend

Text or call someone and see how they’re doing. This is especially nice to do to other stay-at-home or work-at-home moms. The days can often be long and lonely so reaching out to each other is a good way to have a little adult interaction.

9) Work on a hobby or craft

This could be as simple as doing a little coloring in an adult coloring book or it could be as complicated as you are crafty. I enjoy knitting and I’m planning on learning how to hand-letter in the next few months. I like to have one activity I enjoy that doesn’t require screens.

10) Clean something or declutter

If my house is a disaster, I have a hard time focusing. Of course, there are toys strewn all around the living room for most of the day, but I like to take five minutes to tidy up while Norah sleeps. She destroys the living room as soon as she wakes up, but my sweeps help a bit. At the very least, they help me find the half-eaten snacks that she’s hidden in the couch.

When your child takes a nap, ask yourself whether you’d like to spend the time working or practicing self-care. Don’t feel guilty about your choice! Either way you are doing something good for yourself.

 

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Creating a Productive Morning Routine

A productive morning routine can be the difference between a great day or a terrible one. The elements of a productive morning routine differ for each person, but there’s some overlap for everyone. Here are some simple activities you can consider adding to your morning routine:

1) Stretching

Stretching has many benefits for our bodies. It helps blood flow and keeps us limber. After sleeping for 7-9 hours (the importance of enough sleep cannot be overstated), our bodies are stiff and need to ease into the day. Start off with a simple 2-3 minute stretching routine as soon as you get out of bed. Here’s a good tutorial for morning stretches.

2) Drink a large glass of water

Not only is your body stiff after sleep, but it’s also parched. Although it’s tempting to do so, don’t immediately grab coffee when you wake up. Pour a 8-10 oz. glass of water and drink it first. If you don’t like drinking plain water, add lemon or cucumber slices. I have a bottle of lemon juice to add when I don’t have fresh lemons (which is often).

3) Do something meaningful to you

Before you get caught up in the rush of the day, try to do something meaningful to you. This could be reading, writing, working on a craft or project, cleaning something, or whatever makes you happy. I spend 30 minutes each morning writing. It doesn’t really matter what writing I choose to work on, it’s the routine of doing 30 minutes of writing before starting my client work. If you can take 30 minutes for yourself at the beginning of the day, your activity is much more likely to happen. If you wait until later in the day, you probably won’t end up having time.

4) Meditate

Meditation is simple, but it is not easy. You can do it without any props. You simply sit down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When thoughts enter your mind, you acknowledge them and let them go. You can picture your thoughts as clouds in the sky, blowing by.

If you want a little more out of your meditation, you can download one of the many meditation apps or programs and do guided meditation. This is where someone walks you through the meditation. I love the Stop, Breathe and Think app. Headspace is also good.

5) Pray

If you pray, morning is a great time to get your prayers in. Say a quick prayer of thanks, ask for what you need for the day, or send some prayers to someone in need.

6) Journal

Write down your thoughts for a few minutes each morning. I write down the events that happened the day before. It helps me remember what I did and focuses my attention on the day at hand.

7) Gratitude list

Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for each morning. Expressing gratitude has huge benefits for your mental health. Every day my list has the same things in the #1 and #2 spots – my husband and my daughter. After that, I try to think of specific things I’m grateful for. Sometimes they are things like the ability to see and other times they are things like flavored coffee. The items don’t have to be meaningful or deep, they just need to be something you feel truly grateful for. Reflect on each item for a moment and you’ll have a better outlook on your day.

8) Write a to-do list

Think about what you want to accomplish today. These items could be a mix of personal and business. No matter who you are, you have a list of things you’d like to get done each day. Keep your list in a place where it’s accessible all day. Make a point to check in with your list around 12 pm and 5 pm to see what you’ve accomplished and what you have left to do.

9) Exercise

Some people like to exercise in the morning while others do not. It’s important for freelancers to get some sort of exercise since the job can be very sedentary. If nothing else, try to do the 7-minute workout each day.

A productive morning routine can give your day structure which is important for remote workers, freelancers, stay at home moms, and anyone else who is home the majority of the day. You’ll end up feeling less stressed and frazzled when you’re following a simple routine each morning.

Special note for mamas: You may not think you have time to create a morning routine. In order to do so, you’ll have to find ways to work it into your schedule. Perhaps you can wake up 30 minutes earlier than your children. If that won’t work because you’re getting your children ready and off to school, then as soon as you come home you could take 30 minutes for a mid-morning or early afternoon routine. The benefits will be the same and it’s important to take time for you each day.

 

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I’ve Written for 30 Minutes a Day for 60 Days

After I completed 30 days of writing every day for 30 minutes, I wrote about my experience at The Write Life. I made a promise to myself to write every day until the end of the year. Then I plan to write every day of 2017.

I just completed my 60th day of writing for 30 minutes every day!

As I’ve mentioned before, the mood to write rarely strikes me. When I think about my perfect writing conditions, I picture myself alone in my basement office at about 8 pm. I have a few candles lit and I’m wrapped in a soft blanket. I have a hot cup of tea next to me and perhaps a few cookies or crackers to nibble on. I’m contemplating each word to make sure that I’m creating a masterpiece. I ponder what I will write next. I spend a lot of time re-reading what I’ve written.

Even though this sounds romantic and wonderful, I’ve done it many times and it’s not that great. I get almost nothing accomplished. I sit for an hour or two and have less than 500 words to show for it.

Compare that to how I’ve actually been writing for the last 60 days:

Most of the time, I’m located in my kitchen at the breakfast bar. I write while sitting on a somewhat uncomfortable wooden stool. I write while I sip lukewarm coffee, not wanting to get up and microwave it for the third time that morning. The light is bright and glaring because my writing happens between 7 – 9 am. My daughter is prominently involved, asking for snacks, milk, toys, and to watch Frozen for the 100th time. My Google document is filled with squiggly red lines because I don’t bother correcting grammar or spelling until I finish writing the first draft. I barely think about what I’m writing, I just let myself write.

After 60 days, I’m still feeling the benefits of this daily practice. My productivity has continued to increase and so has my confidence level.

My stats after 30 days:

  • Published nine new posts on my blog and drafted another 21 posts.
  • Planned out my content until March 2017.
  • Completed 30+ pages of an ebook on becoming a virtual assistant.

My stats after 60 days:

  • Published nine new posts on my blog and drafted another 14 posts.
  • Planned out my content until June 2017.
  • Completed another 14 pages of an ebook on becoming a virtual assistant. The ebook is now in the editing and publishing stages.

Total so far:

  • Published 18 new posts; drafted another 35
  • Planned content to June 2017
  • Completed 44 pages of an ebook

In addition to my first ever guest post being published on The Write Life, I’ve also sent out an additional three guest post submissions. One is scheduled to go live in November.

It could be a coincidence that I’ve gotten more client requests and referrals than usual in these last 60 day, but I don’t think so. Sticking to one goal and completing it each day has supercharged my productivity in all areas. I’m much more interested in growing my business and working with new people. I’m motivated to tackle projects that have nothing to do with writing, like using the electric hedge trimmer to spruce up the bushes in front of my house.

Feeling like I’m accomplishing something each day keeps me in a positive space. I’m finally embracing the “done is better than perfect” model. Because the thing is, even when I agonized over my work, it still wasn’t perfect. It’s much better to feel like something is done and hit publish than to keep it in drafts purgatory for the next year.

In addition, I’ve had at least 15 people tell me that I inspired them to start writing every day. A kind commenter took some of my words, printed them out, and put them on his refrigerator to motivate him to write. That means so much to me!

I plan on continuing my writing streak for the rest of the year, checking in every 30 days. When the new year starts, it’s my goal to write every day of 2017.

Care to join me?

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 10/17/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

These illustrations of people who want you to work for free are hilarious. The quotes were taken from real people seeking free work from artists.

Alex Honeysett has some great advice on how to pitch a guest post. Researching the place you’re pitching and catering your proposal to their specifications are two of the suggestions that I fully support.

Stephane Kasriel takes the information from the recent Freelancing in America survey and proposes the three things that freelancers need from the next administration. He suggests that the government study freelancers before proposing any new legislation that affects them.

Marketing

Brittany Berger put together an awesome comprehensive guide to time management systems. If you need to get organized, check out this post!

Alex Mathers discusses how creatives are using social media to gain clients. I’ve found that Facebook groups are a great place to get leads.

Daniel Newman forecasts marketing trends for 2017. Trends include more and better quality video and personalized everything.

Parenting

If you’re looking for a gift for the one-year old in your life, check out this list. Norah got the Beatbo robot for Christmas last year and she’s still obsessed with it.

This article talks about which children are most affected by parenting style. According to Drake Baer, children who have “negative emotionality — the precursor to neuroticism” are the most susceptible to being really hurt by angry and neglectful parenting.

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My Favorite Blogging Resources

There are many tools that can take your blogging game to the next level. And the good news is, most of these tools are free and easy to use! During my time freelancing, I’ve found some great resources to support my writing process. Here are some of the apps and websites I use for blogging.

Focus

To help me concentrate while I write blogs, I use Brain.fm. The app plays ambient music that’s formulated to help you focus. They also have music to help you relax and sleep. I’ve found a huge increase in productivity while using the app.

I use Self Control for Mac to block distracting websites for blocks of time while I work. This usually includes Facebook and Reddit. I block them for portions of the day so I don’t end up checking them repeatedly while I work.

Writing

There are many places where you can write your blog entries. You can write directly in a blogging platform like WordPress or Medium. Doing this gives you the convenience of having your blog posts all in one place, but adds the distraction of being online and able to click around your site.

Another option is writing in Word or Pages and disconnecting your internet access while doing so. It’s rumored that novelist Johnathan Franzen writes all of his books on a computer with no internet access to avoid the possibility of distraction.

I write all of my blogs in Google Docs. I prefer this platform because the layout is plain and doesn’t distract me. It updates every few seconds so I never have to worry about whether my work will be lost. In addition, should I want someone to read over one of my posts before publishing, I can easily share the Google Doc.

I also use the free tool Grammarly for Chrome. This is similar to spell check where it underlines words that are spelled wrong or grammatically incorrect. Although I have a degree in English, I don’t always remember every single grammar rule – there are a lot! I had to complete an entire course on grammar to receive my degree and it was one of the hardest classes I took.

Images

There are many free stock images sites out there. My favorite is Librestock which searches 47 free stock image websites. This is where I find all of the images that I use on my blog.

When I need to create an image or add some text to an existing image, I use Canva. I’ve been using Canva for 2+ years and I love it. Eventually, I’d like to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but until then Canva does a great job for my current needs. Both of these resources offer basic functionality with a free account.

Once I post a blog, I use other tools to promote it which I’ll discuss in a future post.

The most important thing about writing a post is actually sitting down and doing it. Remember, BICHOK is the key to writing – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. If you spend enough time writing eventually you’ll produce something useful, entertaining, or interesting.

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Are You a Multipotentialite?

Multipotentialite

When you were a child how did you answer the question,

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Were you quick to answer “veterinarian” or “ballerina” or were you part of the group that couldn’t decide? From the first time I was asked that question until now, I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist, a writer, an archeologist, a journalist, a teacher, a mother, and a business owner.

If you have a lot of interests and talents, should you double down and focus on one to the exclusion of others? No way! You just need to learn a new term for yourself, you’re a multipotentialite.

Being a multipotentialite means you have multiple skills and many interests. You may have numerous careers in different fields throughout your lifetime. If you’re a Millennial, this is almost a guarantee. The new normal is four job changes by the time you’re 32, according to CNN.

I recently watched a great Ted talk on being a multipotentialite. The speaker, Emilie Wapnick, talks about how she’s had many different interests throughout her lifetime. She didn’t want to be limited by the “what do you want to do when you grow up?” conversation. Instead, she believes that her varied interests give her a competitive advantage.

She talks about how she would find a topic she was interested in and spend a lot of time learning about it. When she started to master the topic, it would become boring and she’d want to move on to the next thing. I’ve experienced the same thing throughout my life. Each new thing I learnt would completely captivate my attention until I felt comfortable with it and then it would lose its shine. Soon after, I’d find something else to focus on.

These interests have overlapped to make me a more well-rounded person. For a long time, I felt like my passions were random and unrelated. I still haven’t integrated everything that I’m passionate about into my daily life or my career. I want to do more with nonprofits and become more involved in my local community. I enjoy public speaking and want to have more opportunities to do it. I’m also passionate about education. Some of these passions are active in my day-to-day while others may come into play in the future.

As a multipotentialite how do you approach life?

  • Keep pursuing whatever strikes your fancy. Follow any leads! Research your interests, get involved, and keep adding to your list of passions.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by all of your passions, instead, focus on one thing at a time. For a few months, concentrate on the passion that makes you most excited and gets you motivated to put in work. Follow that thread and it will lead to other passions. You may not be able to see how things will connect, but eventually, they will.
  • Appreciate your unique point of view and zest for life. You are a lifelong learner and will never be bored.
  • If you can find the intersection of your passions, you’ll find a career that will be fulfilling and very successful. Not looking for a new job? Think of ways you can incorporate your passions into your current career. Could your report writing be more creative? Could you get involved with a special interest group within your company? If you have spare time after work, could you start a hobby or side hustle to pursue your passions?

Let me know, are you a multipotentialite? How do you combine your passions into one cohesive life?

On the Creative Process and Just Doing It Already

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The most important part of the creative process is getting started. When I was younger, I wrote daily. I didn’t have much to do and was often grounded so I spent a lot of time in my room with only my thoughts for entertainment. I enjoyed reading, but I’d read most of the books in my house by the time I turned 11. To pass the time and keep myself sane, I created stories by writing out dreams, plans for the future, or plots of TV shows that I would want to watch. I also wrote a lot of poetry. When we got our first home computer, I spent hours figuring out basic HTML and creating an Angelfire website dedicated to my poetry. I updated it every few days. I was flattered when classmates told me they read my poems, but I didn’t really care if I had an audience.

I only wanted to write.

I wasn’t worried about running out of ideas. I wasn’t worried about whether I was producing my best content. I just did the work.

As I got older, I’d wait to feel inspired to write something. This was particularly true with my poetry. I’d have to be going through some intense emotional stuff to feel the desire to write anything. This produced some great pieces, but I only wrote a poem every six months or so. In college, not wanting to force the creative process led to many late nights writing final papers the day before they were due.

As I’ve made steps to make writing my career, I realize that like many things, you have to just do it. I can’t worry too much about the end product and whether it’s perfect. I can’t worry about who will read it and who won’t. I can’t worry about whether I’m contributing to the greater good every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

I just have to write. Sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it’s terrible. But I just have to keep doing it. That’s the only way to improve, that’s the only way to keep moving forward.

So I’ll write every day. I’ll sit down, turn on classical music or brain-stimulating ambient noise, try to focus my monkey mind and get my ideas on the page.

And like all things I wrote, I ultimately wrote this for myself, to remind myself that it’s what I need to do. Maybe you need to hear it too. My writing might be your anything. Whatever you need to be doing – whatever you want to be doing, but put off because it’s damn scary to actually do the work – go on now and get it done. You’ll thank yourself later.

Which Bird Are You: Lark, Owl, or Hummingbird?

Your brain works at an optimum level at some point during the day, categorizing you as either a lark, owl, or hummingbird. The main difference between the bird types are when they feel energized to work. Larks are raring to go from the moment their eyes open in the morning. Owls feel their creative juice flowing when the sun goes down. Hummingbirds are ready for action at any time of the day. Figuring out which type of bird you are will improve your productivity. At different times in my life, I’ve been each type.

Owl in College

In college, I was a night owl. I had classes throughout the day and worked two jobs. The only time I had left for homework was either very early in the morning or after my shift ended at 10 pm. I never liked getting up early, so I did my work at night and went to sleep around 3 or 4 am. This schedule was hard on me physically and mentally. I got sick more frequently than usual and didn’t feel like anything was my “best work”. I often thought I would have enjoyed the material more if I’d had more time. After college, I learned I didn’t need more time, but that I needed to work at a different time.

Lark in the Office

In my corporate position, I started work at 8:30 am each day. I felt most productive from around 9 am – 12 pm. I developed the routine of doing my most creative work, a newsletter and website content, first thing in the morning. I quickly figured out that after lunch, I was more easily distracted. The room was louder, people were chattier, and I found it harder to concentrate. As my attention span waned, I’d work on things that required less brain power like copying & pasting information and answering emails.

Hummingbird at Home

Working from home, I’ve had to adopt a more flexible schedule which has transformed me into a hummingbird. I’m able to work whenever I have the time and usually feel just as creative and motivated at 6 am as I do at 1 pm.

On weekdays, I work before my daughter wakes up. I get up around 5:45 each day and work until Norah wakes sometime around 8. Since I typically have more than two hours of things to do each day, I use her afternoon nap as another working session. Norah consistently naps from 12 – 1:30 each day. Sometimes, she sleeps in, or takes a supersized nap, and I get a ton done; other times she’s up at 6 am and I have to adjust my schedule and my expectations for the day. I also work in the evenings while my husband does the nighttime routine and on weekends. For the most part, I feel sharp and inspired throughout the day with my only major energy dip occurring around 2 – 3 pm. A soda usually fixes the problem!

I prefer to do my creative writing, like this blog, in the early mornings. My ideas flow more freely and my concentration level is at its peak. I play ambient music like Soundrown or Brain.fm while I write. I leave administrative work for the afternoon and return to creative work at night. I use the time when I’m mentally depleted to get things done around the house, return calls and texts, and schedule social media posts.

If you told me in college that I’d be intentionally waking up before 6 am to work, I would have laughed hysterically at you. Had you told me even two years ago, I would have scoffed. However, necessity is the mother of invention. When you have to do something, you find yourself more willing to do it, and even growing to like it, as time goes on.

If you need to transition from one type of bird to another, how should you go about rewiring your brain? Here are some tips that have helped me make the transition.

Make a Tiny Change

One of the best ways to change your routine is to incorporate small changes in your daily life. BJ Fogg offers free week-long email programs on adding tiny habits to your life. I used his system to start each day with a positive affirmation and to make flossing a habit. BJ suggests that you create new habits that connect to existing habits. This can help you slowly put together a routine that moves you from one type of bird to another.

Create a Morning or Evening Routine

It can be helpful to add a five minute morning routine to the beginning of your days. A morning routine can be as simple as brushing your teeth, making coffee, and spending five minutes listing your goals for the day or it can be a 15 step process; it’s up to you. My morning routine varies, but I like to start with a short meditation session, have my first of two coffees, read blogs and the Medium digest, then work on personal writings for at least 20 minutes.

An evening routine for winding down and getting ready for bed is also a good idea no matter what type of bird you are. Many studies have shown that blue light is terrible for sleep. My husband and I both use f.lux on our devices. We also try to spend 10-20 minutes reading (paper books) in bed before turning out the lights. This helps me decompress and make steady progress towards my reading goals for the year.

Go With Your Strengths

Ultimately, you should go with your strengths. It’s always easier to do what feels natural and make small, gradual changes. Organize your day so that your most creative work is done at the time when you are at peak performance. Time blocking your schedule on Google calendar is a good way of managing your day. Save your administrative tasks, busy work, and email responses for points in the day when you feel less sharp.

Whether you are in a traditional career path or are a freelancer, discovering your bird type and doing your most important work when you are in the zone will make a huge difference to your success. Figuring out when you should work will improve the quality of your work and increase the enjoyment you get from it.