The biggest challenge as a self-employed person is time management. And even the best of intentions can be derailed by a pace-stopping interruption. As sad as it is to say it, mine usually comes in the form of a family obligation or requirement. My husband and daughter are fairly well trained but every now and again a situation crops up that completely screws up my work schedule.
Driving is the biggest cause for interruption. I’ll be on a roll and suddenly I have to stop mid-paragraph to drive my daughter to some class or function. Number two on the list is my husband’s politeness. Again I’ll be on a roll and he’ll stick his head in the office door to offer to make me dinner or some other kind but concentration-breaking nicety.
My solution? When I’m on a tight deadline I place crime scene tape over my office door as a warning. The warning isn’t always respected.
I’ve also developed a bad habit. When I’m interrupted, especially if it’s last minute, the first paragraph when I get going again is usually an info dump of the chapter to date. I don’t realize I’m doing it but when I go back in to read, I can spot any instance where my butt has left the chair.
So what should you do? Guard your time. Let everyone know that you’ll be unavailable. Don’t answer the phone unless it’s an emergency. Know your pace and map out your schedule. I work on a chapter schedule. If I sit down at my computer my goal is to write one chapter that day. I know that takes me roughly six hours, so I let everyone know I’m not to be disturbed. I know others who work by word count. Be realistic in your estimates and deadlines. For example, I don’t schedule anything between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Why? I learned from experience that A- life is too chaotic then and B- publishing pretty much grinds to a halt in December. If I set a winter deadline I always set January 31st. Turn away the moochers. People often confuse being self-employed with not working. When my son was young every time there was a snow day or a teacher conference my neighbors would call on me to watch their kids since “I didn’t work.” It took me a very long time to explain that I was working and no, I am not a babysitting service. Don’t feel guilty. It’s no different than any other job, it’s just location. Your friends and neighbors will understand eventually and you can be proud of yourself for setting boundaries.
Do you have any time management tricks?