Tag Archives: time management

Monday Morning Musings: Millennial Writers, Quit Hitting Refresh!

Not for the first time, it’s been dawning on me lately that my status as a millennial writer may be putting me at something of a competitive disadvantage.

I’m not referring to my relative (though rapidly disappearing thanks to student loans and the looming inevitable death of all we hold dear) youth, or the metric ton’s worth of crappy expectations and stereotypes previous generations have dumped upon mine. I’m simply pointing out that my patience level is, shall we say, not high. In this business, that’s not exactly an asset.

A twenty-first century writer’s true nemesis, you understand, is not crass commercialism or an uneducated public or even a literary archrival. No, it’s that danged refresh button.

“Come on, come on, it’s been like half a day already. Has she seen my e-mail? Surely she’s seen my e-mail. Read the query, read the query, READ THE QUERY, READTHEQUERYREADTHEQUERYREADTHEQUERY!”

It’s just so freaking easy nowadays for millennial writers like me to click back and forth between windows, hitting “refresh” on blog stat trackers and e-mail inboxes every 30 seconds.

“What do you mean there’s only been 10 pageviews so far? That was a brilliant post! How do all those spam marketing sites with people who can’t write in English get so much flipping traffic, anyway?”

We may be getting a tad obsessive. Also, that little nervous habit is cutting way too much into our writing time.

There is no way I would have survived trying to make a career of writing back in the good old days when everything always got lost in the mail both ways. If I make a change to the blog settings, my brain does know that it’s unrealistic to expect such minute tweaking to instantly boost my readership. Does that ever stop me from frantically doing CPR compressions on my refresh button? Heck no.

Nor does my complete lack of control over when other humans send e-mails even slightly make a dent in the number of times I’ve checked my messages since lunch (approximately 347, in my not-so-scientific estimation). There’s an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that opines, “The longer you wait for the mail, the less there is in it,” and right now I really feel like reaching through my screen and giving my inbox a good bopping.

Sure, the usual advice given to millennial writers in my situation is to write something else, or query someone else,  or do something else. And I’ll totally do that, right after I refill my coff–REFRESHREFRESHREFRESH! Whoops.

How do you avoid mashing the refresh button?

Kate

Freelance Fridays: Social (Media) Barriers

 

Is social media killing your productivity? Photo via VisualHunt

 

It starts out innocently enough. You’re on the hunt for your next meal. You want to keep tabs on the grandkids. You wish you were more up to speed on the news. You need The Google for researching your assignment. You work all the time and you don’t get out much.

Is the Internet filling that void?

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat. You’ve Stumbled Upon the greatest thing since sliced bread: videos of cats accessorizing themselves with sliced bread. You’re YouTubing the vast right-wing (or is it left-wing) conspiracies aimed at thrusting us all into a Brave New World. You’re chasing your rock star dreams, living vicariously through the musicians topping the hottest playlists on Spotify.

What you aren’t doing is writing, creating, designing. You know, that pesky work stuff. And if your Internet addiction has gotten bad enough, you may also be strapping up for carpal tunnel while skipping the showers and sleep. If you’ve progressed to the point of filling adult diapers in order to maintain your butt-shaped print on the sofa and chomping down stray Cheetos like a psychotic bird, professional help is probably called for.

The rest of us have other options. If your days are flying by and you have next to nothing to show for all those hours you spend on the phone or at the computer, it’s time to do something about that little social media problem.

Freelance Fridays: Coffee
Drink up freelancers, it’s Friday!

Get out of the house. Are you cooped up in a home office, virtually alone for days on end? Get out. Walk your pets. Take a bike ride. Hit a local coffee shop, buy a drink, and spend an hour or two in a public space. Go to the library.

Join a charity, join a gym, join a club, find a writers’ group. Find something offline to do that keeps you physically or mentally active, at least a few hours each week. The more active you become in your local community, the less heavily you’ll depend on online socialization.

Go for broke. Are you sick of election news and misspelled memes? Sit there and read that stuff. Over and over. Read a few comment forums. Pick nice, irritating ones. Watch previews for trash TV and grieve the decline of modern literary culture. Immerse yourself so deeply in a social media cesspool for a few days that you come up begging for air.

Set a timer. I participate in a ladies’ housekeeping forum on social media (yes, I feel you, irony), and the subject of timers comes up fairly regularly. Set a timer that allows you five minutes of Internet for every half-hour of work time, every 500 words, whatever works for you. Or set a timer for your Internet activity. You’re done for the next hour when it goes off.

If all else fails, you might have to limit your online time. There’s no shortage of news stories and essays in recent years about writers who chose to pull the plug. Whether that means designating a work computer with no Internet access or forgoing Web connectivity entirely,  disconnecting and disengaging from the online world can be one of a writer’s most productive decisions.

How do you control online distractions?
Kate

Freelance Fridays: Changing Up the Routine

Earlier this year, I announced lofty intentions of getting a book drafted by Valentine’s Day 2017. In part, I hoped to give myself a completely necessary kick in the tush by encouraging random Internet people to hold me accountable. As it turns out, I did start one—I’ve actually started several—but any manuscript of mine still has a long way to go. Life took a turn for the unusual this spring after I found myself battling an unexpected personal medical issue. No sooner had that been resolved than I was asked to host an exchange student for the then-upcoming academic year. I inquired whether my husband had issues with me moving a stray teenager into our basement, he said no, I found myself doing a ton of paperwork and scrubbing and decorating, and here we are, several months later, newly minted honorary high-school parents.

After a slightly bumpy start, we’ve all more or less settled into a school routine that somehow still involves a fair bit of me playing chauffeur. I have learned that what used to be fruit for a week and a half is now fruit for two days. Also, yogurt needs to start coming in gallon jars, I’m probably not supposed to speak to any teenager who isn’t mine (oops), and the Swedish letter å is pronounced “oh-ah.” Hopefully you all will forgive me for my long absence in the interim.

As you can see, the blog has been getting a facelift. My domain registration expired at the end of the summer, and I had wanted to change something for months. Getting into Google Administrator to repurchase it (seriously, I need a new, paid account just to renew a domain?) was enough of a hassle that I eventually decided against it. I’m moving in a new direction and renewing my professional focus on writing and editing; I might as well take the site with me.

My husband is up before 6 every day; my high schooler catches the bus before 7. What I have been learning these last few weeks is that, as much as I love the peace and quiet, there’s no point in this night owl’s sleeping in. Get up, get caffeine, get moving. Make sure everybody gets out the door. Check the news, but don’t get caught up in it. Put pants on. Go to work. If you’re a home-based worker, as I am, try to make writing (or editing, or designing) the first thing you do. When the phone starts ringing and the employees pull up and the partner and kids come home searching for dinner, the rest of your home may not be perfect, but at least you’ll have put in effort towards your goal.

Write every day. Or, if you truly cannot, as I recently discovered, then set a new routine that includes creative work. Snatch the extra productive time when you get it. My host daughter is sportsing it up till midnight (hello, volleyball season) and my spouse may or may not go camping. So I’m making a command decision and opting not to start the dishwasher and fold laundry and watch the Masterchef episode I’ve been dying to catch up on since last night. Not until I finish this post and get a couple more photos edited, anyway. Yes, it’s killing me! No, I don’t want spoilers.

By changing up my daily schedule this way, I’ve gotten a good start on updating an old Etsy store, cataloging my photo library, and cleaning old files that were clogging up my computer.. What could you accomplish if you set aside more writing time?

Here’s to new routines!
Kate

 

Freelance Fridays: Tax Time

After a couple weeks’ worth of balmy weather, springtime seems to have arrived early, bringing at least two annual inevitabilities along for the ride: mud and tax prep.

While I feel compelled to offer the standard disclaimers at this point–I am neither an attorney nor a CPA–there are a few general things I can point out, such as that if your business structure involves any employees or partners, you may need to start your tax preparation process well in advance of April 15. Employees and contractors are due their W2s and 1099s by the end of January, and if your business has to file any K-1 forms, they’ll most likely be due around mid-March, unless your fiscal calendar does not follow the standard calendar year. Other fun things, such as annual reports and state income taxes for workers, may or may not apply to your operation.

Although the IRS has extended the traditional filing deadline slightly for the current tax year (it’s been bumped back to April 18 across the board this year, and if you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you’ll get an extra day), it’s never a great idea to wait till the last possible minute to file, because some sort of time suck invariably comes up: a math mistake, a missing form, a complicated work sheet, an uncooperative printer. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to run a year-end profit and loss statement on your freelancing income and check for missing or duplicated data. I like to label a couple of folders for the outside tax-related forms that always come in for specific personal and business items–stuff like medical expenses, 1099 forms from people who paid you, student loan payments, and mortgage interest. If I forget to do that, they’ll end up scattered everywhere.

If you have other income sources (from a spouse, investments, or a second job), you’ll want to see how your freelancing money is likely to affect your overall income tax liability. Remember, too, that as an independent freelancer, you’re technically self-employed, which makes you responsible for paying both halves of the payroll taxes you and your employer would have been splitting if you were a traditional employee. Since it’s mid-February now, you still have a couple of months to set money aside if you expect to owe some taxes when you file.

Do you have any quick tips for tax season? Share them in the comments!

Kate

I’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Freelance Fridays: Getting Your (Financial) House in Order

There’s a pumpkin-spiced chill in the air that can only mean one thing: tax season is fast approaching. Photo credit: Randy Heinitz via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

 

 

It’s full-blown winter for many of my pals up north already, but here in the Rockies, fall is in full swing. There’s a pumpkin-spiced chill in the air; the leaves are turning; the bears, pronghorns, deer, and elk are out; and all anybody really feels like doing is taking long naps and eating all the food. It’s also the perfect time to take a hard look at the books before the holiday season hits and all the quarterly and year-end filings come due.

As we discussed last time, running your own business, even a tiny home business, necessarily generates a ton of paperwork. A whole lot of that is going to be financial records: receipts, bills, pay stubs, bank ledgers, tax forms, more tax forms, and still more tax forms you probably never knew existed before. If you hire anything out, you’ll enjoy a whole new level of record-keeping that occasionally results in random visits from people who want to inspect all of that stuff to see if you’re doing it wrong.

Freelance Fridays: Coffee
Drink up freelancers, it’s Friday!

To that end, it’s a good idea to take stock of your business’ performance by getting your financial records in order a month or two before the year ends. This not only lessens your tax prep workload later but also enables you to determine whether you should make changes to your operations before the tax year closes. You may find that you should be holding additional funds to cover tax bills, or that you need to update your insurance coverage, or that it makes sense to purchase deductible equipment.

Part of this process, if your business is old enough, should involve a tentative year-to-date profit and loss comparison with the previous year, and perhaps the last five or 10 years, if applicable. How does your performance compare overall? Are your numbers on par with past years’? Are you surpassing them? Where do you see the most significant changes? What’s driving those figures?

If you have employees, check to see how your payroll expenses may have changed. How will that impact your tax obligations and insurance costs? Can you afford to give holiday bonuses? What about accrued leave and holiday time?

Keeping things organized and checking up on your P&L stats at regular intervals is generally proper practice, but an in-depth analysis is especially important to complete before the end of the year. Give yourself a little extra time to make changes and plan for additional expenses. You’ll save a lot of headaches later on.

Kate