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Morning routine and the freelance writer – is it for you?

Back in the day when I used to work for Al Jazeera, one of the biggest struggles I had was getting up early in the morning, and looking for new stories to kick off the day. Now when I think of it, I’ve struggled to get up and go to work pretty much at every position I ever held. I wouldn’t call it a morning routine, more of a moUrning routine.  That is, until I quit everything and became a freelance writer.
At first, I thought I’d have the same woes. After all, I never even thought things could be any different. Somehow, it became natural for me to struggle to keep my eyes open in the morning, or to be productive before noon. So, my first months of freelancing were all the usual:

I’d set up an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning.
I’d prepare liters of coffee.
I expected things to be difficult.
I expected focus to be nothing but an abstract noun.
I figured inspiration, motivation, drive – would be non-existent before lunch.

But working wasn’t really that difficult. Don’t get me wrong – it was challenging. It was hard. My clients’ demands were pushing my limits every day, and I sometimes struggled to keep up. But I was never tired in the morning. Never sleepy, never lacking focus, inspiration or drive.  At one point I started waking up before the alarm clock. By myself. When I realized that it wasn’t by accident, and that’s repeating – I took a leap of faith and turned the clock off. (Un)surprisingly, I continued waking up on time, fresh as a daisy, and ready to seize the day.

I learned two important lessons from this: One – when you love doing something, you don’t tire easily, being a freelance writer included, and Two – listening to my body increased my productivity, improved my health, and made me an overall happier, more satisfied individual.

I never thought of myself as a morning person, but as it turns out – I’m exactly that.
So what does that mean to you, fellow freelance writer? That you should ditch the alarm clock? No, not necessarily. That you should work in the afternoons, or late at night? Again, not necessarily.

What I’m telling you is to listen to your body, and organize your day around it. Give it a try, take a week or two and just see how it goes. If it doesn’t turn your life around, nothing will.

There’s one thing you should never forget – and that is to keep your discipline. Just because you stopped getting up early in the morning to do work, doesn’t mean you should stay up until 3 AM on a Wednesday, binge-watching Vikings.

When asked about his morning routine, Hank Moody once said: “I thought I’d start the day with some dry toast and half a grapefruit, bust out the old computer, bang out 10 pages, maybe go for a run. Maybe I’ll just jerk off and go back to bed.” Don’t forget Hank is a fictional character, without strict deadlines, or a goal in life.

As much as I’d like to tell everyone to be more like Hank, I have to advise quite the contrary. Keep your discipline – go to bed on time, but sleep as much as you like. And work when you most feel like it. Your clients will thank you for it.

What does my daily routine look like?

Here’s how my day goes about:

The first (and the last) thing I do, every day, is to create a list. First, I’d take a look at the list I created the day before, to see everything that’s been done, and to see all the things that need to get done today. It helps me remember everything, sort out my priorities and make sure I don’t waste any time, if there’s work to be done. If you don’t have a list, start your day by thinking of all the things that need to be done that day, and write them down. List them by priorities, and start checking the list off, one line at a time.

Then, I’d get down to writing. I try to work in bursts. I’d write for an hour, then relax for five to ten minutes. Relaxing could be anything, from playing guitar, to browsing Mashable, to washing dishes. As long as I get my mind off of the writing.

After four to five hours, I’d stop. This is my maximum, at the moment. After five hours I usually start losing focus and inspiration, so I call it a day.

I take a break, drink some coffee and grab something to eat.

The rest of the day I spend looking for new clients, sending email pitches, answering emails, and learning new things. I try to read at least a blog or two (maybe even a small book, if I find anything interesting) on freelancing, running a blog, or marketing.

I finish the day by making a list of all the things I’ve done that day, as well as all the things that need to be done tomorrow. All in all, it takes roughly eight hours.

Hopefully, this blog post will help you organize your day better and enjoy being a freelance writer even more. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. Good luck!

Image Credit: Flickr / Kuba Bożanowski

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