How an award-winning journalist and bestselling author optimizes her time and gains additional hours in the week. How? Read on.
If my fleeting presence on this blog hasn’t been indication enough, let me tell you, it’s been a busy few weeks in the Khullar Relph household, mostly because of health and family issues.
As my hours got reduced and my to-do list threatened to bulge off the page and scatter all over my pristine floor, I decided it was time to optimize the way in which I used my time.
Instead of losing hours, I actually gained additional hours in the week after everything settled down.
How? Read on to find out.
Hour 1: I went on a social media diet
Facebook and Twitter are both important tools for networking and for interacting with your clients and readers, but many of us don’t realize that the number of hours we throw into these two social networks have very little ROI.
I hear many writers say they’ve found assignments through Twitter. But if you’ve spent two hours a day on Twitter and received only a $1,200 assignment after two months, that’s actually a complete waste of your time, given that you could, with a topnotch query letter, have gotten than assignment in less than an hour.
I’m not saying give up Twitter or Facebook, but I am saying that if you cut down the time you spend on those two social networks to half, you’ll find at least a couple of additional hours in your week, if not each day.
Hour 2: I woke up an hour earlier or went to bed later
I don’t recommend this long-term, but sometimes, it’s okay to add an extra hour to your work day, especially if you have a small child who takes up all your energy during his waking hours.
I find that the hours between midnight and 2 a.m. are my most productive because there are no interruptions from anyone in the house, including the animals. Those two hours, I find, are the equivalent of four hours because I bring razor sharp focus to what I’m doing during that period.
Some people prefer waking up early in the morning and I’ve been on that routine for a while as well, but I focus better at night. So when deadlines demand it, that’s where I find my extra hours.
Hour 3: I put off responding to non-urgent emails
I’ve never been good at email and I’ll admit right away that it’s something that takes up a huge chunk of my time simply because I’m thoroughly inefficient in the way that I handle it.
That said, because of the volume of my email, it sometimes takes me hours to get through it each day. And so when things are busy, I often put aside non-urgent emails into a separate folder and then reply to them at the end of the week.
If I’m super busy, I might write short emails (which isn’t typical of me) and pray that the person on the other end doesn’t think I’m rude.
Hour 4: I asked if we could speak over the phone
Following on from the above point about e-mail, I’ve started asking potential clients and editors to talk on the phone instead of spending hours (over a period of days) writing long e-mails.
I have to tell you, it’s been a huge time saver. I had seven phone calls scheduled last week with potential clients and in at least three cases, I got so much more information and personalized tips from editors who wanted me to send them ideas than I would have had I just stuck to e-mail. This not only saved me time in terms of the back and forth with these editors trying to gauge what they wanted, but it’s also saved me a hell of a lot of research time. I got off one of these calls and was able to come up with three ideas immediately. Before talking to the editor, I was having trouble even coming up with one! And of course, a few additional hours added to my week.
Hour 5: I tracked my time
I’m dedicated to hitting six-figures. I hoped 2014 would be the year, but it wasn’t, so I’m really working towards making 2015 the year it happens.
I don’t make six figures at the moment and while 2013 was one of my roughest years in the business, in 2014 I changed course and fixed my mistakes and I can already see work picking up and things taking off at a very high speed.
In order for me to hit my target this year, I’ve had to really start strategizing and looking at where I’m spending my time and also, how much time I’m spending on each assignment. I didn’t see this as a time-saving tool, but let me tell you, when that timer is ticking as I work on a certain assignment, I’m focused exclusively on that assignment. Not to mention that because I want to maximise my hourly rate, I found that I tend to work faster when I’m tracking my time because I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finish my assignment in fewer hours. This has meant that I’m not constantly toggling between windows or checking e-mail or writing up a quick post on a message board. And that means, of course, more hours in my day to work.
As you can tell, I ended up finding more than just five additional hours in my week, but I know that I’ll slip up occasionally. Even if you implement a couple of these strategies every week, you’ll end up finding far more time in your day than you think you currently have.
How to Pitch: Pitching guidelines for 200+ publications
We know that finding markets to pitch your story ideas, understanding what they’re looking for, and making sure they pay an amount you’re comfortable with can be the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the job. So we’ve tried to make it easier for you.
Here’s a list of publications, organized by subject and with a note of their pay rates, each with a link to their guidelines.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Publisher, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the publisher of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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