How do I get it all done?

How do I get it all done?

I was interviewed for Flying Solo the other week and Robert Gerrish asked me,

“You seem to be everywhere, you to do so much, how do you get it all done?”

It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this, so I thought I’d explain.

First, let me break down my working week for you:

  • My fella and I split the childcare pretty much 50/50. Or 60/40ish.p
  • I work three days between 9am and 5.30pm.
  • My fourth day is a little shorter (from 9-3ish) as I need to pick my son up from pre-school.
  • I sometimes fiddle with social media while I’m walking my dog, or in the evenings over a glass of wine.

So, I probably work, on average, around 30-35 hours a week.

I need at least 70% of that to be billable time to enable me to live and support my family – but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Here’s a rough pie chart of my average working week:

 

I also save time by settling for slightly crap pie charts.

 

To get the most out of my time, I’ve set a few rules for myself:

1)    I follow my ‘to do’ list religiously

I make a ‘to do’ list every morning and put the hardest tasks first. Then I force myself to follow it. I also throw in a few easy tasks so that I feel good when I tick them off.

2)    I use social media as a reward

I spend a lot of time on social media, because a) I enjoy it and b) It brings me business. I usually check in the morning and then randomly throughout the day. I take the, ‘if you finish these five pages of copy you can check Facebook’ approach.

3)    I don’t sweat the small stuff

I don’t agonise too much over what to write in posts, spelling mistakes in status updates or image choices. There’s a formal marketing plan to stick to. I also make quick decisions – if a client comes to me and I don’t have time to do the work, or feel the job isn’t right, I email them straight away and tell them. No messing about.

4)    I don’t spend much time on the phone

Most days I don’t answer my phone. I get a lot of enquires, and if I spoke to everyone, I’d never get anything done. Instead, I set aside time to be available and respond to calls – max 30 or so minutes a day.

5)    I don’t meet clients

Travelling to meetings is a huge time eater and I don’t think it’s at all necessary. I won’t meet a client unless it’s a big budget job or an ongoing relationship, and even then they have to twist my arm. Skype and the phone works fine for me.

6)    I don’t track my time

I used to fanny around using timesheet tools and time trackers, but they just became another thing to do – another thing to feel guilty about. So I stopped. Instead, I use good old common sense to ensure I spend sufficient time writing.

7)    I don’t crap around with leads

If a new customer contacts me, I send them my brief and give them a quick ballpark. This separates the wheat from the chaff PDQ (pretty damn quick). I’m much better at spotting the tire kickers, the time wasters and the PITA clients than I used to be. This means I do less work, but for better projects and cooler clients.

I don’t follow up on dead leads – again it’s just another thing to keep track of. If I send a quote and don’t hear back – so be it, another client is always right around the corner.

8)    I’ve stopped doing favours

I no longer do work free of charge for mates, I don’t spend hours answering question from aspiring copywriters (who rarely say thanks), I don’t give out free advice and I only work on one pro-bono charity client a year. It’s harsh, but I feel I’ve done my fair share of giving back – now I want to focus on my family and myself. Learning to say no was one of my finest time saving achievements.

9)    I don’t network

I find networking events a bit painful and tedious – so I avoid them.

Being organised comes naturally to me

Before I became a copywriter, I worked as a digital producer for many years and, over time, moved up to managing teams of creative, producers and coders.

I have an innate love of process, spreadsheets and file structures.

I use a few tools from those days to help me:

  • Set email templates for each stage of the project process – which I can then customise.
  • A WIP (work in progress) spreadsheet where I keep track of each job’s status.
  • Word templates for briefs, copy decks, etc.

I’ve learned to outsource

When I started, I did everything myself, coding, accounting, etc. These days I outsource. I tried a Virtual Assistant briefly to help with for the admin stuff but it didn’t work for me. Admin is my favourite bit!

Instead, I use the following :

  • Editor: I use an editor on some jobs to polish my work or give me a new angle.
  • Proofreader: I use a proofreader for all my copy and blogs – but not status updates (hence the typos!).
  • Developer: I use a developer to maintain my site. Yes, I do the odd bit myself and upload blogs, but anything beyond that I leave to the experts.
  • Bookkeeper: I have a bookkeeper and accountant, so I don’t have to do my own BAS or tax return.
  • Designer: I use a designer/illustrator to create some of the graphics for my site, but also, if I need down time between copy jobs, I create my own (like the awesome one for this post).

I have no idea how much I spend on this each month – I should really sit down and work it out one day – but I know that if I were to try and do some of these tasks myself, I’d be wasting precious money-earning time.

One thing I haven’t done is to employ a junior copywriter because a) I don’t want to have the stress of staff and b) I’m a perfectionist and always end up rewriting any copy that I sub contract out. I know I could earn more if I did this, but I’ve decided it’s not for me.

I’ve found great tools

These days there’s software or an app for pretty much everything. Here are some I use:

  • XERO: For accounting, raising invoices, etc. – although I do still track a few things in good old Excel.
  • HootSuite and Buffer: When I read an article I generally save it or buffer it. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially good I’ll spend an hour or so creating posts in HootSuite to last the week.
  • Lighthouse: A bug ticketing system that makes briefing my developer super easy.
  • Slickplan: I use this to create super cool sitemaps quickly.
  • Balsamiq: I use this to create super cool wireframes quickly.
  • PicMonkey: I use this to create super cool images quickly.

I do one thing at a time

Apart from the regular work, I try to do one NEW cool thing a month – so recently that’s been:

Next on my list are:

  • Making my site responsive
  • Creating a per-blog email list and updating my site accordingly.
  • Creating an Explainer video for my Home page.
  • Writing a free mini ebook for my site.
  • Setting up an online course with a fellow copywriting pal.

I don’t have any set timelines for doing these, it will happen when the urge takes me and the time is right and when I can be arsed.

I have a few super powers

Okay I’ll admit I do have a few super powers up my sleeve:

  • I have a 95wpm typing speed.
  • When things are going well for me I can produce ideas and copy very quickly.
  • I read quickly – scanning an article for salient points. This lets me the absorb information I need.
  • I’m a uber multitasker – I can write a blog while watching Breaking Bad and stroking the dog.

The image versus the reality

So, you’re probably thinking that this all sounds very positive and inspiring.

But there are, of course, two (or sometimes three) sides to every story.

You only see the good times. The blogs, the clients, the sarcastic status updates, but here are some facts about my life that you might not have realised:

  • I don’t exercise enough – I did the Sydney half marathon a few years back – now I barely exercise other than walking the dog. This gets me down a bit.
  • I don’t eat that well – I try to make a good family meal a few days a week and my husband does the same, but often, we just have salad and fish fingers or toasties for dinner.
  • I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to – I have limited time to be social – this makes my friends cross with me.
  • My husband and I are like ships in the night (or ‘shits’ in the night as he likes to say). Although we sit in the same office for most of the week, we rarely get any quality ‘us’ time.
  • I’m a little distracted – my son get’s heaps of mum time but I do sometimes watch Peppa Pig with one eye on the iPad.
  • I don’t get much me time – I rarely spend time lazing on the beach reading a book.

In my life my son comes first, then the dog, my husband, the house, and me a very distant last. Every month or so I do check myself and try to redress the work life balance, but it’s a constant battle.

So – there you go – that’s how I get it all done.

But when I say ‘all’ – it’s not really all, at all.

You see, just like you, I look at other business owners and think, “Wow, how does he/she find time to create that, go there, do this?”

I try not to compare the worst of myself with the best of someone else.

I try hard to be satisfied with my achievements and to accept the limitations on my time.

But it’s tough, right?

Over to you

How do you manage your time? Do you have any tips from others? Do you fret that you’re not doing enough?

Did you like this post?

You might like my book ‘Confessions of a Misfit Entrepreneur | How to succeed despite yourself’ – buy it online here.




Want to have a chat?

If you need a Copywriter, SEO Consultant or Information Architect, then please contact me.

The Recipe for SEO Success
The Clever Copywriting School

How do I get it all done? was last modified: by
  • Thank you for sharing 🙂

    I’m new to copywriting but my part-time job (as a longshoreman) has made my schedule zany for the past 6 years. My latest time management trick is to not stay up late and wake up early. Unless something super important is on the agenda, I try and be in bed by 9-10… and I sometimes get up as early as 3am.

    Where am I going with this…

    Um.. I think that by simply sticking to a regular work schedule is still important even if you work on your own.

    Isn’t there a saying that goes “work smarter, not harder?”

    I like that saying.

    “Do you ever fret that you’re not doing enough?”

    All. The. Time. But that’s what keeps me going. And if there is something that I think could be done better/faster/stronger, I will get help.

    One last thing… this past weekend I built a standing desk. I still have a stool when my tush needs a necessary rest.. but there is something about standing up that keeps me more alert. My calves and ankles have been screaming at me all week, but I keep telling them it’s for their own good. It’s better for posture and health… supposedly.

    So far I’m liking it.

    • Hey Raymond, I try to start early as well, but it’s tough with kids, the dog to walk etc. The days I get to my desk at 8am I get so much more done.
      I think one of the hardest things when working for yourself is motivation, learning to create your own carrot on stick that drives you on.

      I don’t think I could do a standing desk, but I sometimes stop and have a quick hoola hoop to get my creative juices flowing!

  • Sharon Hoops

    Awesome story, thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Kym

    Love this – thanks for sharing. The image versus the reality was the best bit that I could relate to pretty much all those points. I’ve bookmarked this when the going gets a bit tough as inspiration! Thank you (PS I always say thank you after receiving any sort of advice from a mentor, so am amazed at how many aspiring types don’t!)

    • Thanks Kym – thanks for your thanks! And yes I’m glad the reality bit hit home. Several people seem to think I’m coping with no stress, but it’s just not true!!

  • Bridie Jenner

    Like you, I have a supportive husband who does more than his fair share of childcare and household tasks – I reckon it’s probably a 70:30 split, with him doing the majority! He also went part-time in his job, so I now work three afternoons and two full days every week which helps enormously.

    I have started doing more cooking – previously I did about one meal a week and it would be something going from freezer to oven! Every Sunday I spend about three hours cooking the meals for the week, as well as baking for Miss 6’s lunchbox. I have a fab new gadget which makes it quicker and easier – I’m no Nigella!

    I’ve also tried a few things in the past that I no longer do as they were time sappers with no real benefit – my monthly newsletter being one I can think of off the top of my head. I think the problem is there are so many people saying “you need to do this, you need to do that” and we feel that we have to do all these things, but actually you don’t. I’ve also given up on networking, mainly as whenever the events are on I’m always too busy to go.

    • The Sunday cook in is a good idea. I cook on Mondays and usually make something big so we can have lefts overs on Tuesdays, then again on Wed so left overs on Thur. We’re not big foodies, so a bit of fish and some veggies is good enough.

      I too have become lax with my monthly newsletter – I haven’t sent it in ages. I’m actually going to set up a system that mails when I post instead, so it’s less pressure.

      My priority has definitely change from brand building marketing to client servicing, relationship building and earning money!!

  • Another great post, Kate.

    Like everyone here, I am still trying to find the right balance of work, family, and “me” time. A tricky task. I suppose I’m getting better at it with practice.

    I do adhere to a similar philosophy of scheduling tasks, working on the most daunting first thing in the morning, and using the tools and apps available to help with just about everything. I love the tools you included here, although I haven’t heard about any of them besides Hootsuite and Buffer. Will definitely have to check them out.

    I think the danger with apps – although I am a total tech junkie – is getting buried by them. With new ones popping up all the time, it’s easy to constantly add to the stable when we don’t really need them. At one point I found myself using 3-4 different task managers all at the same time. I practically needed a fifth to keep track of them all. We have to remember that things can still get done without them. And sometimes done even better that way. Apps and tools are meant to simplify and streamline the task, whatever it is.

    Thanks for the peak at “A Day in the Life of a Successful Copywriter”.

    • Yes I so agree re app overload. That’s why I cut back. I’ve gone back to simple paper lists for my to lists, and given up on tracking time. Toooo many apps to remember to use. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Handy tip I picked up from Ramit Sethi: time = energy. It’s not just that time requires energy, but when performing an ardous task that takes a lot of time, how energised are you feeling afterward?
    For example, I used to spend loads of time on Elance crafting pitches, which left me feeling drained and unmotivated. It also never yielded any positive results. Whereas you could attend a networking event for 2 hours, and spend another 2 hours drafting emails to prospective collaborators, feel drained after the work is done, but then energised when you get a positive result after the time invested.
    I’m also a huge fan of saying f*** it all at least once a week and convincing myself I have zero amount of work to do, and then feeling energised when I’ve tricked myself into taking the pressure off.

    • You’re so right. It’s about deciding where to invest your time, not just for financial gain but for enjoyment’s sake as well!

      Saying f**k it all now and again is the only way I stay sane!!

shares