Diana Kelly Levey

Do This 1 Thing at Night to Improve Your Freelance Writing Business

A woman writing in a notebook

December 12, 2021

A friend of mine was asking me the other day how I am productive with my freelance writing business in the mornings. She asked how I avoid wasting time on social media or watching TV shows all day while working from home and get writing done I need to do to hit my deadlines.

As I was thinking about my answer, I realized one trick I’ve applied to my work life for the past decade or so has helps me stay focused in the mornings. Whether I was working full-time as a junior level editor at Weight Watchers, managing social media and freelancers at Prevention magazine, or trying to maximize my two days in the office magazine the website for Muscle & Fitness Hers magazine, I applied the same tactic.

This freelance productivity hack is ridiculously simple and it takes less than a minute. Here’s what I do at the end of my workday so I hit my freelance goals the next morning.

The 1 Thing I Do at Night That Helps My Freelance Writing Business

I write down the most important things I have to do the night before.

It’s so simple that it’s boring, right?

I know that mornings are my most productive and focused freelance hours of the day, but I also recognized that while I’m caffeinating with a mug of coffee and settling in front of my laptop, I’m a bit sleepy and out of it.

When I write down the things I absolutely must get done the next day at the top of my list at night when I’m done working for the day—usually three to five priorities—I know the next day what I should focus on. (For instance, study these article pitch examples.)

That’s it. I’ve tried online list-making apps and cool tools, but I realized I’m a visual person who needs to use a pen and notebook for my to-do list. (Check out these morning routines of successful freelance writers).

Why does this productivity tip work?

It helps me feel less stressed about the next day.

Jotting down my to-do list at night helps me get all the deadlines, essential emails and thoughts bobbing around my head that I need to remember to tackle and puts them in one spot so those worries that “I’ll forget” are eliminated. Sometimes, I’ll remember a few more things that evening and will write them on the notepad as well. This prevents me from having those moments where I’m falling asleep and then wake up because I suddenly remember something I have to do. Less stress + more sleep = happy writer. (Here are 3 freelance mistakes I made so you don’t have to.)

It reminds me of non-negotiable tasks.

It’s all too easy for me to spend the day playing whack-a-mole with my email and responding to messages one by one as they come in—and then getting nothing accomplished. When I check out the task list I wrote up the night before in the morning, I know what “organized Diana” wanted me to do today while “sleepy Diana” is considering spending the morning reading headlines and updating her social media channels. (Have more questions about running a writing biz? Look to this freelancer FAQ.)

(Ready to kick your freelance writing career into high gear? Get my new e-Book 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers and learn the skills you need to build a thriving freelance business.)

It keeps me focused.

After I complete an article, I often feel a bit tired and drained. I want a “reward” like a walking break, a texting chat with a friend, or reading the latest news in Facebook groups I joined. I do take a 15- to 20-minute break (and try to set a timer), but then my list informs me of what I have to do next, so I’m not distracted after my break.

There you have it. It’s not a revolutionary productivity tip, and I certainly didn’t invent it, but I’ve been doing it for years (maybe even in college or high school), and it works for me. (Here are some reasons you can’t concentrate.)

Will you try this freelance writing tip for productivity? If you do, let me know how it worked out!

If you like this topic and want to dive deeper into the research about why writing things down helps with focus and productivity, check out these articles:

8 Powerful Benefits of Writing Things Down

Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Improve Your Life

The 1 Thing You Need to Write Down for Better Sleep

Find yourself wanting to brush up on freelance writing skills to make more money with a side hustle or freelance career? Check out my self-paced freelance writing online course on Teachable.

I’m also offering one-on-one freelance coaching services to help clients hone their writing skills and take their business to the next level. Email me: FreelanceCoachNY(at)Gmail.com to learn about scheduling a call!

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Diana can help with:

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Email Diana about opportunities: Diana(at)DianaKelly.com.