Do Tomorrow What You Decide Today 

Seven years into my career as a freelance reporter, I’ve learned that how the day begins has a big impact on how it will end. A good start often means that I feel satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. A bad start the opposite.

“Good” in this context, by the way, means “work-related”; “bad,” everything else.

What I Used To Do

Every morning, sitting down in front of my computer, I ask myself a question.

“What now?”

As a freelancer, I’ve no boss who helps me with priorities. Whether the question is answered with “Facebook” or “prepare interview with person X later today” is up to me.

If I’ve slept well, had a good breakfast, and taken my morning walk, I also often have the discipline to resist Facebook. Scheduling an interview early in the day was (and still is) also a quick fix to that urge.

But with too little sleep and no urgent tasks at hand, it is all to easy to postpone work for just a few minutes more. And on a bad day, those minutes soon pile up.

The List For Tomorrow

A simple list turned out to be a part of the solution. A list that makes sure that the first thing I do in the morning is actual work.

Writing the list is the last thing I do every day. On it I put two or three tasks. These task are the ones that I’ll start the next day doing.

With that list at hand, the “What now?” is already answered when I sit down at the desk.

The important thing for this to work is what I put on that list. The task has to be one that takes any of the articles I currently work on one step closer to deadline or something else work related that really has to be done.

Also, the chosen tasks have to match at least one of two criteria:

  1. Be a task that can be finished in a short time.
  2. Be something that I really want to do.

Why important tasks that I want to do have a place on the list is probably self-explanatory. If it’s something fun, like finally sitting down and writing that article I’ve researched, I don’t even need the list. I would do it anyway.

But for the days when no such fun task is an option, the “has to be done” combined with “short time” forces me into work mode. By doing these tasks, I get off to a good start.

Track Your Time

Lately, the list has been combined with detailed time tracking. I’ve always tracked how much time I spend on client work. But starting to use Toggl to track everything I do throughout the day has had a big impact on how much time I spend procrastinating.

With Toggl, I always have a timer running. And that timer is assigned to a project. Projects include articles, administration, research, etc. And one project for breaks, when I browse Facebook or have lunch.

Using Toggl means two things — first, that I get detailed statistics on how I use my time (which is what services like Toggl, Harvest and Freckle are for).

But the running timers also help me choose how I spend my time in the first place. I’d rather start the research timer than the break timer, which means I spend more time on work-related stuff.

And when I socialize on Facebook — which is also a very important task for a freelancer working from home — it is a deliberate choice.