Category Archives: Muse

What Should the Ideal Freelance Schedule Look Like?

by Herbert Liu

From Freelancer – http://contently.net/2014/11/05/resources/ideal-freelance-schedule-look-like/

Sometimes, we can get in the zone right away and tune out distractions. Other times, it seems like we need to pull together all our energy just to focus for five minutes.

Making the most of our time means understanding which hours are best suited for different types of work. Should you handle analytical tasks in the morning or afternoon? When’s the best time to check email? How can you work the clock to get the most out of Twitter? Since time is our most valuable assets, we felt it was time to explore how freelancers can make the most of different periods throughout the day.

WHEN TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS

Research shows communicating with other people online has its own optimal cycles. For example, Hubspot social media scientist Dan Zarrella conducted a study of billions of emails, and based on this information, he recommends sending your emails early in the morning. “Email is kind of like the newspaper,” he told the The Wall Street Journal. “You check it at the beginning of the day.”

And although scrolling through Twitter in the morning can help you glimpse important news, posting on the network yourself is better later in the day. If you want your tweets to be clicked, Zarella suggests sharing them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when others lack energy to send their own tweets after already posting earlier in the day.

And for those who are looking for a little pitching guidance, based on a study Dr. James Oldroyd conducted with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, the absolute best times to cold call are between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. or between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The worst time to cold call is during lunchtime, between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

WHEN TO ANALYZE VS. WHEN TO CREATE

As freelancers, our ability to make our own schedules can be a huge advantage. When we operate at our optimal time of day, it’s much easier to filter out distractions and get down to business. To be most productive during these optimal times, we should schedule our work according to two categories: analytic tasks and creativity tasks.

We perform best at challenging, attention-demanding tasks during these peak times, which is known as “the synchrony effect.”

We all have different peak times. For example, in this study published in Psychological Science, researchers found that differences in optimal performance periods clearly affect recognition memory for both younger and older adults. Younger adults showed better recognition memory when tested at their peak performance period (the afternoon) than when tested at their off-peak period (the morning). Older adults showed better recognition memory when tested at their optimal time (the morning) than when tested at their off-peak period (the afternoon).

During these peak times, we’re naturally more focused and perform well on analytic challenges that require us to “grind out a solution” by working through problems with consistent strategies.

Author and business coach Tony Schwartz begins his workdays by focusing for 90 minutes on a task he decided on the night before. He told the Harvard Business Review: “I launched this practice because I long ago discovered that my energy, my will, and my capacity for intense focus diminish as the day wears on. Anything really challenging that I put off tends not to get done, and it’s the most difficult work that tends to generate the greatest enduring value.”

To be clear, Schwartz’s approach doesn’t mean lulling hours are dead time. You’re actually best served doing creative work when you’re tired, unfocused, and your brain isn’t at peak performance. That’s because, as Cindi May writes for Scientific American,“Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to ‘distraction’ can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.”

WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK

If we want to make the most of our peak times, we have to renew ourselves accordingly. Remember Tony Schwartz’s 90-minute ritual of uninterrupted work? He borrowed this concept from research at Florida State University by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson.

Dr. Ericsson and his team studied elite performers—including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players—and found the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. “They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day,” Schwartz explained in The New York Times.

Typically, Schwartz advises people to sprint through work for 90-minute cycles and break for 30-minute cycles in order to renew their energy for the next task.

You should never be too busy for renewal. Think of it this way: If you were driving down the highway and your car is about to run out of gas, would you skip the gas station because you were in too much of a hurry to get somewhere else?

Although a human body is much more complex and nuanced than a car, pushing it to its limit still requires a break before you attempt to grind through the next task.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Even though in theory we all have the same amount of hours in a day, each minute is not created equally. There’s a right time to connect with others, and since our energy spikes and lulls, certain times are better for analytic work while other times are when we’re at our most creative. And taking breaks is crucial for staying productive when our endurance starts to wane.

Most of us are only awake for about 16 hours, so schedule them wisely.

Building a Scene: One Writer’s Process

Excerpt from writer Kathleen M. Rodgers…..http://siteblog.kathleenmrodgers.com/?p=2613

One day soon, these scribbles on leftover notebook paper from my grown sons’ school days will grow into a polished scene in my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory. 

The Seven Wings to Glory bracelet was designed by my dear friend, Starlene DeBord, owner of Scarlett Sage Designs. Even when I'm not wearing the bracelet, I carry it with me everywhere I go during the process of writing this next novel. It serves as a talisman for me and keeps me motivated and focused on the work at hand.

Writing is a messy process, but after nearly forty years of writing for publication, I’ve learned to trust what works for me. Every article I sold to Family Circle Magazine, Air Force/Army/&Navy Times, and many other publications started out like this: first thoughts scribbled on whatever paper is at hand.

Fuel Your Greatness, by author Lia London

http://lialondonbooks.com/indie-author-advocate/fuel-your-greatness/

This morning, while downing my Vitamin D, I noticed the slogan on the side of the bottle for the first time:“Fuel Your Greatness”.

I rolled my eyes.  There go the marketers, pandering to our egos again.  Good grief!

But the slogan stuck in my brain.  (See the power of words?)

So, while I don’t think Vitamin D is going to fuel your greatness, per se, I do think there’s something to the idea of finding those things which will nourish your mind and provide power for your efforts.

8 things I do that help me stay energized about life

(and give me something to write about).

  • Work–Push yourself.  Give the full measure of your focus to something and see results.
  • Rest–Get enough sleep.  A bow that is always tightly strung loses its spring and flexibility.
  • Learn–What have you always wanted to know?  Go find out.  Expand your core of knowledge.
  • Play–All kinds of play.  Children are full of creativity, and look how much they play.
  • Converse–Engage with another human in a live setting.  As in both people talking and both people listening and responding appropriately.
  • Read–And not the same stuff all the time.  Reading takes you places you can’t go in other ways.  Journey in the mind.
  • Love–More.  Express it.  Don’t expect anything in return for it, but know that if you really love others, you will come away better for it.
  • Believe–Cultivate faith in something bigger than yourself.  Connection to the divine engenders and prospers our finest attributes.

MUSE: Is Your Muse An Early Riser?

When is your most productive time?

Do you roll out of bed with your dreams still running around in your head?  Do story ideas occur to you as you’re waking up, getting that first cup of coffee?

Don’t wait.  Set down to your computer and capture those flying thoughts.  Capture in words as many of those disparate thoughts as you can, then go back and add details to them.  For many writers the early morning hours are their most creative, while the mind is fresh and unsullied by the problems and trials of the day.

If your muse is an early riser, you might want to keep a pad and pen by the bed so you can capture those thoughts and ideas even as you sit on the edge of the bed.  Take advantage of your most creative moments and wring them dry for later.