How I’m Restructuring My Time Post-Billfold

You might remember, from my post on how the choices we make limit our choices, that working on The Billfold effectively limited my choices until about 2 p.m. Central, Monday-through-Friday.

Now that I have 20 new hours to make choices with — or, to borrow the YNAB framework, 20 new hours that need jobs — I’ve been thinking about how I want to structure those choices.

Structuring my workday by priority

Here are my current work priorities (not to be confused with life priorities, that’s a separate list):

  • Write NEXT BOOK.
  • Write a daily blog post at NicoleDieker.com.
  • Build the audience for NicoleDieker.com, which will also connect me with people who might be interested in my freelance writing, my online classes, my developmental editing work, and NEXT BOOK.
  • Write freelance assignments for clients.
  • Work with authors as a developmental editor.
  • Build online classes for Hugo House and Skillshare.
  • Complete the administrative work — pitching, invoicing, answering emails, etc. — that keeps this type of creative career running.

It’s worth re-ordering these priorities in terms of which ones bring in the most money, since one of my goals for 2019 is to bring in the most money (and then invest it and get myself ever-closer to financial independence).

  • Write freelance assignments for clients.
  • Work with authors as a developmental editor.
  • Build online classes for Hugo House and Skillshare.
  • Complete the administrative work that keeps all of this running.
  • Build the audience for NicoleDieker.com.
  • Write a daily blog post at NicoleDieker.com.
  • Write NEXT BOOK.

Technically my daily blog post brings in a little more money than “building the audience for my daily blog post,” but I put “build the audience” higher on the priority list because it’s the one that has the potential to bring in the most money.

In other words, if I keep posting at NicoleDieker.com but don’t work on the four methods of building an audience, I won’t earn any more money from NicoleDieker.com.

Similarly, although NEXT BOOK has the potential to bring in a bunch of money (remember that The Biographies of Ordinary People brought in over $9K) it’s nowhere near the money-earning stage yet. The draft is literally 1,481 words long.

This is also why “complete administrative work” ended up in the middle; completing the work you have is the best way to earn money in this type of career, but pitching new work is the next best way.*

But these two lists show me that, as I structure my time post-Billfold, I need to prioritize freelance writing over all other money-making activities.

I also need to prioritize building NicoleDieker.com — blogging every day, growing the audience — because it’s the entry point through which new clients/readers/authors/students/etc. can learn about my work. This is especially important since I will no longer be posting at The Billfold every day; it used to be the entry point to my work, and now I’ve got to shift that interest and that audience to my own domain.

Structuring my workday by hour

I’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time, so I know exactly how long it takes to write this type of blog post (an hour) and how long it takes to write a typical freelance assignment (two hours).

I also know I need to give myself an hour a day just for admin, and that I’m much more generative in the early morning than I am at the end of the day.**

So here’s how I’m planning my workday, post-Billfold:

6:30 a.m.: Wake up, yoga, get ready for day.

8:30 a.m.: Breakfast at my desk. Check in with my daily spreadsheet to see how yesterday’s activity affected sleep, today’s mood and energy level, etc. Check YNAB and investments. Check Feedly even though I probably shouldn’t read any news or blogs before I start working on NEXT BOOK.

9:00 a.m.: NEXT BOOK, for one hour. Stop wherever I stop, and if it’s mid-paragraph like today, all the better for starting tomorrow.

10:00 a.m.: Quick email and news check, then write this blog post.

11:00 a.m.: Lunch at my desk. Tweet this blog post, comment on other blogs, read Feedly, chat on Slack, etc.. This counts as a mental break, btw.

11:30 a.m.: Admin work, audience-building work, and any overflow work from the previous day.

1:00 p.m.: Freelance writing for other clients. 10-min Twitter/Feedly/snack break halfway through.

3:00 p.m.: Quick email and news check, then either work on a class I’m developing or on a manuscript I’m developmental-editing.

4:00 p.m.: Shutdown ritual. Final email check, close email and work tabs, change into gym clothes and get over to the YMCA for the 4:30 Les Mills class.

6:00 p.m.: Shower, dinner, evening.

9:00 p.m.: Take melatonin pill, get ready for bed, turn out all lights except for sleep-friendly book lamp, and read.

10:00 p.m.: Bed for 8.5 hrs; I usually sleep for 7 hr 40 min of those.

Most of this structure (like the yoga and the Les Mills classes and the melatonin pill) was in place before The Billfold shut down; the part that changed was the stuff in the middle. I gave freelance writing the biggest timeslot and NEXT BOOK the slot where my brain was freshest, kept some overflow time in there just in case something went longer than expected, and realized that I’d have to put a limit on the number of classes I built or editing projects I took on in order to focus on my highest-earning work.

This type of schedule can also be built a month in advance, slotting in my current freelance assignments and the classes I’ve committed to teaching and so on, which is extremely helpful because it shows me exactly how many open slots are left and helps me prioritize filling those slots.

For example: I have no “build a class” slots open for March, so I can’t take on a new class. I do have several freelancing slots open that I could fill with new classwork, but I’d rather fill them with freelancing gigs because those bring in more money.

This also means I know what to prioritize during my admin sessions: pitching more freelance work.

Gotta stop now because it is just after 11 a.m. — but I will note that of course you can build exceptions into this type of schedule. Today I’m having lunch with my mom, for example, which meant planning in advance for today to be a short admin day and a no-overflow day. If other types of exceptions come up, like a news site asking me to do an interview or something, I’ll have to consider whether the benefit of the opportunity is worth the literal opportunity cost.

So that’s how I decided to structure my time, post-Billfold.

I’ll let you know if it works. ❤️

*You’d assume that everyone would complete their freelance gigs, because that’s money that’s practically in the bank, but I have found that not to be the case. As a Billfold editor, I knew that a good 30 percent of the freelance articles I accepted would never get written. Yes, life gets in the way, but if it’s at all possible, finish your assignments and get that money!

**I originally wrote “creative” and then realized that wasn’t the right word. I can create — write new stuff, make new stuff, etc. — any time of day or night, on a plane or on a train, in a box or with a fox. But I’m the most generative, which is to say I am the best at coming up with ideas and making connections between ideas, in the morning.

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