Managing your schedule is often the hardest part of a freelancer’s day. Here’s how to do it effectively.

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Scene: A home office, somewhere around 9 a.m.

A freelancer sits in front of a monitor. After skimming email, attention is now turned to eyeballing favorite sites for news of the day, hate-reading frenemies’ posts on Facebook and viewing a newborn otter video that WILL. NOT. BE. DENIED. Hands on the keyboard, the freelancer spies a split fingernail and goes in search of nail clippers. The freelancer notices that more than one toenail needs clipping. Task completed, why not brew more coffee and have a snack?

It’s now pushing 10 a.m. No problem, the freelancer figures. I have all day.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s just me but organizing my day is the hardest part of working for myself. After several full-time jobs that demanded efficient performance, I thought it’d be a snap to transfer that work ethic and discipline to my own business. But it’s very difficult to monitor yourself, course-correct and hold yourself accountable. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years to keep me focused.

Shower and dress appropriately. Sure, you may not see anyone all day, but living in pajamas and sweatpants sends the wrong message — to yourself. Take your job seriously and dress for a day spent upright, not horizontal.

Commit to a billing system. Where does the time go? Let your computer tell you! If you use an app like FreshBooks, a timer will hold you accountable, whether or not you need to record billable hours.

Compile a doable “to-do” list. Research indicates that multitasking is ultimately inefficient. At the start of the week and each day, realistically allot time to short- and long-term projects so you can have immediate gratification while also making progress toward a big deadline.

Turn off social media. Gulp. I know. But if you set regular times, such as the beginning and end of your day, to answer email and check out social networks, you’ll stay focused on the project at hand. If you lack self-control, there are plenty of apps such as Freedom and RescueTime that will block access for chunks of time.

Pay attention to your work rhythms. Figuring out how and when you do your best work can determine how you organize your day. For instance, work solo in the morning and schedule meetings in the afternoon when your concentration starts to flag.

Set a timer. Many fellow writers have told me that they do their best work in small chunks. Challenge yourself to working for 30 minutes and when the timer goes off, you’ll most likely be so engrossed in your project that you’ll just keep on trucking.

Reward yourself with “carrots.” I’m a huge proponent of incentives. Finish a huge project = reinvest in your business with a new device or online subscription. Submit a proposal = go for a bike ride. Peppering your schedule with small rewards can keep your eye on the prize: a productive workweek.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at