I had a long travel day a while back, and I needed the time to work. I told myself that I would work non-stop all day to get caught up. I pulled out my laptop at the airport but got sidetracked by a news website and social media page. Then, there was the people watching. Once on the plane, I checked out the in-flight magazine for a while and scrolled through the in-flight entertainment options. Then I dozed off.
I ultimately got a couple of hours of work done but nothing like I was planning on. It was a strong reminder of why working in intervals is virtually always the best way to go. If I had scheduled time to work with planned downtime in between, it would have been easier to get started. You can do anything you need to do for…say…30 minutes…if you know you can do something fun at the end.
Working in intervals would have also boosted my productivity. Because I knew I had to work “all day,” I kept resisting it. The time I spent dragging my feet added up to more than the few scheduled breaks I would have allowed myself with a disciplined interval working schedule. And when I was taking my scheduled breaks, I would have been able to really enjoy chilling out instead of feeling guilty the whole day that I wasn’t working at max capacity.
So let’s talk more about interval work for freelancing, which is the antidote to scenarios like this. The concept might make you think of interval training in fitness, which is a pretty apt comparison. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts involve short segments of intense cardiovascular exercise interspersed with periods of lower intensity activity. A prime example would be several 1-minute intervals of jump squats or jumping jacks or mountain climbers followed by 30 seconds of rest. Then repeat for 15-30 minutes.
Busy people love these workouts because they take less time than the standard exercise routine, but they produce bigger gains. In fact, research shows that doing 27 minutes of HIIT three times per week delivers the same benefits as doing a full hour of steady-state cardiovascular exercise five times per week.
Choose Your Interval
You can apply this same principle to interval working. You can decide how you want to break up your time. Some people swear by the Pomodoro Technique, which was developed by a guy named Francesco Cirillo who used a tomato-shaped timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato) to get himself to stick to his university studies. He’d set the tomato timer for 25 minutes, work until he heard a ding, then allow himself 5 minutes of R&R.
A lot of freelance writers think those 25 minute intervals are too short to allow you to get “into the zone.” Some prefer a 52/17 ratio (52 minutes of productivity to 17 minutes of chillaxing) or the 90/20 rule. Which method you use is less important than the fact that you’re using something to divide your work into intervals to keep your motivation high. There are all kinds of apps to help you adhere to whatever work-to-rest interval you choose.
Maximize Your Time
Now that you know the general concept, here are a few more tips to help you make the most of working in intervals.
1. Grab any time you can get. Several weeks ago, I had the chance to interview my wife, Laura Catella, on my Road to a Billion podcast. Aside from being a really amazing wife, she’s a supermom to our daughter, Eden. And in addition to all of that, she serves as the CEO of Eden Beauty, an e-commerce natural skincare company that she has grown into a 7-figure enterprise in less than a year. She shared one of her secrets for success on the podcast, which is to maximize small windows of free time throughout the day. If she needs to send an email and she has 10 minutes when our daughter is playing in the backyard, she uses that time to get it off of her list.
Lean into those intervals with a clearly defined purpose (send an email, write an intro paragraph, spend 10 minutes researching the audience for your next sales letter, call one prospective employer, etc.) You’ll be surprised at how much you can knock out with mere scraps of time.
2. Plan your rest periods. The interval system works because it offers regular rewards, but make sure to define those rewards in advance so you can really look forward to them—and get maximum enjoyment out of your downtime. You could watch 15 minutes of your favorite TV show, take a walk, or lay in the sun. Just make sure it’s an activity you can cut off when you need to get back to work. (Calling a chatty friend might be fun but not necessarily conducive to staying on task.)
3. Apply this to everything. Intervals work well for managing your freelance copywriting, but you don’t have to limit it to work. Hate cleaning your house? Weeding the garden? Folding your laundry? Do it in intervals.
4. Make a taboo list. Just like High Intensity Interval Training, you only get results from freelancing in intervals if you’re 100% focused during your work sessions. To keep your focus, make a list of distractions to avoid. For example, checking Google analytics, checking emails, or commenting on social media forums may be work-related, but they can pull you down a rabbit hole. Try scheduling one time per day to perform these tasks, and I wouldn’t recommend doing them in the mornings when you’re fresh and trying to knock out your biggest needle-movers.
I highly recommend taking the ever-popular HIIT routine concept from the gym to your home office. I think you’ll be surprised at how much it can ramp up your productivity while copywriting from home. And not only that, it will give you more time to enjoy your life, which is probably what drew you to this profession in the first place.
And while you’re perfecting your work-from-home time management, make sure you are investing time in copywriting mastery. Check out my online copywriting class featuring my RMBC method as well as my Copy Accelerator mastermind, both of which can help you become a better copywriter, fast.