Anti-Schedules for the Freelancer Who Hates Scheduling

By Dianna L. Gunn

Let’s see if this sounds familiar: You find yourself procrastinating on the web until you’re frantic to meet deadlines. Then you spend hours, days or even weeks researching time management. Following the most popular advice, you carefully track your time for a week and create a strict schedule in half hour blocks.

A month later you’re not frantic, but the routine is starting to give you a headache. You feel like your creativity is being stifled. Or worse, you haven’t followed it at all and you’re spending more time guilt-tripping yourself than working.

I created what I call the anti-schedule to get around these issues with common time management techniques.

The anti-schedule creates working hours and recreational hours, forcing flighty writers to put butt in chair and workaholics to take breaks. It uses to-do lists to organize the day’s tasks and make sure they’re finished without strictly regimenting the day’s hours.

You can build your own anti-schedule by following these steps:

1. Set aside work hours.

Determine how many hours you need to work per day to meet deadlines, pay bills and expand your business. Then figure out what times of day you’re most productive, and make sure those are incorporated into your working hours. As writers, we still need to be available to clients and editors during the day, so if you work best at night, try compromising by doing some work during the day and your more difficult tasks at night.

2. Set aside recreational hours.

For writers, overworking is a serious danger, and it’s easy to isolate yourself when working on freelance projects. To keep balance, set aside a break in the middle of your workday and a couple hours after each work day. Setting aside recreation time helps prevent burnout and makes room for inevitable unexpected social calls. Each month, set aside time for any events you’d particularly like to go to.

3. Create monthly goals and divide them into weekly, then daily to-do lists.

Establish what you want to accomplish each month—a certain number of queries, articles you’ve already been assigned, whatever’s most important to your career at this point—and then create to-do lists to establish how you’re going to get there, one step at a time. Break the month up into weekly to-do lists first, then the week’s list into daily to-do lists.

Don’t create to-do lists for every day this month right away. Every night before you go to bed, create a to-do list for the next day. This allows you to incorporate new assignments or unfinished work from the day before. Once a week, revise your goals for the next week to ensure that you’re still on the right track.


For a little more structure, you can divide your daily to-do lists into morning and afternoon categories, so you have a general idea of which order you’d like to complete tasks in.

Anti-schedules give the right amount of flexibility to encourage creativity and spontaneity without finding yourself frantically finishing articles the day they’re due—or worse, missing deadlines. Life can always get in the way: computers break, emergencies come up, we get sick. Anti-schedules encourage constant revision of goals, erasing guilt for missing a day at work.

If you’ve tried every other trick in the book, the anti-schedule might be just what you’re looking for.

Dianna L. Gunn is a Canadian freelance writer/blogger and aspiring novelist just finding her place in the world. She blogs at Dianna’s Writing Den and is currently an editorial intern for Penumbra, a speculative fiction magazine.

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14 comments… add one
  • This is a great idea. It’s fleshed out for writers in the fabulous book The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. If you’re a procrastinating writer, be sure to have a look at Fiore’s book.

    • I didn’t know that! I totally have to read that book.

    • Hi Daphne,

      I’ve never heard of The Now Habit–I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for letting me know about it.


  • Great ideas! One thing to add, look over your list at the end of every day and see how much you accomplished. The positive reinforcement helps you sustain momentum. (I get a sticker for every day I get it all done. It feels so good to see the stickers add up.)


    • I love that! I’ve done that…I call it the What I Got Done list, and did a post about it!

    • Hi Erica,

      I do that most days–though sometimes I forget, and I only give myself stickers during Nanowrimo season. Maybe I should consider doing it year round.


  • I’m sooo fighting this right now. It’s my ideal day – some work and some family – but……..overload + family events taking chunks of time away from my work hours have left me playing catch up and I really miss my structure of this is work time and this is play time. The worst part is the kids miss it, too!

    Nice post!

    • Hi Tania,

      It’s a hard battle. I struggle with this more during the school year, when I don’t have the day to work and I need to find space for both work and play; in the summer or whenever there’s a week off, it’s easy. When life gets busy, it’s hard and I’m often easily convinced to make my work hours later so I can socialize after school.

      Still, it’s a battle that must be fought. I think a lot of creative types find any kind of schedule difficult, even one as loose as the anti-schedule. But when we stay on schedule, it feels great, doesn’t it?

      I know I’ll keep fighting to perfect and enforce my anti-schedule.


  • Hi Linda,

    Just wanted to say thanks for hosting me. It’s been a pleasure and I hope I’ll get to work with you again in the future.


  • Thanks for the tips! Been thinking about my goals as the year comes to a close. Will be sharing this link on my blog! 🙂

    • Hi Karen,

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. To be honest, I’ve been so busy scrambling to meet my goals that I haven’t even thought of next year’s yet, but it is almost time to start planning those.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • One thing to add, look over your list at the end of every day and see how much you accomplished. The positive reinforcement helps you sustain momentum. (I get a sticker for every day I get it all done)

    • Click Here,

      That’s a great idea–I do this sometimes, but I only add stickers during Nanowrimo.


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