5 Tips to Beat the Inefficient Monday Freelance Writer Blues

Carol Tice

Sad freelance writer has the bluesDo your Mondays seem to whiz by without your ever getting a chance to write?

That has been me, for a long while now. It always seems like by the time I answer Freelance Writers Den questions and blog comments and email, and maybe do a little research or planning, the day is over.

I often feel like if I looked at the clock, I would see it spinning around wildly like when they want to show time-lapse in movies!

The fact that my kids now have an early-dismissal school schedule that means they arrive home two hours earlier every single Monday is not helping, either. (Thanks, budget cuts!)

Recently, I decided I needed to get serious about reclaiming some productive writing time on Mondays. Here are the steps that are working for me:

1. Write a to-do list on Friday

I try not to leave the office without a list of the urgent priorities for the next day. That was working well Monday-Thursday, but I often failed to get my list together on Fridays. Getting serious about taking a few final minutes to prioritize before my week wraps helps me hit the ground running Mondays and get right to the important stuff.

2. Keep regular sleep hours

It’s always tough to stay on schedule on the weekend — we all want to sleep in! But a renewed effort to stay on the same schedule means less head-fog on Mondays when I suddenly try to get up hours earlier. And that means I’m more likely to feel I have the energy and focus for writing.

3. Write before your day “begins”

I was recently influenced by a post about how Jeff Goins writes something every morning before he checks email. I’ve adopted this habit now, and it is fantastic!

I’ve discovered the world will not end if I don’t respond to emails before 9:30 or 10 a.m. instead of at 8:30. And once I start looking at emails, it’s easy to get pulled onto other people’s agendas and off my own priorities.

Writing first before the blizzard of requests and questions hits means I’ve got one important thing checked off for sure. I feel more in control and get more writing accomplished.

If writing first thing doesn’t work for you, block out another sacrosanct writing time in the day when you will shut distractions out and write, no matter what else you have on your plate.

4. Write what you want

Since Mondays are hard to get traction on, I tend to schedule fairly easy writing projects such as my own blog posts, ebooks, or course materials. On the other hand, I rarely try to write a lengthy feature article for a magazine or post for my Forbes blog on Mondays — those posts require a lot of research and take a lot longer to write.

Since I want to get through a draft in one sitting, and often have a lot of other tasks on Mondays, I try not to schedule any tough client deadlines for Mondays.

5. Mini-blitz on Sunday

I hate to tell writers to give up weekend time since I really believe in work-life balance. But I’ve discovered if I can put in a couple of hours somewhere on the weekend, I can clear the underbrush of administrative tasks out of the way and have a more focused and productive Monday. Since I never work on Saturdays, for me that means grabbing some time Sunday when the kids are in religious school or on playdates.

The bottom line is that I can’t afford to let one of the five weekdays go down the drain while I potz around trying to get in gear. I feel less panicked and like I’m “behind” as I head into the rest of the week when I get some writing done on Day One.

How do you make Mondays productive? Leave a comment and share your tip.





  1. Chris Meier

    Number 3 & 5 definitely work for me, and I’ll look at adding number 1 to my routine. I write/work regular hours, but will easily start an assignment at 6h30 already, with my day ending by 17h00. I sneak in a few odd tasks in the evenings, and over weekends, but this is research, not writing.

    Starting at 6h30 instead of at 8h30 is fine since I don’t have children, and I have found I am extremely productive at this time so focus on doing any writing assignments that I find tedious.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m committed to exercising first thing myself…my big focus now is increasing my time for working out and getting fit.

      Then until about 9:30 or 10 I want to write something…then check email. I’m getting more and more comfortable with leaving email ’til later…and the difference to my productivity is amazing.

      Email just contains so many distractions — “Could you give me a quick quote for this roundup post I’m doing?” “Could you write some blog posts for my startup?” and on and on. I always feel like I want to respond to these requests right away, so I don’t touch the message twice…and then the next thing I know it’s lunchtime and I’ve done nothing.

      So trying to get stuff done before hitting the email now…

      Except the one other distraction is responding to these comments! I find if I can respond early in the day it drives more engagement the rest of the day than if I don’t comment until afternoon, so still haven’t figured out a solution to that.

  2. Daryl

    Actually I find that I’m most motivated on Monday! I generally want to start my week out with a bang. But then by the time I reach Thursday I’m all fizzled out!

    • Carol Tice

      Interesting. I often find myself kind of unfocused and taking time to get my skates under me to start the week. But I’m also massively anxious usually about the giant pile of things I aspire to getting done that week, so that usually drives me into action!

    • Rebecca Klempner

      I used to be a Monday-lover, too, but I’m afraid those days have passed. I think Monday-lovers not only enjoy the work they’re doing, but really benefited from the sleep and planning/thinking/processing time they got over the weekend.

      I’ve effectively employed 2, 4 & 5, but I think I really, really need to hit 1 and 3.

      Sometimes, if I’m not ready to write on Monday, I’ll do the final proofreading of an article or story and submit it. Or I’ll follow up on any submissions that have been out a while with no word. I might even clean my desk and write to-do lists. It’s work, even if it’s not fresh, new publishable writing.

      Another thing — if I’m not in the mood to write on a Monday, I do research or read up on writing skills I want to practice. When I hit the saturation point, I feel so prepared to write, it’s hard to hold me back.

      I have to say that I cut myself slack on Monday. I end up doing a lot of writing on Mondays of the non-paid (at least directly) variety. If I’m conscientious about emails, blog posts, comments, and so on, I can get a certain amount of writing practice by finding the write word, editing, and so on. Those skills overflow into my paid writing gigs.

      But I still think I could benefit from writing before I check my email each morning.

  3. Jon Patrick

    Great post, Carol. Honestly, I LOVE Mondays! The wife and kids are gone, it’s a fresh new week!
    Since I’m not much of a morning person, I’m not sure I’ll take the recommendation to write something before reading emails… that I do while waking and enjoying my first cup of coffee.
    As a new freelancer, I’m stumbling my way into my routine – and I found that doing even a bit of work Sunday afternoons gets me in the mindset, and a perfect time to write down my schedule for Monday. Allows me to wake up with a clear objective in mind to tackle!

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, it’s a real balancing act, because I don’t want my kids to feel like I’m working and ignoring them on Sundays. But I’m always looking for that time maybe when they’re winding down in bed at the end of the day, or they’re on a playdate or in religious school and I’m on my own. Then I leap onto it! I think ALL I would do on Monday would be answer email if I didn’t clear it out on Sunday.

  4. Kathy Steinemann

    “Write a to-do list on Friday”

    I keep an ongoing “to-do” list and update it every morning. I never get through the list, so it keeps me motivated.

    • Carol Tice

      I can’t wait until morning! Then I’ll just be all, “What was I supposed to be doing anyway?” for half the day. Doing it night before also allows me to sleep and not have ideas running around my head that I’m worried I’ll forget by morning. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Luana Spinetti

    I try to do number 3 every time I can, even though mornings are usually more frenetic here — and my mom interrupts me all the time that I should do housework in the morning instead of work. Ugh, different views there!

    After lunch, I check my emails and network for a bit and then get a good 20-30 minutes nap; after that, my brain feels refreshed and then I have until 7 p.m. to research and write. I can squeeze in some work between 8 and 9:30 pm (after 9:30 all my brain can stand is a good movie).

    And well, I use Sundays for marketing and networking. I can do it better when I don’t have client work to clutter my mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ~ Lu

    P.S. Waking up before my family was a complete fail… because every time I do, they get up after half an hour or so. Sounds like a conspiracy. LOL

    • Carol Tice

      Housework should be done…never. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I have actually had a commitment to pay housecleaners for a long time, even back to when I was really broke. (And in fact, I’ve seen surveys that when people get laid off, the maid is the last thing they cut.)

      As it happens, I’m allergic to both dust and many cleansers. It’s just not a good idea! I try to earn more doing what I am good at, and let the pro housecleaners do what they do best.

  6. Miriam

    Hi! Thanks for the tips! I already do #1- the Friday
    To-do list. Gives me peace of mind and
    helps Mondays go smoothly.
    I need to try the other ideas!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice

      Glad this helped, Miriam!

  7. Jennifer

    I totally needed this post today. Today is Monday, plus the first day back from a two week Hawaiian vacation. Double Whammy!

    I totally agree with number 5. I try to spend a few hours sending emails as well on Sunday, so that on Monday I can get going on writing and sometimes even have the answers to my questions sitting in my email box on Monday morning. I also find that making a list on Friday with my goals for Monday and the next week is very effective as well.

    I also try to schedule less to do on Mondays and Fridays since those are my less productive days. I typically need to clean up the weekend messes in my house now that the kids are back in school so I cut myself some slack on Mondays since it is naturally a less productive day for me. I also like to go for a run on Monday

    • Carol Tice

      Ugh, first day back from a vacation for me is always a *tornado* of insanity. Even though now I can sort of keep up with the laptop from most places, it’s always kind of overwhelming when I’m finally back and the whole workload hits.

      Friday afternoons are our cleaning time, which may seem weird to many people, but works for us. Our Sabbath starts Friday night and I want a clean house for relaxing in over the weekend! Then we go downhill from there to the next Friday.

      And EVERYBODY needs to pick up their own stuff. I’m a big advocate of teaching kids that responsibility early.

      I’m actually on strike against buying back-to-school wardrobes right now until my daughter picks her clothes off the floor and does her laundry. Why should I buy more, just so it will be on the floor too? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Dan

    I’ve found these exact same things work well. I save the easy stuff for Monday morning while I break into the week. Usually, that means administrative tasks, like number crunching, organizing projects, and assigning projects to writers that help me out. Usually by about 10 or so, I’m ready to do real writing.

    On the weekends, I do put in 5 hours on Saturday morning, but that’s because I’m trying to turn writing into a business. Other than that, I make sure the rest of the weekend is a break. I don’t think working more hours necessarily means getting ahead.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m so with you on avoiding overwork, Dan.

      No matter what you’re trying to do with your writing business, everyone should take at least one full day off the Internet every week. Secret of my success, right there.

      For a couple years there I worked weekday 8-midnight shifts after kids went to bed to make that possible…but there was still one whole day off.

  9. Shauna L Bowling

    I love the idea of writing before checking email, Carol. So much time is spent reading and answering comments, that the day gets away from you before you know it. I’m doing a lot of reading lately as I am new to the blogging world. I’ve set up a website and am doing everything I can to gain a presence in Google and utilizing the information I’m gathering. Unfortunately, it leaves little time for writing.

    Until recently I was spending my time writing for the content mills. I got tired of little pay for quality work. I refuse to lower myself anymore. In the meantime, I’m researching and looking for more lucrative freelance opportunities. I now find myself needing to set a schedule for myself. Learning is great – and necessary – but it doesn’t pay the bills!

    • Carol Tice

      You know, I’m glad you bring up the whole learning/writing balance problem.

      I can be a victim of that myself. I know I still have so much to learn about marketing and creating products and selling ebooks.

      But we have to not let that eat up too much time. We can only absorb so much at a time anyway.

      At this point I’ve gotten very selective about what I read from other blogs. I try to pick a particular topic I have decided to learn on right now — ebook marketing is probably it at the moment — and then I’m just deleting everything else!

      • Shauna L Bowling

        That’s a great idea, Carol. I find myself inundated and losing direction, not to mention time. I’ve signed put myself on the waiting list for your boot camp. Your site is one of my favorites. I find it very informative and addresses my current situation. Now, if I could just make some money…..

        • Carol Tice

          Stick around here…we can help with that!

          I ALWAYS feel inundated on Mondays…that’s why I needed a battle plan.

          But oh the irony…today is last day of the month and I haven’t made my Forbes quota of posts per month so now I am desperately trying to do a post for them today! AGONY. Must do it NOW.

  10. Adam Harding

    I must admit I am guilty of not ticking off the first 2 pointers!

    Especially the sleeping hours, it is tempting to have lots of late nights watching a DVD to take advantage of being self employed and not having to get up for a “normal” job in the morning…but then all too often I find that I don’t emerge from bed till 10am or 11am and most of the morning is gone!

    A detailed daily task list, more consistent sleeping patterns, and getting the bulk of the days writing done before lunchtime is the way forward!

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, even if I didn’t have kids getting on school buses I would get up fairly early. Morning is a big yummy block of useful time to me that I can’t blow off. I desperately try to avoid things like 10:30 am meetings that might blow a hole in the middle of the morning…total productivity killer.

  11. Chris


    On number 5, one thing that has really helped was hearing that Zig Ziglar would get a lot of work done watching his Dallas Cowboy football games. He said that he could get a lot done in the time between plays. I have found that tip to be beneficial in my writing, as it has helped me slow down and take it a sentance at a time. Also, it allows me time to clean up some admin tasks in a much more pleasurable way.

    I also use number three quite a bit. I usually do about a 500 article over the course of an hour in the morning before heading to work

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, I am the queen of capitalizing on micro-breaks. I tend to kill off household chores that way — unload the dishwasher while waiting for tea to boil, or write a to-do list.

      Anytime you have a short block of time, the thing to do is ask — what could fit here? Maybe it’s one phone call you need to make to a source, or an article outline you could sketch, or finding the photos for a few blog posts. That last is another one I plug into small time blocks.

      I try never to be just sort of killing time because it’s 15 minutes until that interview call or whatever’s coming up.

  12. Mike Collins

    To do lists work great for me too. I try to leave a note right by my computer to remind me exactly what I wanted to do first thing. That little note helps me stay focused and get right to work instead of meandering around and getting distracted. Staying out of email and Skype is another way to minimize distractions.

  13. Katherine Swarts

    I like #2 and #3 the best, and I think that #2, especially, is closely related to one of my top effectiveness problems: being willing to pace myself and not attack the week’s or day’s list in the spirit of sprinting through a marathon. I have a tendency to overwork on Tuesdays through Thursdays, suffer a delayed crash on Sunday (my own “no work at all” day), and wake up with lingering “what’s the use” feelings on Monday that make it doubly hard to get started. Frankly, I think I “work” fifty energy-hours in thirty clock-hours most weeks, worrying if I’m doing “enough”!

    • Carol Tice

      I tend to suffer from “behinder” syndrome myself, constantly feeling like I’m not “caught up.”

      Setting more sane, realistic goals has helped me. And that’s never more true than on Mondays. Now I’m like — hey, the day ends 2 hours early because of early dismissal. So here’s what I can get done today.

      For instance, I’ve got my post up, I’ve written one quick post for Forbes (against my normal rules but had to be done today!), I’ll hit the Den questions, maybe work a bit on the sales page for a new class, and that’s it. More tomorrow.

  14. Sarah L. Webb

    All of these tips are useful. I applied 3-5 this weekend. I graded a couple of assignments Sunday night so that I had less to do on Monday. Then I woke up and saw this post and decided to put everything else on hold until I finished my blog post. Now, no matter what else I get done today, I’ll feel like I actually accomplished some important things!

    • Carol Tice

      Right on!

  15. Holly

    I really enjoyed this post. Great tips. I especially like the idea of putting together a to do list on Friday for the next week. I feel much more accomplished on Monday even if I only do smaller or more administrative tasks that day.

  16. Rob

    I don’t have a problem with Mondays at all. When I have a full schedule, I’m motivated to get started so I can finish everything by Friday. When I don’t, I’m motivated to finish up early so I can do other things on Thursday and Friday instead of having to spend the weekend blogging, etc.

  17. Lindsay Wilson

    I’ve always had the opposite with Mondays – I was always more productive after having had the weekend off, and it would come apart as I got closer to Friday! So if you turn the situation around and apply these tips, you could write the to-do list Monday, and schedule your hardest tasks earlier in the week, and the easier ones as the week nears its end. (Then reward yourself with a glass of wine on Friday night!) Dipping in on Sunday if you have time is an excellent idea however your productivity levels tend to fluctuate – it’s like gently gearing up for the week instead of crashing in and shocking yourself into work mode after a relaxing weekend. Great tips…

    • Carol Tice

      That’s fascinating! We each have our rhythms.

      By Friday I am totally panicked, where Monday I’m foggy and thinking hey, I’ve got all week for this stuff! It’s cool! I could check Facebook…and then later I panic. But trying to get it back on track. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Lorraine Reguly

    I seem to get most of my emails on Mondays and Tuesdays, so on Sunday, I like to clear out my inbox. If I don’t, the mass of emails overwhelms me. I comment regularly on blogs, too, and like to keep up with that. If I’ve been busy or ill, or simply sick of being on the computer, it piles up. I have a problem with open tabs on my computer, too, sometimes. I used to close them all until I discovered I didn’t have to (Chrome browser will keep them open for me!) and so, now, when I get tired, I simply shut’er’down and take a break!

    These two things keep me sane. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Angie

    All great tips! And too funny — I just wrote an organization/scheduling post for my blog last week.

    My biggest problem is getting to bed at a decent hour, especially on weekends. I get distracted in the evenings and end up not going to bed until the wee hours, making it difficult to get up early enough to feel like I can put a productive day in. Might have to start setting a go-to-bed-silly alarm for Sunday nights. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Carol Tice

      My husband and I both tend to be night owls — I remember one summer when we stayed up to watch Letterman every night and slept until 10 or 11. But as a freelancer, I don’t find that schedule efficient. Morning time is really productive and I can’t start that late!

      It’s been hard to get to sleep early around here, especially now that kids are staying up later…but I’ve managed to roll it back from 12:30 or so to more like 11, and it’s really helping.

    • Katherine Swarts

      I have little trouble getting to bed at a decent hour–but I have LOTS of trouble getting to SLEEP. Usually it takes close to a full hour, typically I’ll wake at least once during the night and feel less than completely energized by morning, and at least once a month I’ll have a near-total-insomnia night where I finally manage to doze off a couple of hours before “get-up time,” wake up at or shortly after the appointed rising hour completely exhausted, and drag through the day following. The only times I sleep “normally” are the nights after the post-insomnia days, when exhaustion hits its absolute peak!

      • Carol Tice

        They say back when everybody slept like 10 hours, it was common to get up in the night for an hour or so and read or darn socks or whatever, and then doze back off. There’s lots of stories about rabbis getting up with babies and then staying up to study Torah a while. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        I get the middle of the night wakefulness sometimes really bad — my head is just going a million places. I have to clear my mind, then take slow deep breaths and count them backwards from 100…usually puts me back out.

        • Katherine Swarts

          That’s a new idea to me; will definitely try it.

  20. Gerry

    For me, it is all about “writing before your day begins”, as I am essentially a morning person. This means that I am exceptionally inspirational and motivated between 0600 and 0800, when my proverbial “creative writing juices” are at their very best.

  21. Mridu Khullar Relph

    Eat That Frog. That’s my technique anyway. If I do the most difficult task first (or the one I’m most likely to procrastinate on), the rest of the day goes by a lot easier AND everything gets done.

    Thanks for the great post, Carol.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, great tip. I’m so bad about putting off that one task I hate until the end, and then it hangs over my head all day.


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