Photo: Me pretending to be a real photographer
People often tell me how much they admire me for freelancing and trying out the entrepreneur thing. I’m two years in the game and I attribute it all to God’s grace. It’s a wonderful and gratifying feeling to not only pay my bills but to also pay them on time. I spend my extra money (no such thing) on Chick-fil-A and hair weave (stereotype!), so naturally, it’s the grace of God that keeps me standing.
Outside of the financial piece, I’m often asked how I find time to build a business, write full-time, and enjoy my twenties.
My internal response:
I don’t know how I’m able to do it all or how I’ve managed to keep my sanity without throwing in the towel. At least once a month, I consider submitting an application to Piggly Wiggly. Freelancing is super difficult because your livelihood is in limbo. Will this person honor our contract? Will they change the terms? Will they cover this invoice before my car payment is due? As much as I would love to knock on people’s doors with a baseball bat blasting Rihanna’s “B*tch Better Have My Money,” I’m aware that the police will be called and this isn’t the proper way to handle business.
Luckily, I’ve built trustworthy clients and often referred to honest businesses who pay on time. Nonetheless, I do have to think ahead while I’m working on one project to secure the next gig. I also have to be mindful of which projects I take on. Am I doing this just for money (hell yeah)? Does this person’s vision align with my morals Are they giving me the runaround? Is this money fairly balanced with the time and energy that I will ultimately invest? Payment aside, how does this help my bottom line?
There are levels to this.
Even when I really need money, I have to carefully consider who I do business with. My first year, after leaving the TV station and the site I wrote for shut down, I worked with just about any and everyone to cover my expenses.
Lesson learned. I ran around for a year unorganized, questioning whether I should go back to school, move back home, or call it quits, ultimately failing to fulfill my sole purpose of leaving the job in the first place—to write. My writing suffered. While I made appearances, built everyone else’s dreams, and traveled to distant lands, I didn’t write one script.
Shameful. Between procrastination and distractions, I could’ve had a pilot sold by now (or I would hope to have a pilot sold by now).
My productivity improved in 2016 and this year, I am more focused than ever. In February I felt myself slipping into old habits like binge-watching A Different World and scrolling mindlessly on social that I realized how much time I was wasting which is inevitably more valuable than the money I make. Social media will shame you with quotes like “Be a boss or you’ll always have to answer to one”, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with honest work for others, it’s how you utilize the extra time that will ultimately doom you.
I went to a ABFF Master Class last year in Los Angeles with black-ish creator Kenya Barris and he admitted to the difficulty of trying to find time to write. He’s married with several mouths to feed and said it’s a matter of how bad you want it. Mr. Barris sold a number of TV pilots (Lord I’m just trying to get this first one in a studio exec’s hands), and he recalled spending all day working and taking care of family then spending late nights committed to his writing. The man is a legend in his own right. He dropped several nuggets of advice to aid in my journey as a TV writer, but he really made my wheels turn about my level of commitment.
I wasn’t putting in the time.
I briefly spoke with Issa Rae last week at ABFF in Miami and here’s what she had to say.
— GirlTyler (@sheistyler) June 18, 2017
It hit me. I do wear several hats and none of them are sending me to the writers’ room I seek. This is a double edged sword as I do have bills to pay, but also fail to consistently utilize my extra time to strengthen my writing. So this week, I developed a new model.
For anyone else at the intersection of procrastination and productivity with any goal be it writing, starting a company or a DIY project, here’s a new method that is working for me (so far).
I sat down and wrote a list of my daily processes.
Literally, I sketched my daily routine. “Wake up. Thank God. Pee. Get coffee. Thank God again. Call racists out on Facebook, Gym, etc.)
Then I estimated how much time it takes me to do my professional tasks.
Weekly meetings, editing video, scheduling social media posts, writing articles, answering emails, etc.
I then added up the total hours, creating a personal timesheet titled, “What Did You Do For Tyler Today?”.
I commit to returning this total to my personal projects. Every day is slightly different depending on my duties and new clients.
If I work for 5.5 hours on Monday then I need laser focus for another 5.5 hours to write a script, finish a pitch, treatment, etc. That’s 11 hours. Leaving 13 hours for sleep, errands, eating, indulging in a time waster like scrolling on Instagram because I just can’t help myself, etc.
Once I get to the end of the day, I am tired AF then I have to tell myself “You put in that time for everyone else today, why can’t you do it for you?”. Then I keep pushing. If I surrender to sleep before my time is up, whatever time I didn’t fulfill, I tack it on to tomorrow’s personal time and tasks. I’ve learned not to mistake sleepiness with my lack of ambition.
I have to remind myself that when I worked a full-time job, I didn’t fall asleep (even though I had to be there at 1 a.m.) on the clock.
Now, everyone likes to shame people for resting, you know the memes, “While you’re sleeping I’m thinking.” Be foolish if you want to. Don’t buy into the hype. Successful people get ample rest. Just like grade school and my former corporate environment, I make it a point to get no less than six to eight hours of sleep.
Guys, I’m at week one of this new timesheet method and so far, I’ve accomplished more than I have in quite some time. And it feels good. Try my method and tell me if it works for you.
Want proof it works? I published two blog posts this week, which is a first in over a year.