Tag Archives | focus

Image by PublicDomainPictures, pixabay.com

Image by PublicDomainPictures, pixabay.com

When you decide to throw your hat into the ring of self employed freelance writing, it might be because you’ve heard that some writers charge up to $200 per hour for their services. Whilst some high-profile, well-regarded copywriters might indeed have a solid enough reputation to be able to charge these kind of amounts for their time, the reality is that most freelance writers across the world are very far from even the average of $60 per hour that is generally quoted from various sources online.

Though freelance writing is a fantastic opportunity for you to determine your own workload and set your own wages, if entered into halfheartedly and without industry knowledge, it can be a huge struggle to make ends meet. With this in mind, here are our five tips for how to develop your freelance writing career into something that can provide you with both personal and professional sustenance.

1. Avoid Distraction

When you are working from home with all of your personal comforts around you, it can be incredibly easy to become distracted. To put it simply, when you work for yourself, time is money, and you need to be really strict with yourself about how you spend that time. Spending much of the day behind a computer screen brings a myriad of different procrastination temptations. A few handy programs are available online like StayFocusd and Leechblock that will block certain functions on your computer and allow you to concentrate on your productivity.

2. Get Organized

Working from your home environment requires a strict amount of organization for your business to flourish, as you are not governed by traditional office hours, etc. You could work all day or you could work all night if you prefer, but what is crucial is that you get into an organized routine that your mind and body can become accustomed to. Find out when you are at your most productive and arrange your schedule accordingly.

3. Find Your Niche

With so many freelance writers out there competing for work, it can really pay off for you to find and develop a niche subject that you become the go-to writer for. Some writers like to focus on business, others like to focus on education; whatever it is that you feel you are best at, make it known to prospective clients and work to have your name be positively linked with whatever you choose.

4. Consider Outsourcing

It can sometimes be the case that you have no work one week and too much the next, so to make sure you always meet your deadlines and satisfy clients. You could consider outsourcing some of your projects in order to complete your workload. There are plenty of great outsourcing networks set up online for freelancers to share their load and sacrifice certain assignments for the greater good. Don’t get bogged down; outsource and lighten your stress levels.

5. Utilize Online Tools

You don’t have to just sit there in front of a blank word document and try to create your own help or inspiration. There are plenty of online tools that can be incredibly helpful for a freelance writer. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • ZenWriter – this is a full-screen, distraction free working environment that allows you to write and stay completely focused on your projects. It is a simple interface that eliminates any potential distractions.
  • Google Calendar – Google Calendar is the perfect personal assistant when it comes to remembering and meeting deadlines. Get into the habit of inputting every new assignment you receive into the program and you can set handy reminders and progress checkers for individual projects.
  • HelpScout – HelpScout is a service that you can use to separate your work emails from your personal emails in order for your inbox to become much more stress-free and easy to handle. The last thing you want to do is miss an important work message, and with HelpScout that problem is easily solved.

This article was contributed by guest author Linda Craig.

Image by Francisco Osorio on Flickr

Image by Francisco Osorio on Flickr

School can be tiresome. Exams, essays, assignments – none of it is ideal. However, no one needs to tell you that learning is beneficial to your future. It makes you more knowledgeable, enriches your life and helps you find a job. So in those gorgeous summer months, how does one focus in summer school?

All you have to do is make learning entertaining – and yes, there are many ways to do it. You can even put your own twist on it. Here are just some of the ways to make education fun:

  • Choose courses you’re interested in. If you can, try to choose courses that intrigue you. Summer is one of the hardest times to focus. The more interesting you find a course, the easier it will be for you to absorb facts, remember information and complete projects and assignments with gusto.
  • Listen to music when you’re studying. Studying can be tedious, but listening to music can make it fun. You may wish to do this when you’re completing assignments and essays as well. Keep in mind this can be distracting for some people, so our advice is to try it out once and see what effect it has on you.
  • Make friends. Approach people who you think you might share common interests with. Knowing you’ll see your friends will motivate you to wake up early in the morning for class. You may also wish to study with them, as it can make the process a little less stressful.
  • Explore the campus. Use your time in between classes to browse the shops, restaurants and bars available to you on campus. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for walks on your study breaks to clear your head.
  • Start an after school hangout routine. Once a week, arrange a spot to meet with your friends. You can grab a coffee, read over notes, go over textbook questions or simply enjoy yourselves.

Summer school is not that hard when you try to make it entertaining. Remember to choose courses that interest you, listen to music while completing tasks, make friends in your classes, arrange a weekly hangout with your classmates and make light of what the campus has to offer. This may even motivate you to wake up early in the morning and attend every class. Summer school doesn’t have to be a bore – you just have to make the most of it.

Image by ccarlstead, Flickr

Image by ccarlstead, Flickr

With exams staring us right in the face, we’re left wondering where the time went. Remember when you thought you had a couple of months to figure out that chapter you’d skipped before? Yeah, those couple of months are gone. So what are you supposed to do now? Start with studying as hard as you can with these 10 Study Tips. One thing you should make sure not to do is to freak out in the exam. You’ll end up spoiling all the studying you’ve done up until then. But how do you manage that? Glad you asked:

Exam Tip #1: ALWAYS read, re-read, and understand the question
Read the instructions carefully. Many students will not take the time to do this and later on realize they did an entire exam worth 50% of their grade incorrectly. It’s better to ask for clarification than lose tons of marks on avoidable errors.

Exam Tip #2: Go through the entire exam before starting & allocate your time wisely
One mistake that most students make is to not preview the exam and properly read the questions. Identify and understand all parts of the exam. Decide which questions will be easier to do and which ones will be more elaborate, and budget your time. Allot time to review the exam and make corrections. The majority of the time, you’ll think of a something new to add while reviewing the exam, and when you do, write the point down immediately.

Exam Tip #3: Break the question down and take notes on it before starting
Read each question carefully, underlining (or highlighting, whatever you are more comfortable with) keywords. For numerical problems, in exams such as Accounting and Finance, identify what you have and what you need. When the exam starts, it helps to quickly write down information that you have been trying to memorize. This allows you to think logically, and with less pressure. Sometimes markers can even see the basic understanding of the question from your notes, and you may end up getting some extra marks for that.

Exam Tip #4: I think it’s time to move on…
Another major error that most students make is getting bogged down by certain questions. They end up spending half the time on the first question, then cramming the other 2-3 questions into the last half of the exam. Always, and I repeat, ALWAYS, keep track of how long the question is taking you. If it is bogging you down, move on. You are jeopardizing marks from the other questions by spending so much time on a question you don’t know how to do.

Exam Writing Tip #5: Do not skip any questions
If all you can do is provide a definition, then do so. If you’re short on time, answer in point form instead of complete sentences. Write down anything you know that is related to the question. Part marks are better than nothing, right?

Exam Writing Tip #6: Blanked out? The world hasn’t ended just yet…
Don’t panic and allow anxiety to take control of how you’re going to do on the exam. Ask yourself, “What do I need to know to answer this question?” and start writing down your thoughts. Think of the key points your instructor may have spoken about during the review class, or throughout the term. See if any of them are applicable to the questions. Put yourself in the marker’s shoes and consider what they would be looking for. Avoid negative self-talk – focus on the task instead of yourself.

Exam Writing Tip #7: Always review your work
Take the time to go over the exam and check your answers. Don’t change anything unless you are 100% sure it is wrong. Check mathematical answers by performing reverse calculations, and look at the processes you used. Make sure you’ve answered everything that was asked for.

Exam Writing Tip #8: Done early? That’s what you think
Don’t leave until the exam proctors throw you out! Okay, maybe don’t be that stubborn. Sometimes, students are just too eager to leave the exam room; as soon as they’re done, they want to hand in the exam and dip. Give yourself ample time to proofread your exam properly a couple of times.

Exam Writing Tip #9: Multiple choice
MCQ’s can be a tricky business; the key is to really understand what the question is asking you. Most of the time, the real question is hidden somewhere in a complicated paragraph, or under a set of complicated-looking numbers. As my finance prof says – Don’t freak out. Focus.

Students usually think they can read the question and figure out the answer by memory. That is the wrong approach to take. Read the choices available to you… and don’t just stop when you come upon the one that seems likely.

  1. Don’t select the choice that is true; select the choice that is RIGHT for the question asked.
  2. Don’t skip a response if it seems too simple. So what? Not everything has to be rocket science.
  3. Don’t change your answers without good reason, especially if you’re saying, “Hmm…the last two choices were ‘d’, this one can’t be ‘d’ too.” Believe it or not, yes it can.
  4. One thing that always helps me is eliminating responses as I read them. No, No, Maybe, No. Well then, the answers pretty clear here, right?

Go out there and nail those exams. Remember, once you’ve aced them, you’ll be on break! Always look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Image by mer chau, Flickr

Image by mer chau, Flickr

Time off from any activity – work or school related – is an important part of de-stressing, recharging and reorganizing your mind and body.

Let’s set the scene: you’ve had an excellent semester by following our 10 Tips for a Successful First Year, Learn to Cope with Pressure, or Mentally Preparing for School articles. Now, how do you stay focused and productive during your well-deserved time off?

The most important thing is to budget some free time. You’ve earned it, and taking a break from the books is important in re-energizing your mind and preventing burnout. Give yourself at least three days of blissful non-academic work. Do whatever it is that calms and relaxes you – it might be exercising, reading for pleasure, playing video games, hanging out with friends, or watching TV. However, try not to let three days of rest slip into three weeks of unproductive procrastination. A short break between semesters is an opportunity to catch up on school work, get yourself ahead for next semester, or to get cracking on an end of year research paper.

So what is the best way to go about this?

Take it easy: there’s no need to give yourself a full workload.

Prioritize what is most time- or labour-intensive and set yourself manageable short term goals.

Consider setting aside a couple of hours each day – or however many hours are necessary – to complete these goals. You are not going to be able to write a 20 page research paper by working an hour a day, but you are going to put a significant dent in the research, which will put you in a great position when deadlines are nearing your horizon.

Short breaks are a great time to start working on things – as you well know, you might not have the luxury of free time when you’re deep into the semester. As far off as those deadlines seem, they’ll creep up on you, readings will stack up, exams will be scheduled and group assignments will become more time consuming.

If you’re determined to take a full, no-work break, make sure you at least stay focused and keep your mind sharp. Even skimming over previously assigned readings helps keep you in rhythm and doesn’t allow you to slack off. School is about routine, and although you will be on a well-earned holiday, make sure to keep yourself active and engaged to make the return to school a little easier on yourself.