Use this month to break old habits.

For many, the pursuit of a freelance writing career is set in motion by the need for a simpler lifestyle and a more positive working experience. Yet sometimes the absence of traditional workplace structure can create a grind of a different sort. Lack of guaranteed work, no enforced schedule, and no figurehead of authority demanding maximum output can turn what was meant to be a more peaceful life into a chaotic scramble to make ends meet.

This is essentially one stressful routine replacing another. Your eight-to-five agenda of toiling for someone else’s dream might become a bedlam of searching for work, getting distracted by social media, and compromising your health by sitting down too much. It’s time to shake up your patterns, brush off the cobwebs of complacency, and re-adjust your focus.

Push Your Threshold: Take on More Work

Over-optimism when taking on projects is the best policy. Freelance writing work rushes forth in waves and becomes scarce with similar speed. When a windfall of opportunities presents itself, don’t be afraid to take on more than you usually handle.

Hobbies and leisure time may have to take a back seat for a few days, but you’ll thank yourself the following week when the unclaimed jobs page is not exactly bountiful. A “normal work week” and a “freelance writing career” are not necessarily congruent ideas. You may have 80 hours of writing to do in a seven-day stretch and a mere 20 the following week.

Use down time to breathe in anticipation of stockpiling another cache of jobs. Stay prepared by spending time in between jobs learning about the current SEO trends or the latest hot-button topics in your field of expertise. When the next tide of work comes in, you might even be able to ride it and spend less time on research because you are up-to-speed on current events.

Ration Your Consumption of Social Media

Occasional perusing of Facebook and Twitter can quickly turn into a counterproductive habit. Posts on these platforms can draw you off course and send you meandering through the annals of Tumblr or YouTube in a time-consuming trance. Compound that with checking your email with robotic consistency, and its easy to see how you can develop a bad case of Distraction-itis.

Don’t just minimize social media and email windows when you are immersed in writing an article. Sometimes you succumb to temptation before you are even consciously aware of the fact. Close the windows entirely and dedicate an entire block of time to completing an assignment in your queue.

Once you are done, don’t forget to reward yourself with a reasonable stretch of time on your favorite social media outlet before closing that window again and re-focusing on another assignment. Perhaps the best way to stay focused is to follow the first point in this article. When you take on that extra payload, it becomes easier to pinpoint and eradicate the “excess” activities that are eating up precious time.

Use It or Lose It

The human body is designed to move. According to a report by Dr. James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic, people who sit for more than four hours a day have a “50 percent increased risk of death from any cause.” The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Writers who want to live longer need to get up and move around more: a lot more.

Make 2014 the year you discipline yourself to get up at least once every hour or two to engage in some natural movement. The simple acts of standing up and stretching or walking around while using your laptop can get the blood moving and perhaps even shake loose the right words to explain a complicated point in an article. Better yet, get rid of your old sitting desk and begin working at a standing desk. Treadmill desks are all the rage, but they’re still too reminiscent of the rat race; they can be avoided for now, pending stronger evidence.

In short, here are the key points to remember for revamping your writing routine:

  • Raise the bar on your workload.
  • Shut the window on distractions.
  • Stand up, move around, and keep the juices flowing.

How are you revamping your writing routine this year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.