Lately I’ve been feeling swamped with work. While the Summer found me struggling to make ends meet, the new season brought with it a different type of windfall. This is exciting for sure, considering that just under a year ago, I left my full-time gig as a staff editor at Entrepreneur magazine in favor of launching into the deep pool of freelance entrepreneurship and already I’ve secured contracts for enough revenue to replace my editor’s salary.

But I want more. To go beyond replacing my previous salary and the feeling that I am constantly working.

It was easy to exercise regularly and maintain a strict eight-to-four, no working-on-weekends schedule when business I was mostly prospecting and negotiating. Now that the fruits of that labor have come in, I’m struggling to find balance between work and life — the main reason I chose the freelance path to begin with.

So I begin looking into project management systems and productivity tools. But these usually add another step, something else that I have to factor into my workload, and ultimately the return is just another time suck.

And then I started just writing things in a notebook. After so many years of writing for the internet, including this here blog that doubles as my personal journal, I had gotten away from physically writing things down. The trouble with this was that my dependence on a computer or some other form of technology left gaps in my ability to simply jot down notes, reminders and ideas. When I started writing things down, I was able to unpack all of those thoughts and have something to reference in the future.

I started using my notebook to sketch out editorial plans and calendars, to outline proposals and jot down project ideas. The result of this mind-mapping strategy is that the ideas and plans are nearly completely formulated by the time I sit down to translate them into working documents, whatever form those documents may take. Where before I kept a running list in my head, now I write to-do lists for the day in my notebook and feel accomplished by the end of the day when I have crossed most of the items off.

After just a week of doing this, I can tell I’m going to need another notebook. But most importantly, my brain feels less cluttered and I am feeling less overwhelmed.

How’s that for a back-to-basics solution to my productivity problem? I wonder how many others out there find that the are able to organize their thoughts, and manage time and energy better by simply writing things down?

Image © Daehyun Park