Time management and productivity are some of the areas where freelancers struggle most. Sitting down to work when you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder can be challenging. Time management is not only about being organized and determined to work following a set schedule, but it also includes decision making —whether or not you should be doing marketing instead of working on clients work or if you should tackle that other task first.
All of these things can greatly impact your business performance and determine your success. If you want to become a freelancer, improve your business or keep freelancing, you definitely need to be a master of time management.
1. Explore the classics
Let’s start by the beginning. Classic time management techniques like the Pomodoro technique or ABCDE method are essential for freelancers —just as they are for office workers and people who work remotely.
Explore the ones you think will suit your job and personality and try one (or two) until you find the one that works best for you!
2. Set daily and weekly goals
Set your goals right by having a set of reasonable goals for what you will be able to do that day and week. Classify them depending on their importance and determine which are the ones that must be done without exception and try to tackle those in the morning.
3. Plan ahead
Stress can be a major productivity killer and if you’re stressed because you don’t know when you are going to do something, then you’re lacking a plan. If you plan your time wisely, you can focus on one task at a time, rather than wasting time jumping from one thing to the next.
Here a few things that can help you plan ahead:
- Have a to-do list
- Set a time limit for each task
- Adjust your schedule according to your inner rhythm. If you feel more energized at certain times of the day, change your schedule to take advantage of that.
4. Do the hard things first
There are tasks that we dread to do. We put off starting them, building a pile of tasks that looms before us, keeping us in a state of anxiety and stress that drains our energy. But once they are done, then they are off your mind and you can fully focus on the next matter.
5. Block off a day for admin tasks
Admin and bookkeeping tasks are normally the most tedious ones for freelancers. However, none of those should be pushed to the back-burner, as they are very important to keep our business running.
If you have the option to delegate them or hire the services of another professional, then do not hesitate to do so. Otherwise, block off one day a week to focus on this type of non-client work and get all of the essential administrative tasks out of the way — log expenses, send out and collect invoices, bookkeeping, etc.
6. ‘No’ is a valid answer
Sometimes you will have to turn down a new job in order to attend to what is truly important and urgent. There is nothing worse than over-promising and under-delivering when you’re already buried in work or taking some rest days.
The same goes for projects or jobs that are headed nowhere or that are not productive.
7. Block out distractions
Distractions include email, social media, other people, etc.
The most productive way to deal with email is to dedicate two to three pockets of time in your day to just read and respond your emails and then ignore them the rest of the time.
Mute all your social media notifications so you don’t feel tempted to instantly reply to all your messages or check the new posts in the feed. If you feel the need to spend some time with these apps, then allocate some minutes to do so each hour and stick to it.
If you work from home and have family or flatmates around, you’ll probably be less productive. Set clear boundaries and let them know that you shouldn’t be distracted from your work unless it is really important. If you still struggle with this, then you should consider the option to rent an office or a coworking space where you can go a few times a week.
8. Track yourself
Use a calendar app or a journal to control your day and monitor your progress. Track your output and the number of hours you worked to keep you on target with respect to your productivity. Periodically reviewing it can help you see if you have increased, lowered or maintained your productivity levels.
9. Take breaks
Keep your mental, emotional and physical states at peak levels by taking small breaks frequently. If it's hard for you to stop working, plan and schedule breaks for yourself or set an alarm as a reminder. Getting away from your desk, having a short walk or having a quick chat with someone are the best ways to spend your break.
Try to put some of these into practice today to be more productive, as improving your time management can free up some space for more work (and therefore more money!), and to increase your satisfaction with your freelance work.