Time Management is Crucial for Freelancers
You didn’t expect it, but now you’re probably finding that being a freelancer is more difficult than being an employee.
You alone are responsible for your work output – and your income. You’re also responsible for managing your time to get the most work done and keep that income pouring in.
Working from anywhere, it’s far too easy to slip into bad habits that take you away from your work. For one thing, friends and family will ask you to do things they wouldn’t have asked when you were working for someone else. After all, you’re at home, so surely you have time to ….
The second problem is procrastination. You’ll find tasks that you think you need to do before you settle down to work. After all, you have all day – right?
Before you know it, most of that day can be gone and no work will have been done.
How can you get a grip on time management when you have no one but yourself to tell you what to do?
First, set your work hours. Even if you stayed up too late, get up in the morning and get to work on time. Since you are the boss here, set those hours for when you can be the most productive. Your most productive hours hinge on both your energy levels and the demands of your household. You may be able to say you’re working from 8 to 6 every day or you may need to split your work hours into 2 or 3 chunks.
For some, working at the most productive hours means getting up 2 or 3 hours ahead of the household to get a jump on the day, while for others it means going back to work after everyone else is tucked in for the night.
Next, tackle the biggest challenge first. Mark Twain advised eating a frog first thing in the morning, so everything else will be easy.
I don’t recommend actually eating frogs, but I do recommend getting the tough tasks done first, so everything else will be easy.
Procrastinators tend to do the easiest tasks first, to “get them out of the way,” but that often leads to putting off the more difficult projects until tomorrow – and tomorrow – and tomorrow.
Become a planner.
When you’re first starting out you won’t be sure how long a specific task might take, but make your best estimate, then keep track.
Get a day-planner with the hours blocked out and plan what you’ll do during each of those hours, including the hours when you’ll be occupied with personal/family obligations. Be sure to schedule such things as lunch and a 5-minute exercise break at intervals throughout the day.
You might consider using the Pomodor technique. Under this plan you work steadily on one task for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodors, give yourself a 30-minute break.
One famous copywriter was known for setting his timer for 33.33 minutes. When the buzzer went off he stopped work, even if he was in the middle of writing a sentence. He got up from the desk for a 5-minute break, then went back and did the same thing over again for the entire day.
Keep a close eye on deadlines.
One of the best things you can do for your freelance career is to become known for always turning in your work by the deadline. Write them into your calendar in bold and check daily to make sure you’re working on schedule.
Learn to say no.
This is a difficult skill for many of us, but one that has to be mastered. You first have to say “NO” to yourself when you’re tempted to vacuum the floor or weed the flower beds instead of working on that project with the looming deadline.
Then you must learn to say no to friends and family. No, you can’t watch your sister’s kids while she goes to lunch. No, you can’t go wait at the neighbor’s house to let the plumber in. No, you can’t take your spouse’s suit to the dry cleaners. And perhaps most difficult of all – No, you don’t have time for a nice chat on the phone.
A friend of mine shared her experience both when she began home schooling her children and later when she became a freelancer. Friends were angry when she cut phone calls short. They simply couldn’t understand and accept the fact that she was busy and could not take time to visit. Finally she began letting all calls go to the answering machine.
Remember – it’s your life and your income.
It’s your job to protect both.
Graphic courtesy of Stuart Miles – freedigitalphotos.net