Whether you’re just starting out as a freelancer or you’ve been working on your own for years, you know how important time management is. As one fellow freelancer once told me, “You have all day to get your work done, but if it actually takes you all day, you won’t be freelancing for long.”
Even with this sage advice, when I first ventured out into the freelancing world, my time management practices weren’t up to par. Over the years, and through much trial and error, I was finally able to get on a schedule that worked for me. If you’ve been looking for ways to be more productive as a freelancer, check out these seven time management strategies.
Create a General Work Schedule
In my situation, I generally work from 6am to 10am, hit the gym, then take a break until just after lunch. I then work until 7pm or 9pm, depending on the day.
Everyone’s schedule varies depending upon their needs – just make sure yours has a general start time that you stick to. The knowledge that your schedule can be adjusted for last-minute events is wonderful, but when you add some structure to your daily routine it saves time and allows you to get more done.
Take Extra Breaks
If you previously worked a more traditional career, you likely had a lunch break and not much else. As a freelancer, you’ve got a lot more freedom. Of course, that doesn’t give you license to take a three-hour nap every afternoon, but if you need to step away from work for a moment, don’t feel bad about it.
I normally take a quick jog around the block or maybe knock out a few chores around the house when I need a break. It’s the perfect way to get my head cleared and keep my mind and body performing at a high level.
Work From a Handwritten To-Do List
Each morning – or even the night before – take five minutes to write out a simple to-do list for what needs to get done. Make it out with three categories in mind: items you must complete that day, tasks that need your attention but can be completed later in the week, and minor “housekeeping” issues for which you can take your time. Remember that whatever you don’t accomplish today can get bumped to tomorrow’s list.
Focus On Your Personal Health
If you’re working 90 hours per week, you might think that’s helping your business, but it probably isn’t. You should always find time for friends and family, physical activity, and eating a healthier diet. Reduce red meat consumption and focus on fruits and vegetables to improve your health and stay more focused at work.
Manage Emails Effectively
Handle your emails only once. As soon as you open an email, read it and either respond immediately or delete the message. Unfortunately, reviewing an email and then saving it for later can double your workload. Also, if you can speak your message to someone quicker than you can type it, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone instead. A little personal interaction can be a nice change of pace and help you save time.
Prioritise Your Heavy Work
If you have a big project that needs a lot of attention, don’t start it when you only have a few moments of spare time. Instead, pencil it in for when you’ve got a good chunk of hours and plenty of energy. Most folks are either early risers or night owls. Once you identify when you’re at your best, schedule your most difficult tasks for those hours.
Take Your Vacations
Although taking quick breaks is important, also make sure you’re truly getting away from work on a regular basis. Even if you’re paid strictly on productivity, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a vacation now and again. You might ramp up your productivity shortly before you head out and plan to do the same as soon as you return. Freelancers often feel like they always have to be plugged in and producing, but if you don’t clear your head occasionally, you can easily get burned out.
Once you start to make some headway and you find yourself with extra time, don’t let your efforts stop there – your time management skills can always get better. Take five minutes at the end of each day and identify which of these strategies worked the best for you. Then, make adjustments accordingly. Although I began working on my routine several years ago, to this day, I still find ways to save time and be more efficient. Before you know it, you just may end up with more free time than you know how to handle.
Do you know of any other time management strategies for freelancers?
Tom Richardson is a freelancer who works from home. He’s always looking for new strategies and tools to stay motivated and be productive.