Freelancing is a tough business. Don’t get me wrong, escaping restrictive office hours and horrible bosses and embracing the creative freedom that comes with doing what you love and are truly good at makes it all worthwhile. But, at the end of the day, it’s still work and tough work at that.
As a freelancer you have to be an all-rounder. Marketing, business planning, accounting, sales, networking and then after all that, there’s the actual work of creating and delivering the product or service that brings in revenue. With these pressures and competing priorities, good time management is essential.
Here are my top 3 most epic time management techniques for new freelancers. And since you don’t have the time to sit back with a cuppa and read an essay on the subject, I’ll keep them brief.
Good luck and go get’m!
1. Find your rhythm
You’ve probably read the books and articles online about the ‘8 most important things you must do before 8am’ or how the early bird gets the worm so you must wake up at 5am everyday or your projects will fail. All bad advice, at least for some, possibly most.
The time in the day that you’re most productive will depend on your biology and lifestyle, not someone else’s prescription. Some people are early birds and others are night owls. As a freelancer you’re not obliged to work when people tell you to, so experiment with working during different times of the day and night and find a rhythm that’s most productive for you personally.
2. Schedule everything
Your to-do list and your calendar are your biggest allies in the battle against time.
Start by adopting a system for note-taking and to-do lists. I use Asana for project and task management online and the Bullet Journal system in my trusty Moleskine for being organised moment to moment.
Once your tasks are listed and laid out front of you, prioritise what’s most important, estimate how long each task or batch of tasks will take to complete and schedule them in your calendar. Now, you’ll know where you should be, what you should be working on and how long it will take at any given time throughout your day.
Be sure to keep some time aside through your day for ad-hoc jobs that pop up.
3. Batch your work into pomodoros
The pomodoro is a technique used to complete focused work or batched tasks during specific blocks of time. There are a few different iterations of the technique, but I do it like this.
Know what you want to achieve, set your timer for 23 minutes and go. When the alarm goes off set your timer again for 7 minutes and take a break. Repeat this cycle 3 times and on the third take a 20-30 minute break. Repeat throughout your day.
4. (BONUS TIP) Use Time Management Software
Working alone is tough and it’s easy to get distracted. Email, Social Media, that great match-up on ESPN can all get in the way and before you know it you’ve fallen short of your goals and made zero progress on your important projects.
Using a time management software can help you stay focused and productive. Time management software tracks the time you spend on each task and alerts you when you’re wasting time on unproductive tasks. Click here to find a great little article from Forbes.com with a few of the best options.
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Time management is an essential skill for successful freelancers. Whenever you feel like you don’t have enough hours in a day, come back to these techniques and, remember, as H. Jackson Brown Jr, Author of the New York Times best selling “Life’s Little Instruction Book” said:
“…You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
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