It goes without saying that we don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything on our lists.
If you’re a freelancer, you’re responsible for doing your freelance work, as well as for managing the operations of your business. Tasks will fall by the wayside; you’ll get sidetracked; you’ll feel overwhelmed.
Unless, of course, you develop time management skills and build strategies. Focusing on these efforts can make your day run more smoothly and can help you get more done without feeling run down or burned out.
What are some good time management strategies every freelancer should know? We have a list.
1. Understanding your wasted time
To create strategies that make the most of your time, it's important to understand where your time is currently going. Try tracking your work time, as well as tracking your distractions.
Gain greater awareness of the ways you spend your day working using an online time tracker, then build better plans for your week.
For example, you might find yourself spending 10 minutes a day updating invoices and financial data. If you save it all for one end of the week session, you might discover you can spend only 30 minutes completing the same tasks - a net savings of 20 minutes that could go toward other activities.
Making space for important tasks using time blocking.
The invoice process mentioned above is an example of time blocking, handling similar tasks within a defined block of time so you don’t end up jumping back and forth between priorities and wasting time.
If you’re a freelance writer working on improving time management skills, you can time block for things like blog writing, for example. Then, use a separate block of time to write all your social media posts. It’s easier to stay productive when you’re in the same headspace and do less context switching.
2. Getting granular
Sometimes when you have only a small block of time available, justifying jumping on social media or browsing a news site can be easy because you don’t have the availability to get anything more substantive done.
If you are granular with your project management, you can probably find a small task that can be accomplished during that same time and move yourself farther along your to-do list. Break your projects down into the smallest pieces possible, so you can find ways of jumping in and handling them quickly, even with a full schedule.
3. Build templates
Does it sound impossible to find the extra time to break down your projects? That’s what templates are for.
Identify the types of work you usually do, and draft out a template that works through the involved steps. For example, when you’re reaching out to a prospective client, you might:
- Send a LinkedIn message
- Send a follow-up LinkedIn message
- Send a case study by email
- Make a phone call
If you know what the steps are each time, you can more easily put those items on a task list, instead of thinking through the process each time.
4. Handling notifications wisely so you can focus on deep work.
The average American picks up their phone almost 100 times per day. If even a fraction of those pickups happens during work, that can become a huge distraction and can eat up your time.
Consider reducing distractions by setting your devices on Do Not Disturb or logging out of social media while you are focusing on a project. Then, you can commit to deep work and will likely produce a better product in a shorter, less distracted time frame.
5. Listening to podcasts.
As a freelancer, you don’t have a manager paying for conferences or events. Instead, you have to be responsible for your own acquisition of knowledge.
Queueing up and listening to relevant podcasts during your drive or lunch break can be a great way to keep sharp and stay efficient at the same time.
6. Making your work align with your goals.
It can be easy doing busy-work because you want to feel productive but aren’t quite ready to dive into a big project. However, it's possible to find yourself with a heavy workload at the end of a project if you procrastinate the bigger items.
When you’re building lists and mapping out your work week, make sure you know what needs accomplishing and that you’re setting aside time properly for those important things.
7. Creating accountability.
When you’re working alone, time can pass quickly.
Setting up time for accountability sessions with fellow freelancers can be beneficial. These sessions can take place remotely or in person and can be conducted without a lot of additional fanfare; simply join a chat together, state intentions, then and work in silence throughout the appointed accountability time.
And, after completing a task, celebrate. Enjoy the pleasure of marking it done on your digital task list or asking for a pat on the back from a mentor, client or friend.
8. Regenerating energy and committing to work-life balance.
At all times, you’re either using energy or creating energy.
If you don’t take time to rest, you won’t be able to put your best foot forward on your work. To regenerate energy, you need to sleep well and eat well.
You also need to ensure you’re doing things that are enjoyable and restorative, whether that means working out, meditating or doing an art project. Whatever refuels, you deserve a place in your life and daily or weekly schedule.
9. Speaking up for yourself.
If you let people - whether it’s colleagues, clients or family - take advantage of you, they will. It’s not always intentional, but they don’t know your threshold of tolerance or your overall workload the same way you do.
When receiving requests or projects that don’t fit into your time management priorities, figure out how to politely say no, how to offer other solutions or how to reprioritize.
Above all, be realistic when developing your personal time management strategy. If you have 15 hours worth of work and only 10 hours worth of available time, something must drop down on the priority list.
Be kind to yourself by setting time management goals and strategies that will be a stretch but also provide a feeling of being focused on the task at hand while getting a job done well.