Time management is a challenge that everyone faces, but freelancers have a unique set of problems. Not only are we juggling several clients and projects at once, but it’s up to us to find new work to keep the whole show running. It can be exhausting and often leaves us feeling like we don’t have any time left for a life outside of work.
If you’re struggling to keep track of where all the hours in the day are going, here are some of the most effective time management tips and strategies to give you back control and nip those time wasters in the bud.
4 Effective Time Management Strategies for Freelancers
Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.
– Zig Ziglar
Plan your days down to the minute
Accountability. It’s one of the best things about being a freelancer — but also one of the worst. Your time is completely your own, and how you manage it will dictate your productivity and success. But getting into the groove of self-management can be rough.
One of the best ways to get stuff done is to be strict with yourself and schedule everything. This means your lunch breaks, emails, fetching the kids from school and everything in between. By meticulously scheduling your day like this, you minimize day-to-day decision-making, and you can make sure you have time for things outside of work.
Try planning the next few days in advance and work through your tasks systematically. You’ll be surprised how much less time you’ll spend procrastinating and how much more you can get done.
Make time for tasks that don’t come with dollar signs
It is a universal truth that not all tasks are created equal. Some will send money to your bank account and some won’t, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.
If you are always prioritizing client work over these “lesser” tasks, you are soon going to find yourself with a stagnant workflow. Bookkeeping, sales, proposals, blogging and other non-billable tasks can’t afford to get neglected. For example, if you don’t schedule in time for sales, you might find yourself with no work next month.
To make sure you are taking full advantage of these non-billables and are not letting them fall through the cracks, hop onto that newly minted calendar you just created and block out an entire day for these essential auditing tasks. Log your expenses, send out those invoices, and write that blog post for the following week.
If setting aside an entire day doesn’t work for your schedule, spread the hours out during the week and get them done first thing in the morning. This way you can carry on devoting your time to making your bank balance go ka-ching.
Know exactly how long it takes you to complete tasks
For you to manage your time properly with a daily schedule, you need to know how long a particular task is going to take you.
This is where a time-tracking app like Toggl comes in. It’s one of the best time management apps out there, and is designed to make sure you are always tracking your time throughout the day. The app tracks how long a task takes you, generates reports, and integrates with many other productivity tools like Trello and Asana.
By learning how fast you can work, you can adjust your availability and schedule your time more precisely. This will then give you more room to be generous with estimating your time — and delighting your clients by following the golden rule of under-promising and over-delivering.
Eliminate distractions to take back your time
Tracking your time is not enough. You need to drill down even further and discover where that time is being spent.
One of the best ways to do this is to install an app called RescueTime. Instead of tracking your time by task, it tracks how long you spend on a particular website, generates reports, and gives you an overall productivity score.
If you find that you are spending too much of your life scrolling aimlessly through your Facebook newsfeed and taking BuzzFeed quizzes, the app lets you take things one step further by blocking distracting websites and setting goals for how long you are on particular sites each day.
For other distractions like cell phones and Skype, you’re going to need a bit of old school discipline. When it’s time to start working on a task, close all the tabs and messenger applications that aren’t related to the project, put your phone on silent, and spend the next couple of hours completely focused on that one task.
By creating an environment where distractions are at a minimum, you’ll have more control over your time and more room in your schedule for that lunch date with your best friend.
What are some of your favorite time management strategies for achieving a winning work-life balance as a freelancer?