Managing time is a problem that faces pretty much everyone, but as a freelancer, you might find yourself up against a few more hurdles than the average nine-to-fiver. Here are some tips to help you increase productivity while freelancing.
Determine where you’re wasting time
This step basically just requires you to think about your typical day and admit to yourself what it is you do that takes up too much of your time. Do you get side-tracked on social networking sites? Phone calls? Sitting around waiting for inspiration? Once you determine your vices, it will be much easier to fight them.
Create a good environment
Limiting your distractions is one of the most important time-management tips. Some people enjoy listening to the news while they work, but for others it can create huge concentration problems. Especially if you work from home, knowing (and being honest about) what to surround yourself with during your work day is crucial. Also, creating an office environment can help immensely when working from home. Don’t sit on the couch – sit at a desk. Dress business casual and not sweatpants-chic. Set aside specific times of the day when you HAVE TO be “at work.” All of these things contribute to your environment and can greatly increase your productivity.
Creating a daily to-do list is something every freelancer (or anyone, for that matter) should already be doing. But if you’re having problems managing your time, it could be helpful to break up your to-do list into smaller increments. Setting morning goals and afternoon goals, or even hourly goals depending on your personal preference, might help to eliminate that “I can get it done later” mindset. You should also set goals about your vices that were determined in the last step, such as “only spend 5 minutes on the phone with so-and-so.”
If there’s a particular task you hate more than anything else, such as bookkeeping, create a reward that you’ll receive each time you finish that task. It can be as simple as allowing yourself to take a half an hour break to watch your favorite TV show or eat your favorite snack. Your reward will keep you motivated and help you get through that tedious or difficult job.
Sometimes no matter how much you plan, there’s just no way everything on your list can be accomplished. In this case, some of us go into denial and believe we can still do it – then we choose to do the easy tasks first and scramble at the end of the day to finish the important ones. Instead of creating unneeded stress for yourself, do the most important tasks first and save the non-essential ones for later. So if something unexpected comes up at the last minute or you simply don’t have time for everything, your business won’t suffer.
If your problem is more severe than just taking too much time to respond to emails, it might be worth it to speak to a professional or take a business course. Many community colleges and continuing education programs offer courses about time management. They may also employ business advisors that can meet with you one-on-one to create a plan to help manage your time. Do you have any other tips or resources for freelancers?