You check the clock and it’s 6 PM. The workday seemed so long, but you’re not even halfway through your to-do list. You feel tired and unaccomplished as the day comes to an end. For many freelancers, you know this feeling all too well.
As a freelancer, you are in charge of making your own work schedule. Therefore, time management is a critical part of your livelihood. Turning in an assignment late or the failure to complete a project on time could affect your ability to secure future projects and opportunities.
If time management is a struggle for you, here are five go-to time management hacks you can employ now:
Identify Your Productivity Peaks
Optimizing your productivity starts with knowing when you are most productive. Maybe you’re an early riser who wakes up and hits the ground running. Or perhaps you’re a parent who performs best in the evenings after you’ve put your kids to bed.
Look at your average workday. When do you usually have the most uninterrupted time to get things done? Take notice of when you typically have the most energy and focus. Identifying your productivity peaks allows you to craft you work schedule so that you are taking full advantage of them.
Set Official Work Hours and Stick to Them
Creating your own work schedule can be challenging, especially if you work from home. It’s easy to check emails and do work on the weekends or late at night. However, it’s crucial that you create structure and routine for yourself by setting official work hours and adhering to them.
Setting official work hours gives you daily deadlines, sets the time period that clients can reach you, and helps to you maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you’re working constantly, you run the risk of burn out. If you’re too lenient in your schedule, you could fall behind on work, or miss out on potential opportunities. Find the right balance for you and stick to the schedule you set.
Track Your Time
Whether you’re paid by the hour or on a project-basis, as a freelancer you are paid for your time. This means time tracking is essential for your billing. Time tracking tools, such as Clockify, Toggl, or Hubstaff, track the amount of time it takes you to complete a project so you don’t have to think about it.
As you expand your freelancing business to take on multiple projects or clients at once, these tools also show you how you’re spending your time – signaling if you’re taking too long to complete a single project or task. These insights can help you prioritize your to-do list and improve your workflow.
Eat That Frog
Make it a habit to start your day off by “eating the frog.” This refers to the Mark Twain quote, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” What he meant by this is, tackle your most pressing and significant task(s) of the day first; the one(s) you’re most tempted to procrastinate. It’s easy to get caught up in smaller, easier to complete tasks, but you don’t want to get in the habit of putting off larger more pressing goals in the process.
So how do you “eat the frog?” Create a to-do list each day and list the three most important tasks at the very top. Make it a priority to complete these tasks first. Eliminate distractions once you’ve started. Turn off your phone or mute all notifications from social media and emails. If you don’t have a home office, consider using noise-canceling headphones or switch up your work area.
“Eating the frog” first makes it easier for you to work through the rest of your to-do list for the day. You’ll feel accomplished and determined to make the rest of the day as productive as possible.
Try the Time-Blocking Technique
The time-blocking technique is a time management system that separates your day into blocks of time. Every block is dedicated to working on a specific task or a group of related tasks, and the goal is to only work on those to-dos during the allocated time.
Every morning or every night before you sleep, use apps like Google Calendar or Todoist and block increments of time for each set of tasks you need to complete within the day. If you choose to “eat the frog,” set time blocks for each of those big tasks and work on them first.
Try to stick with your schedule to see how much you can truly get done in each time block. But don’t beat yourself up if you under or overestimate the time it takes to complete the tasks. Adjust your schedule and make changes when necessary so you can accurately charge the right amount for your services.
BONUS: Best Productivity Apps for Freelancers
Don’t worry if time management isn’t your strength. There are plenty of apps that supplement these efforts and are particularly beneficial to freelancers. Here are some of our favorites:
- Asana. This project management tool lets teams of all sizes collaborate and work on different projects. Some of its features include email integration, customizable dashboards, tracking, customer support, automated updates, integrations, multiple workspaces, and more. It’s one of the best freelancer apps for project collaboration.
- Clockify. It’s amazing how Clockify is a 100% free time tracking tool. Its user-friendly and clean interface is ideal for freelancers who are new to time tracking. You can set up projects for each client or task and track how much time you’re spending on each project.
- Todoist. This app is the digitized version of your classic handwritten to-do lists. You can list your tasks, tick them off once you’ve completed them, and access your data anytime, anywhere. It’s a great tool to track your progress, prioritize tasks, and even assign them to other people.
- Google Calendar. This is one of the best tools for time management because it’s free to use, and it’s effective in scheduling meetings and time blocking. It’s accessible anywhere you have internet, and you can integrate it with various apps, including Gmail, Airtable, Trello, Slack, and Evernote.
Don’t Forget to Relax and Have Fun!
Many productive people tend to take the evening off. They disconnect from work and take the time to relax, read a good book, or go out for a drink. Taking breaks gives you the chance to recharge for tomorrow’s tasks so you’re ready to take on the next day.
Keep these time management hacks in mind and apply them to your everyday life. But after a successful day of time-blocking, time tracking, and eating the frog, don’t forget to enjoy and have fun because you deserve it!