Freelancing time management.
The very words probably fill most of us with fear or guilt. That’s because most freelance writers struggle with time management at one point or another.
Time management can be a bigger struggle for freelance writers than for those in traditional jobs. Most of us work alone, at home. So there’s no one there to keep us on track.
Also, freelance writing work can be erratic. One week you may have too much to do, the next week barely enough.
In this post, I share a total of ten time management tips. First, I share the six steps I use to manage my own time. Next, I share four more tips on how you can gain better control of your time.
This post is a part of my series on What Is the Worst Problem Freelance Writers Face?
Six Steps to Time Management
In my article, 6 Steps for Managing Your Time as a Writer, I identify the following six steps for time management:
- Set Your Work Hours. Decide how many hours you want to work each week and stick close to it.
- Estimate Project Hours. Discover how to tell about how long each project will take.
- Establish Working Hours. Determine when your freelance business is open and when it is closed.
- Schedule Non-Billable Hours. Do non-billable tasks in a timely and organized fashion.
- Use Time Management Tools. Download tools and other apps to help manage your time.
- Take Breaks. Don’t forget to schedule time off to recharge.
These six steps have worked well for me for quite a while. You may find that this time management process also works well for you.
Keep a List
Have you ever gotten so busy that you forgot to do something?
While I’ve never forgotten a project, I don’t want to risk it happening either. That’s why I keep a list of important tasks to remind myself of what I still need to tackle.
You can keep your list on one of the many excellent To Do List apps. Plain old pencil and paper can also work. Or keep a chalkboard or whiteboard handy in your office so you can always see what needs to be done next.
When I was in college many of my fellow students waited until the day before a test to study. They would stay up all night and try to learn everything that had been taught all semester in 24 yours.
I’ve never been one to go without sleep if I could help it, so I adopted a different strategy. I studied every single class for at least a half-hour each day. By the time the test rolled around I was very familiar with the subject. All I needed to do was look over my notes.
I don’t know how my classmates who crammed did on their tests, but I know that I graduated college with honors.
Freelancing can be the same way. Many freelancers wait until just before a project is due to start working on it. I’ve found starting on projects as soon as possible to be a much more effective way of providing high-quality work.
Know Your Weaknesses
Everyone has a weakness that tends to eat up time unnecessarily. It could be talking on the phone, spending time on social media, checking your email, or playing online games.
Whatever it is, it can keep you from being productive if you let it. You can manage your distractions, but first be honest about where your time goes.
Try recording everything you do for a few days to a week to learn what takes up most of your time. You could be surprised. Those “five-minute breaks” when you check your social media account may take up more of your day than you realize.
Once you understand what’s really holding you back from getting more down, you can limit that activity.
Is multi-tasking your way of managing time?
If it is, stop doing it. Study after study has shown that multi-tasking doesn’t work. Human brains just aren’t built that way. We can’t really focus on more than one thing at a time.
Before I read the studies on multi-tasking, I used to think it was just me who needed to focus on one thing at a time. Now I realize that no one can multi-task. Whew!
If you don’t believe me, here are some articles about multi-tasking:
- How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work) by Jessica Kleiman at Forbes
- Technology: Myth of Multitasking by Jim Taylor Ph.D. at Psychology Today
- Multitasking Is Killing Your Brain by Larry Kim at Inc.
- Why Humans Are Bad at Multitasking by Denise Chow at Live Science
The list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Multi-tasking. Don’t do it.
What time management struggles do you face? Share your time management problems and solutions in the comments below.