Time is money. Now that’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. For any company, time is a finite resource to be coveted moreso than water in California. One of the beauties of freelancing, is that you have some more flexibility about how you spend your time. You don’t need to be in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That said, you should be hyper-vigilant about how you spend your time and make sure that its spent as efficiently as possible. This way, you can afford to spend your morning going on a hike or meet your friend across town for that yoga class that’s a little on the early side.
But that’s way more easily said than done. How do we make sure we make the most of our time?
We make a routine. Even if you’re not a fan of the 9-to-5 work routine, we all are fans of routine. Think of it – we’ve been used to routines since we were toddlers. Our parents made sure we knew when to nap, eat, play, and repeat at the same times, every day. To best manage your time, figure out what part of the day you are most productive. For me, it’s the morning. I schedule the more in-depth projects for my mornings and save tackling all the admin-type work (like drudging through email) until the afternoon. I do go through periods of time when I feel more productive in the afternoon though, and I try to be cognizant of this and adjust my plans for the day and meetings accordingly; that’s the beauty of being a freelancer – you can do what works for you.
The thing about routine as a freelancer is that you don’t have a boss to look over your shoulder and manage your time for you. The only thing you’ll have if you aren’t handing in your deliverables or finishing a project on time, is an unhappy client, which is never good for business. To prevent procrastination or any other little things from sidetracking me, I have a lot of things that I do to keep myself in check.
1. I use my calendar(s).
I am all about putting things on my calendar today. And I don’t just use my Google Calendar, I even have a planner that I write things down in. That’s right people, I pencil in appointments old-school. I used to just use my phone to make appointments, but I really found that writing things down helped me remember things better. Because I’m a visual learner, I like putting my to-do list on a day and being able to move things down and around if I need to re-prioritize. While I stick to Google Calendar, there are many other tools and apps out there that are available.
I’ve become so used to putting things in my calendar that if I don’t put them down, they don’t happen.
2. I make lists.
Remember how in a previous post, I talked about making short-term and long-term goals? I also make to-do lists. Typically, I’ll start out making a weekly to-do list and prioritizing specific tasks per day depending on due dates and other things that I want to accomplish (workouts, author book-signings, reading the newest book pick). There’s something satisfying about being able to check things off of a list and the visual learner in me loves to see the list getting shorter and shorter throughout the week.
Sometimes, depending on what I’m working on, I’ll make my to-do lists in a digital tool, too. There are many out there, but one of my favorites is Trello, which allows you to make to-do lists, assign due dates, and create different “boards” that are correlated for project. This tool is especially helpful for group projects; it allows you and your team to assign different things to one another and ping each other when it’s time to get moving. For example, I can see when a UX designer I’m working with is finished with a wireframe and can start making adjustments on UI copy; I know when a marketing team I work with has finished updating and identifying keywords for SEO that I can go back and plug into content I’ve written for them.
3. I have meetings with myself.
This sounds all very Alice-in-Wonderland, but I promise it’s less about me and a pot of tea, and more about having a serious check-in with myself. At the end of the week, typically around Thursday early afternoon, I sit down and look at my calendars and to-do lists and have a heart-to-heart about what I have left to do for the week and what else I’ll be able to accomplish. As someone who is getting used to being a full-time freelancer, this is a very important part of my week, as I learn what’s realistic for me to take on and what isn’t.
Managing your time is one of the biggest challenges of being an adult, if I’m being honest. But as a freelancer, it’s probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your craft, and your business. Find out what works for you and always be reevaluating what is and isn’t working. What’s working for me now, may need tweaking in another 6 weeks, and that’s okay. Be honest about how you’re using your time, and not a minute will be wasted.
Allison is a former Creative Circle Account Executive, with a background in creative writing, content writing/strategy, publishing, and business development. Her world revolves around words and the relationships and interactions they inspire. Allison is now the Content Specialist at Raizlabs, a design and development firm in Boston and San Francisco.