By Problogger, Gina Blitstein
No matter how efficiently you get things done in the office or at home, when you become a Freelancer, you face a whole different challenge where time management is concerned. Suddenly, the only person breathing down your neck about bringing in clients and looming deadlines is you. On the one hand, it sounds very appealing to be in charge of your own destiny…and job satisfaction. On the other hand however, you are now solely in charge of your destiny and job satisfaction! Your entire work life has undergone an upheaval in location, context and priorities. Everything is different, including the people sharing your work space and the distractions that can keep you from getting and staying down to business. What practices can you adopt early on as a Freelancer to take command of the time that is now all your own? Let’s explore some ideas for keeping you focused and on track as you travel the road to success alone.
Leslie Shreve, Founder and Productivity Expert at Focus Consulting, gives these tips to optimize the Freelancer’s time management:
Keep track of tasks electronically. Capture all you need to do, have to do, want to do, and dream of doing all in one electronic task list that allows you to easily plan, prioritize and be proactive. To do lists are great because they provide a place to get everything out of your head, but if the to-dos are written on paper (and usually they’re on multiple papers), they are easily misplaced or lost. Not only this, but it’s actually impossible to effectively prioritize ALL of your responsibilities (tasks from e-mail, voice mail, snail mail, papers, files, post-it notes, meeting notes and more) every day without using an electronic task list, such as the one in Outlook, where you can quickly capture and reprioritize in a second.
Don’t let your time be lost, stolen or given away. Be sure to use only one calendar, also recommended to be electronic. Keep an eye on your calendar so that you allow enough time to process email, work your task list, work on projects, work on client work and still have time for personal tasks. If you are overcommitted and don’t have time for all you want to do, it’s time to start over and write down the most important things you must do personally and professionally, and then add to the list the things you’d like to do and then after that, those activities which would be nice to do. Compare this list with your calendar and block time for the “must dos” first. Fit in the rest of the list as time permits. Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything you’re invited to do. Something may have to give in order to fit in what you value the most. To determine what goes, you have to be aware of where your time goes now. Document everything and then choose what to cut, either temporarily or permanently.
Be selective and decisive. Watch out for subscribing to too much: magazines, newspapers, blogs, e-zines, newsletters, e-courses… and then there’s social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Plaxo, LinkedIn, MySpace and the list goes on and on. You could spend your whole day involved in all of these, but you need to budget your time. Be selective. Choose only those pieces of information which will serve you the most in growing you or your business - those things which could impact your bottom line the most - and unsubscribe to the rest. Limit your time to any one or a combination of these and if time permits after a few weeks or months, you can gradually add more into your schedule if there is value and time permits.
Create systems for finding and filing. One of the worst time bandits is disorganization. Make time in your calendar to get organized in paper files, e-files, tasks, and contacts. The more you can create systems you can trust and rely on, the more time you’ll save in the future because you’ll know exactly where to look to find what you need when you need it. Being organized and taking the time to maintain organization truly supports your business and your growth. Nothing hurts a bottom line more than losing paperwork, email, e-documents, follow-ups and contact information. It could translate into lost time and lost opportunities.
Don’t fall into the “I’ve got all day” trap. Being en entrepreneur and being in business for yourself can give you the sense of having all kinds of free time. However, be prepared: working from home can pose new challenges in the form of distractions and interruptions which can easily pull you away from your work. You may think you have all day, but it could slip away quickly unless you carefully make a plan for what time of day and days of the week you can focus on your work and when you can focus on your family or home. Consider what time of day you will be sharing the house with other family members, pets and anyone else that may break your focus. Use your quietest times of day and days of the week for your most important tasks. Don’t risk combining priorities with possible interruptions or distractions.
Although as a Freelancer your time is yours to spend as you see fit, armed with these useful suggestions, you can take charge of your schedule. It takes a combination of solid prioritizing, detailed preparation and steely focus. Your time is the most valuable commodity you posses as a Freelancer so it will serve you well to spend it wisely.
What are your time-thieves as a Freelancer?