Joining the dots of time management for contractors
It seems that we live in an age where we are all too busy all of the time. Where modern technology, with all of its whizzy tools and clever gadgets, is supposed to help us, it seems that it is offset by the amount of work constantly being demanded of the time that we have freed up. Surely we should be able to reach the place where enough is enough – where personal output reaches its pinnacle and people are happy with 100%.
How can you actually give 110% anyway? Surely trying to give more of ourselves than we have available is part of the reason so many people suffer from the stress of busyness in modern life. We’ve all heard of the ‘cruel tyrant’ boss scenario, where they try and draw every last drop of blood or effort from their weary workforce. My advice there would be to just leave. But, if you are a contractor, working for yourself – surely you get to set your own rules and work the way you want to work. Wasn’t that part of the attraction of going self-employed in the first place?
You can’t create time – just use it better!
As you know, I am a huge fan of technology and using the latest add-ons and apps, alongside the time-saving brilliance of systems like Free Agent. Ironically, I seem to spend a lot of my time writing about, talking about and preaching to the uninformed and the resistant about the value of such software solutions.
But I also love the good, old-fashioned, time-tested and failsafe time management methods which anyone can embrace. Here are a few for you to try:
Get dotty about repetition: All you need for this one is a red pen. This was an old accountant’s trick from the dark ages of pre-cloud computing. It simply stated that every time you pick up a piece of paper then put it down again without taking any action you put a red dot on the paper. Once a piece of paper had three red dots, it proved that you were procrastinating and meant that you had to deal with it there and then – or file it. This is still a great piece of self-management.
Make to-do list smarter: Simply by having a to-do list, you put yourself in the productive majority. Most lists, however, don’t work as well as the could for these reasons: They are too long, and you never get everything on them done (so you always end up moving tasks across to the next day). There are no deadlines on the list, and no one else is holding you responsible for getting the things on there done. And finally, We tend to do the easy, box-ticking tasks at the expense of the important ones.
So turn your task list into a productivity list – tackle the tough jobs first, and the rest of your day will be a breeze. Review your list at the beginning of the day – is it achievable or do you need to reschedule anything? Hold yourself to account – finish the tasks on today’s list today.
It’s all about the environment: In the old days, all you had to do was close the door and take the phone off the hook if you wanted some focused ‘get stuff done’ time. Things have changed now, and it is important to remember that email, text and every other beeping notification is still an interruption. The science is irrefutable when it comes to disturbances in your concentration: Every single time someone or something breaks your line of thought it takes at least ten minutes to get back – and those minutes soon turn into hours.
The beauty of working for yourself, as a freelancer or contractor, is that you are your own boss. You get to control your environment, and you get to call the shots on how you use your time. Or at least that is how it should be! So, go on, join the dots and take control now.