When you are an employee, a large proportion of your time is usually mandated each working day. You need to be at your desk at an allotted time, dinner hours are scheduled to cover the times shared with your colleagues, and the end of the working day is synchronised with the masses. To a certain extent, even the tasks that you perform each day could be assigned, dead-lined, and confined to specific times of the day or week. For employees, much of their time management task is simply to fit in with the structure that employees them.
The empty canvas of distraction…
Freelancers are cursed with the freedom of time. For them, each day is an empty canvass which they can choose to fill with valuable actions, create income upon, or allow to be carried away with distraction. Time management for freelancers is a challenge they cannot afford to ignore. Most will have a ‘to do’ list which will contain a mixture of both client work and their own administration or business planning – but these lists alone hardly constitute managing time.
To truly make the most of the time you have available to you each day, defeat the constant pull of distraction, and stay clearly focused on the important tasks you need both a mindset and a system.
Developing a time-conscious mindset:
Most freelancers and contractors chose to be so through a desire to escape the grasp of a boss, improve their lifestyle or make more money. Sadly, many of those entrepreneurial ambitions soon got drowned under the pressures, admin and legislation of working for yourself. So the best way to create a strong, time-conscious mindset is to remember why you started in the first place.
If it was more family time that you desired then write down that goal: reacquaint yourself with the dream of being a better parent or spouse. Perhaps there was a financial goal or a number you wanted to reach to retire early? Or maybe you yearned to buy a yacht, Ferrari or holiday home. So go and get that number or picture in a spreadsheet and start working out the plan to reach it. What would have to happen today for that dream to become a reality?
The thing with having clear goals is that it focuses the mind and gives you clarity on what is important. Much of the stuff that freelancers and contractors get dragged into doing each day is not in the slightest bit relevant to the bigger goal they are chasing. If a task is an important step toward your chosen horizon ‘do it’! If it isn’t, either bin it or give it to someone else to do (and pay them a fraction of what you earn for their assistance).
Practical time management tools:
- Create a clear, written, step-by-step plan laying out exactly where you are going
- Remind yourself of your plan before anything else – at the start of each day
- Write tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list today: that way you start tomorrow focused!
- Only write important things on your ‘to do’ list
- Avoid emails or other external distractions (for at least the first three hours)
- Attend to your plan before doing your client’s work (even if it’s just for an hour a day)
- Measure how long tasks take and start setting deadlines for the next time
- Make sure your working environment is as conducive to productivity as possible
Make the most of being a freelancer and in control of your own time, income potential and lifestyle… or you may as well go back and get yourself a job.