5 Time Management Tips for Freelancers

Do you find that you’re constantly up against the clock? Is managing your work / life balance an ongoing battle?

Freelancers frequently find the main barrier to developing and growing their client base is their own time.

William Penn, businessman and philosopher said “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst,” few of us would argue with this sentiment.

Even in this day and age of technological advancement, no one has yet discovered a way of fitting more than 24 hours in one day, so here are some tips designed to help us maximize the benefit of the hours we have available to us.

Here are five tips to help you manage your time.

Tip 1: De-clutter

This may not apply to everyone, but if your workspace is a mass of post-it notes, scribbled to-do lists and scraps of paper with phone numbers and names on them, then a cleanup is in order. Clear your desk of everything that you don’t use every day–you don’t need to throw it all away, but either file it or put it in a drawer.

Author Karen Kingston wrote, “Being clear of clutter is one of the greatest aids I know to discovering and manifesting the life you want.”

Tip 2: Make a List

It is a good idea to take ten minutes at the start of your day and create a list with everything you need to do on it, then prioritize the tasks by evaluating whether they have to be done today. Some tasks may not be high priority, but can be completed while in the car, on a train or waiting in a queue somewhere, so keep your list with you wherever you go.

When you complete a task, cross it off your list–You’ll feel like you’re making progress and it will give you a sense of satisfaction. I’ve even been known to add a task that I’ve already completed to the top of my list, and then cross it out straight away, just so that I feel as if I’ve already started!

Tip 3: Set a Deadline and Stick to It

Managing how long you allocate to particular tasks is key in retaining control of your time. Be realistic when setting a deadline. If you give yourself one day for a task that will take at least two, you’ve already set yourself up to fail, either in the quality of work you produce–because you are rushing, or in managing your time successfully. While it is true that a task takes the exact amount of time allocated to it, you can control this by respecting your deadlines.

Tip 4: Manage Interruptions

Once you’ve prioritized your tasks you can focus on completing them and crossing them off the list– if only it were that simple! Phone calls, emails, task reminders, the list could go on and on, there are numerous interruptions that will steal our time and limit productivity, so what can we do about them?

In his renowned book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr Stephen Covey introduced the concept of the time management matrix, consisting of four quadrants representing where we spend our time.

  • Quadrant 1 is important and urgent tasks–such as pressing problems & deadline driven projects.
  • Quadrant 2 is important but not urgent tasks such as relationship building, planning and recognizing new opportunities.
  • Quadrant 3 is not important but urgent tasks including activities deemed to be interruptions (i.e certain calls or emails).
  • Quadrant 4 is not urgent and not important tasks such as trivia and time-wasters.

The key to being able to use this tool to help us is to identify in which quadrants we spend our time. We all have tasks that fall into quadrant 1 that must be done, they are part of life.

The essence of Covey’s message is we need to control the activities we spend our time on, and he suggests that if we make time for quadrant 2 activities, they will add the most value to our time and also reduce the number of activities that fall into quadrant 1.

Activities from quadrants 3 and 4 are to be avoided wherever possible. If you don’t know where your time goes, draw up your own version of the matrix and be honest with yourself, it could help you identify those things that consume your time but don’t add any value.

Tip 5: Collaborate

If you find yourself in the fortunate position of being offered more work than you can manage, instead of reluctantly turning it down, why not build relationships with other freelancers and get them to carry out the work for you. This is a win-win situation. Chances are, they will be delighted at the opportunity to work for a new client (You!), you will be able to retain your client and receive an income from a project you didn’t complete. You’ve also increased your network with the added benefit that your new freelance partner might even direct some work your way in future.

I’ll leave the final word to American author H. Jackson Brown who said, “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

What About You?

How do you keep from wasting time?

Share your answers in the comments.

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