Stop Wasting Time Today

How much time do you waste in a typical day?

Is it minutes, hours, or even more?

The real answer might surprise you. All of those distractions add up. Worst of all a distracted freelancer is a less productive freelancer–and that can cost you money.

In this post, I’ll examine six surprising areas that may be wasting your time. Then, I’ll suggest a strategy to help you avoid them.

Time Waster #1 Multi-tasking

We’ve all been taught that multi-tasking is a good thing, but the truth is that most of us can’t really focus on more than one thing at a time. Trying to do so can actually slow you down.

Let me share a personal example.

Recently I was using a virtual assistant to help me with a simple, repetitive task. The task took me just over two hours to complete.

For some reason, however, the virtual assistant claimed that the same task took her nearly four hours to complete. At first, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but after some probing, she admitted that she was trying to complete the task while answering emails and texts at the same time. No wonder the work took her twice as long.

You may believe that multi-tasking is helping you to get more done, but you’re probably just fooling yourself.

Time Waster #2 Indecision

Indecision can really slow you down. How many times have you struggled to get your work started, because you’re just not sure where to begin?

In my experience, it doesn’t matter whether you’re busy or not. Indecision can still be a problem:

  • If you’re too busy, the amount of work can seem overwhelming. Deciding which task to do first can delay you.
  • If you’re not busy enough, finding work may seem nearly impossible. You may have trouble deciding how best to market your freelancing business.

Believe me, I’ve been in both situations.

Time Waster #3 Anxiety

It’s very human and natural to worry. From time to time, all of us have situations that merit our concern.

But, dwelling on your worries doesn’t solve anything. It can even slow you down and keep you from getting your freelancing work done.

In a worst case scenario, too much anxiety can cause stress and make you sick. If you find that you can’t control your anxiety, it’s important to see a health professional.

Time Waster #4 Social Media

This time waster can be a surprise to some, because it’s becoming widely accepted that successful freelancers should have an online web presence.

I’m personally in favor of the use of social media for networking and promoting a freelancing business. But, there are some big traps to watch out for. Here are some of them:

  • Non-business related interactions. Admittedly, sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference.
  • Social media games. In most cases, playing a social media game adds no value to your freelancing business.
  • Reading and not interacting. Don’t lurk. Take part.
  • Losing track of time. Most of us probably spend more time on social media than we realize.

Social media can be a wonderful tool for freelancers, but only when used properly.

Time Waster #5 Reading the News

Freelancers need to stay informed. It’s important to know what is going on in the world around us. It’s also important to know what is changing and what is new in our field of expertise. The news can help with that.

But, it’s also possible to get caught up in reading sensational news stories during work time. Remember, the news sites’ business is to keep you reading.

If you’re reading news that doesn’t benefit your freelancing business during your work hours, you’re wasting time.

Time Waster #6 Personal Tasks

Separating work and personal tasks is a particular challenge for freelancers, because many of us work at home. Whatever task needs doing… dishes, laundry, yard work, and so on… is just a few steps away.

You need to be strong, though. Avoid the temptation to work on chores during work time. If you worked in a corporation, you wouldn’t drag a laundry basked to work and fold clothes at your desk, would you?

If you earn your livelihood as a freelancer, your freelancing business is at least as important as a corporate employer.

Move Beyond Wasting Time

You can overcome time wasters and reclaim some of your wasted time. Here’s how:

  • Quit multi-tasking. If you don’t believe that multi-tasking is ineffective, run a test. Perform a task while multi-tasking and time how long it takes you to finish it. Now, do the same task (or a similar task) without multi-tasking.
  • Plan your work. If you plan your days, you won’t wrestle with indecision. You’ll always know what you should be working on.
  • Overcome anxiety. Remind yourself that most of your worries are unlikely to come true. Get help if you need it.
  • Control social media. Limit the amount of time that you are on social media. Close social media notifications while you are working.
  • Read the news during off hours. Most of the time, you won’t miss much.
  • Schedule personal tasks. Most of the time we try to do personal chores during work because we don’t want these “unfun” tasks to keep us from relaxing. Schedule specific time for chores during the week.

Your Turn

What time wasters did I miss? How do you stay on task as a freelancer?

Share your answers below.

Image by Brian Smithson (Old Geordie)

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Comments

  1. says

    Laura,

    You are so correct that multi-tasking in fact works against you … it can be a big time waster. Making a plan / schedule for time is the biggest thing a business owner / entrepreneur /freelancer can do – that way you can stay on task and be sure to tackle the work that needs to get done. Time is our biggest asset in business!

    Also, sorry to hear of your not so great Virtual Assistant experience. Most VAs that charge by the hour in fact do not mix up time like this and ensure that time not spent on a client’s work is not included in billable time. (It is a big feature of using a VA). Many VAs also charge clients a package rate these days so you know the work gets done without having to worry about the time – just the end results.

    I hope you have worked out the bugs in that area with your VA

    Kathy Colaiacovo
    Marketing Director,
    IVAA

  2. says

    Laura,
    You are so correct that multi-tasking in fact works against you … it can be a big time waster. Making a plan / schedule for time is the biggest thing a business owner / entrepreneur /freelancer can do – that way you can stay on task and be sure to tackle the work that needs to get done. Time is our biggest asset in business!

    Also, sorry to hear of your not so great Virtual Assistant experience. Most VAs that charge by the hour in fact do not mix up time like this and ensure that time not spent on a client’s work is not included in billable time. (It is a big feature of using a VA). Many VAs also charge clients a package rate these days so you know the work gets done without having to worry about the time – just the end results.

    I hope you have worked out the bugs in that area with your VA.

    Kathy Colaiacovo
    Marketing Director,
    IVAA

  3. says

    Thanks Kathy Colaiacovo,

    Great to hear from you. Thanks for all your points.

    I’m sure the VA thought she was saving time, but it didn’t turn out to be that way.

    You bring some excellent ideas if I ever need a virtual assistant again. :)

    Laura

  4. says

    Multi-tasking in particular can kill you. Not literally, of course. The trap in multi-tasking is that while you think you’re getting a lot done that way, it just leaves MANY tasks with padded time. Think of it this way: the energy you’re spending on getting a few things done at once could be spent focusing on and completing a single, high-priority work in stages. A narrow scope is great for not letting those larger projects, personal or professional, overwhelm you. Multi-tasking invites that potential by itself.

  5. says

    Driving in heavy traffic is my big time waster. I live in a metro area of 850,000+, and some people still drive 10 mph under the speed limit. Then you have those who roll to the stoplights, blocking the turn lanes. And on and on. ACK!

    My other time waster is computers slowed down by unnecessary programs or processes. Case in point: I got a new HP printer a couple of years ago. Apparently someone at HP decided that none of us who use their printers was smart enough to look and see if the little green power light was on. Because when I started Windows, an HP program would take over my computer and check the entire system to see if the printer was on. If it wasn’t, I’d get a message that said “Printer is not connected.” Yes, it was — it just wasn’t turned on!

    This program would hang up everything on my computer until it was finished scanning. I timed it one morning, and it took 25 minutes before I could open a web browser and sign on to access my client’s files. TWENTY. FIVE. MINUTES.

    I finally uninstalled everything except the actual printer driver, and it stopped. But now I can’t use the scanner unless I print a blank page, pause the printer, delete the item to be printed and then access the scanner from that screen. Instead of just touching the Scan button on the printer and having it work the way it should. Sigh. . . . .

  6. says

    Laura,

    Great tips here on time wasters. I read an interesting article that covered a study on multi-tasking. The scientist conducting the study said that it is physically impossible to multi-task. What we’re really doing (when we think we’re multi-tasking) is rapidly switching our focus from one task to another.

  7. says

    It’s really hard to manage time especially when you’ve got more than one client and lots of stuff to do. It does not help that Facebook is so tempting either.

    One thing I think freelancers need to consider, if they have the resources, is to find someone who can handle the admin and social media tasks. This should save one a lot of time and allow them to focus more on the task at hand.

  8. says

    A narrow scope is great for not letting those larger projects, personal or professional, overwhelm you. Multi-tasking invites that potential by itself.

  9. says

    buy facebook likeif they have the resources, is to find someone who can handle the admin and social media tasks. This should save one a lot of time and allow them to focus more on the task at hand.s

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