How to Manage Your Time Effectively

Freelancing is one of the best jobs in the world. You can manage your own time, work at your own pace, and there’s no boss badgering you to do this or that. However, free time can be both a gift and a curse. On one hand, you can do what you want with your time–but most of the time, you might end up wasting time due to the many distractions in a freelancer’s workspace. You might end up rushing to meet the deadline at the last minute. Wasted time means wasted resources and money.

Time is a freelancer’s biggest asset. If you want to maximize your time and reap the rewards, you must know how to properly manage your time.

Discipline Yourself to Avoid Procrastination

Photo by Marco Michelini

Proper time management does not require a skill set, nor does it require innate talent. Time management merely requires self-discipline. We are our own bosses after all. I admit that I used to be very distracted when i was supposed to be working. I used to spend hours on Facebook and Twitter without even realizing the precious time wasted doing nothing. I wasn’t very productive, and had very little output, which meant I wasn’t making the money I wanted to be. I realized that I need to step up my game. Self-realization is the first step to achieving your goal.

Create a work schedule.

Photo by Gamookie

Most freelancers work erratic hours, working only when they feel like it. This can be detrimental for your health and your work ethic. Sometimes, it’s tempting to continue to work through the night in order to finish things–and yet other times, we waste too much time procrastinating. Since this is not a 9 to 5 job, and no boss imposes a work schedule for you, it’s your assignment to create your own weekly schedule. Schedule everything–not only your work schedule, but also time for yourself, your friends and your family.

Specify your goals or objectives.

Goal setting will help you keep your focus when working on a task or project. Without specified goals, you tend to work slower, with less accomplishment and with less determination. Write your goals for each day, week or month and specify a deadline. Even if your clients do not demand strict deadlines, take the initiative of creating your own target dates. This will allow you to avoid cramming and improve the quality of work.

Categorize and prioritize.

One of the most challenging parts of freelancing? You are a one man team. You are now forced to do all the things on your own: marketing, PR, providing quotes, recording financial statements, promotions, customer service, networking, designing and writing. With all the different tasks to do in the course of a week, it will help to categorize and prioritize your tasks. Group similar tasks, set aside a scheduled time. For example, rather than responding to e-mails the moment you receive them, why not set aside a time each day and reply to all your e-mails at once? This will save you great time. Prioritize the more challenging and more important tasks first before going to the minor ones.

Organize your desktop.

Photo by George Brett

Freelancers’ work generally revolves around the use of computers. Get rid of the clutter near your computer! An organized workspace is very helpful to maximizing your time and efficiency.  A clean desktop will ensure that you won’t be wasting any time looking for your things. All your tools should be ready, visible and within reach.

Take quick breaks.

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re in the zone. You can find yourself working for hours straight, especially if you’re enjoying what you’re doing. If you’re not careful, this can lead to burnout and a lower efficiency rate. It will lead to taking breaks longer than you should, or worse, sleeping at your job. Take quick, three-minute breaks to stretch your back. Have a quick snack. Go out and take a breather. It may not seem like much, but it will make a huge difference in your work quality.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Photo by Nikki

Don’t overwork yourself! Don’t cramp up too many projects into your schedule in the hopes of making more money. If you force yourself into doing more work than you should, the quality of your work will be compromised. Overworking can cause stress, pressure, and resentment with your job. Take it easy, and find a time to relax. Find time to do things you love and spend time with loved ones–there should really be a work-life balance. Just like any work, freelancing can be stressful. Find time to do activities for you to unwind. Separate yourself from work 1-2 times a week to take part in fun activities outside your line of work.

Time Management Tools to Help You

Thankfully for us, the internet and technology has provided us with many tools that will help us maximize our time. Here are a few tools that I recommend you to use for your future projects:

Time Tracking and Management Tool: Rescue Time

Rescue Time is a productivity and time management tool that can maximize your time to the fullest. What does it do? Basically it is a time tracking tool. It records the time you spent working and the time you spent on other non work-related matters. Do you know that your quick visits to your Facebook page eats up almost 30% of your day’s work? Rescue Time is a powerful tool to determine how efficient you are in a day.

What are the benefits of Rescue Time? It increases your productivity. You will know if you are overworked and overloaded, or the opposite. Rescue Time provides you a comprehensive analysis of a day’s work. Information on how many hours you spent on social networking sites, entertainment, editing, writing, and business related matters. You can select the ‘Get Focused’ option to voluntarily block the web sites that are big distractions to your projects

Similar online programs include Toggl and Bill4Time. If you want a downloadable time tracker tool for your desktop, you can try yaTimer.

To do list: Remember the Milk

There are several online ‘to do list’ tools and programs, but Remember the Milk is one of the best out there. It’s fun and easy to use. You can plan your daily, weekly and monthly tasks. You can categorize tasks according to priority or difficulty. Get reminded about your tasks and assignments everywhere — via e-mail, SMS, Yahoo or Skype. That way, you won’t have ANY excuse to forget anything.

Similar programs include Toodledo and Ta-da Lists.

Calendar: 30 Boxes

A calendar tool will come in handy for all Freelancers. It’s the best way to keep track of deadlines and to schedule your time and priorities wisely. It’s a great tool to organize stuff, track RSVPs, get stuff on time and remember important birthdays and events. Another similar program is Google Calendar.

Task Management Tool: Backpack It

Multitasking is an integral skill all freelancers should have. Freelancers may need to manage multiple tasks and projects at the same time. There will be different tasks that you need to finish. Backpack It is an online tool that can help you manage multiple rojects without forgetting everything. Make to do lists for each project, set up pages and keep and share important documents, all in one place.

Mind Mapping Tool: Mind 42

Mind 42 is a mind mapping tool that organizes your ideas, thoughts and concepts into a tree diagram. It is the solution to organizing and tracking ideas that you can share with your clients, colleagues and co-workers online. You can add images,notes and URL links to get your point across if words alone won’t accomplish it. You can create mind maps individually, or brainstorm as a group since it works in real-time. It’s perfect for managing multiple freelance projects simultaneously.
Contact Management Tool: Plaxo

Freelancers both big and small will need to handle their contact pool well. Thus, you need a good management tool like Plaxo to record contact information of your clients, colleagues, employees, employers and more. Plaxo is a user-friendly web-based tool that organizes contacts with a dash of social media. It can sync through other programs including Address Book and Microsoft Outlook. High Rise is a similar web-based contact management tool you can also try.

Rachel Arandilla

Rachel Arandilla is a curious subject -- she appreciates things that are quirky & clever. She loves spontaneity and adventure. She is a carefree soul, has a deep love for travel, culture and languages. And she's beginning to wonder she keeps on referring to herself in third person perspective.

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  1. says

    I only disagree on two points:
    1) I think it’s impossible to reply all the email in one single moment during a day, some email could be urgent. I think a good compromise could be to have three moments for email responding: before starting to work (in the morning), before the lunch and before to quit (in the evening).
    2) I prefer to start from simple tasks and finish with the hardest ones. So I can see immediately part of the work completed, having an early feedback and helps with self satisfaction.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

  2. Abhisek says

    Very insightful advice and helpful tools. Just something I want to add: Using Google Apps for domains for all these purposes can be a good idea. I use Google Cal (for reminders and schedules), Mail, Docs, Tasks (for todos). Google Drawing can also be used as a mind-mapping tool. The new connectors feature comes handy here. For simple count-down stuff, one can use :-)

  3. says

    One thing, just avoid the internet completely if you can. If not, don’t use browsers like RockMelt offering a thousand types of notifications…

  4. says

    You forgot to mention eating plenty of Haribo’s. Crucial for keeping the sugar at optimum level, thusly allowing the brain to function at 9000 rpm!!!

  5. Vicky says

    Absolutely true!!!!!
    As a freelancer me too make these mistakes of wasting too many hours on social networking. Really good post.