There are many incredible benefits to being a freelancer, like picking your own clients and creating your own schedule. But without the structure of an office and the oversight of a manager or supervisor, some freelancers find themselves struggling to remain productive when there are plenty of distractions during the day.
Time management is an essential skill in order to become a successful freelancer, and it can take practice to build up the habits you need. You might also not be sure where to start, as time management looks different for different people.
In this article, we’ll help you get important tips and tactics you can use to boost productivity during the work day and improve your time management skills.
16 Strategies for Managing Your Time as a Freelancer
There are many different tactics and strategies that you can employ to help you build time management skills and improve your productivity.
While you might not need all of these tips, it’s helpful to have a list to choose from as you figure out what methods work best for your needs and freelancing goals.
1. Create Practical To-Do Lists
A to-do list of tasks is a great tool to use to help organize your day or your week. However, if your to-do list becomes too complicated, it can make your workload seem overwhelming.
Rather than listing absolutely everything you need to do, try breaking down your to-do list into practical steps and plan out reasonable goals for each day, week, and month to stay on track.
2. Use a Calendar
Using a calendar helps you break down your day into chunks and allows you to organize your tasks in a visual manner, which is helpful for many people.
You can organize your time into different segments so you know exactly which tasks you are working on, and block out time that you need for different tasks, so you don’t have to wonder what is coming up next.
3. Take Breaks
Being productive isn’t just going at full speed all day long. In order to be productive, you need to take breaks and plenty of them.
Remember that in the office you are getting up to get a drink, get some food, use the bathroom, converse with coworkers, and go to meetings. At home, it can be easy to get stuck at your desk and forget to get up.
By planning breaks into your schedule, you can reset your brain and stretch your muscles, all of which may help you to be more productive when you return to your seat.
4. Learn to Prioritize
Not every task you have during the day has the same level of importance.
One important time management skill is making sure that you organize your tasks so that the most important things get done first, so you don’t have to scramble to finish a big project or meet a deadline.
By prioritizing, you won’t have to worry about running out of time and will be able to plan out your days more accurately.
5. Don’t Practice Multitasking
While, in some circumstances, multitasking can be a helpful skill, when it comes to freelance productivity it’s often the opposite.
When you are trying to do multiple tasks at the same time, like working on different projects or with different clients, you can end up letting things slip through the cracks.
It’s better to pay full attention to one task so that you can dedicate all your energy to that specific task.
6. Automate and Create Templates
Repetitive tasks can take up more of your valuable time than you think.
If you are writing the same email over and over again or putting together outlines that are the same structure from scratch for each project, you aren’t using your time effectively.
Creating templates and automating tasks when you can, helps reduce the time wasted on repeating steps and helps you streamline your efficiency.
7. Stick to a Regular Schedule
If your daily schedules are all over the place, it can be hard to stay focused. In a traditional workplace, you have clear hours of operation and can get into a 9-5 groove.
As a freelancer, however, you might end up working different hours or have different days off. By creating a consistent daily schedule, you can train your brain to be more productive during specific hours each day.
8. Track Your Time
Tracking your time is more than just a way to charge your clients by the hour. It’s also a helpful practice to develop better time management skills.
When you track your time, you can learn more about your habits and how long it actually takes to complete a task. This helps you organize your calendar accurately and helps you visualize what your workload looks like with realistic hours for each project.
9. Use a Project Management Tool
Trying to organize yourself manually can sometimes take more time than it helps save. A project management tool helps to automate some of the organizational steps of your planning process and helps you keep track of projects.
When you have a tool, you can even share it with your clients so that everyone is on the same page and communication is streamlined.
10. Eliminate Distractions
It’s always tempting to pick up your phone and browse social media or send some texts to friends instead of working.
Eliminating common distractions is a great way to help your mind stay focused on the task at hand.
Try putting your phone in airplane mode or turning it off during work blocks and cut out any other noises or distractions like televisions or chores when it’s time to work.
11. Give Yourself Rewards
At the office, you might get a reward like a compliment in a meeting, a free lunch, or a fun group activity for a job well done.
When you work for yourself, however, it can be easy to forget to reward yourself for your hard work.
Try giving yourself rewards when you accomplish big goals, like taking time for a special hobby, taking a day trip somewhere, or treating yourself to your favorite meal.
12. Monitor Your Workload
If your workload becomes too overwhelming and heavy, it can be difficult to stay focused and productive with the stress that comes from overwork.
Make sure that you are monitoring your workload and aren’t taking on too much.
After all, you can’t do your best work if you are struggling to finish a large number of projects. Instead, learn to say no and keep your workload at a reasonable level.
13. Start with the Least Appealing Task
If you have a task that you dislike doing, it can feel like it takes up the whole day. Rather than spending your time dreading this, do it first.
After you’ve finished your least appealing task and have it out of the way, it can feel like you have more energy than before and that your other to-do activities don’t seem as complicated.
This makes it less challenging to finish all the tasks that are expected to be out the day.
14. Create a Dedicated Workspace
It’s easy to know you are at work when you go into an office. However, most freelancers work from their homes. In tight quarters, that might mean working from the kitchen table or in your bedroom.
If you can, try creating a dedicated workspace, even if it’s just a desk in the corner of another room. When you have a designated work area, you can help create the habit of “going to work”, which prepares you mentally for the day ahead and helps you eliminate distractions.
15. Use the Pomodoro Technique
Using a structured time management technique can be a great help to freelancers who are beginning their careers or know that they struggle with productivity.
The Pomodoro technique is a helpful method for chronic procrastinators, where you set intervals of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break.
This method helps you stay focused and gives you the breaks you need to remain productive during your work period.
16. Practice Self-Care
In order to be productive, you need to be healthy in various aspects of life, including physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Make sure you are practicing self-care. Drink water, eat healthy and nutritious meals, get plenty of sleep, and have an active social life.
This will help you improve your overall health and remain productive while working.
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Being a freelancer is an appealing career for many individuals who want to be their own boss and take control of their work days.
However, being a freelancer means you are responsible for developing the habits that will make you successful, like time management and productivity.
By using these tips, you can create patterns of behavior that allow you to be a better manager of your time and feel more confident in your freelance work.
Being unproductive and wasting time are just a few of the common mistakes that freelancers make when they first get started.
If you are beginning a freelance career and want some advice, check out our blog on freelance mistakes to avoid. There you’ll learn about some of the common pitfalls of freelancing and discover how you can avoid making those mistakes yourself.