Editorial note: All Guest Post authors share their views and experiences, and do not represent Week of Saturdays.
Structuring your day as a freelancer can be quite tough. You have tons of tasks on your to-do list, several deadlines fast approaching, interruptions here and there and you can’t seem to focus, especially if you work from home.
As a freelancer, you are going to have bright sunny days, when everything is just right – you feel good about your work, your projects are coming out great and things are just rosy but you will also have dark, rainy days when everything seems to turn upside down and you find yourself running out of time. At such times, your mental toughness and habits you have formed over time will keep you going.
Time management is one of the biggest internal struggles that freelancers face and being productive becomes a major challenge. Everyone gets 24 hours each day and if you do not make the most of them, your productivity suffers, alongside your source of income.
To succeed as a freelancer (indeed in any profession), you need to be great at managing your time effectively. Having a schedule provides structure to your day and allows you to get more done in good time.
Here are a few tips to help you structure your day for success:
Structure your day in advance
Before you retire for the day, make a list of the things you will need to accomplish the next day; then set out action plans on how to accomplish them. They may not necessarily be in any particular order but planning your day the night before, helps you to know exactly what you want to do the next day and gives you clarity on the things you hope to achieve.
When planning your day, it helps to be realistic about the number of tasks you can accomplish in a day. If you pile up many tasks in one day, you may end up getting burnout or feeling disappointed that you didn’t check out everything on your list.
This particular method has helped me stay organized and productive as each time I plan my day ahead, I find myself achieving more than I usually would if I didn’t have a plan.
Do the difficult things first (swallow the frog)
You see that task you have been avoiding? That is the one you need to tackle first. It is important to do that hard task first and get it out of the way; that way, you know you have accomplished a big part of your day and other tasks become simpler in comparison. Even if you do not accomplish any other thing, you can still say you did something at least.
Taking the hard task out of the way also helps you to focus better because you will not be thinking about the dreaded task. For me, doing this has helped me get more done as I am able to breeze through the rest of my tasks once the hard, dreaded task is done.
Consolidate similar tasks
Instead of trying to get a lot of different tasks done at once, you can group similar tasks together and get them done in the same time frame. For instance, you can schedule a time frame for replying to all your emails or making all your phone calls. This way you are able to focus better on the task at hand and be more productive during that scheduled time frame.
Set up tasks in time frames
Jumping from task to task can make you feel like you are getting something done. It is actually more productive to take on one big task, schedule a time frame out of your day and focus on it.
I have noticed that staying on a task for too long will make me lose focus, so I use the Tomato timer during the selected time frame and focus on one particular task without interruption. The Tomato timer is simply a Pomodoro technique of focusing deeply on a task/project for 25 minutes without interruption, then 5 minutes break before the cycle begins again.
Determine your work hours
It is typical to suggest to you to set your work hours from 9 am to 5 pm or from 8 am to 4 pm but that is not how it works.
As a freelancer, your personal life is unconsciously juxtaposed with your work life so you find yourself working late into the night, weekends or early mornings. Whether you work from midnight to 6 am or from 7 am to 3 pm, it is up to you to determine what works for you and set your own work hours.
Doing this will give you a routine to follow and put some structure into your work-life as a freelancer.
Decide what time of the day you work best and set your work hours so you know when you are supposed to be working. After all, this is your job. This is how you get paid. Treat your freelancing job like you are going to work, get your head into the work during your scheduled work hours and take breaks as at when due.
Use time-tracking apps
If you are freelancing, chances are you do not work from a dedicated office, so tracking the time you spend on clients’ projects becomes important especially if you get paid by the hour.
Time flies when you are working and it is easy to lose track of time as you work. Keeping track of your time can help you figure out if you are working efficiently. It can also help you figure out how to bill your clients accurately and earn the money you deserve. Of course, you can still check your Twitter or Instagram – you just need to plan for it and track the time spent on social media so you won’t get distracted.
Take a break and give your brain a rest. No-one is really productive 24 hours a day. As you work, you probably sit down for prolonged periods of time which makes your body stiff. Take a break, stretch or just rest. It is important to take some time to refresh, return to your tasks with a renewed mindset and get more work done.
How do you remain productive throughout the day? What are your best strategies? Share in the comments below.