Would you like to earn more or less for the time you spend working?
For several years, I was a freelance journalist living off various writing commissions. Although some commissions paid by the hour, I was still expected to complete them within a set period. For others, I was only paid for getting the job done. This type of freelance work meant I earned less for my time if I spent twenty hours on a commission that should have only taken ten.
I learned the hard way that making a living means finishing freelance projects on time. Even if you aren’t a freelancer, you still have deadlines. Here are three simple but effective time-management tips will help you manage your time and become more productive.
- Make Friends With Your Calendar
The calendar is the productive freelancer’s best friend. It should be yours too. Get deadlines and appointments out of your head and into Google calendar, Outlook or some other tool you trust.
At the end of every working week, spend twenty minutes reviewing your calendar. Check what’s coming up for the next seven days and what happened over the previous seven days. While reviewing the previous seven days, ask questions like:
- What took up the most of my time last week?
- Are these activities likely to reoccur?
- What resources do I need to complete these activities faster?
While reviewing the coming week, consider:
- What do I need to prioritize?
- Am I likely to meet or miss my imminent deadlines?
- What’s my most important task this week?
The review is your chance to add any missing activities to you calendar and to identify commitments that you need to renegotiate. This will also help you plan for future projects secure in the knowledge that you have the resources and time to complete them.
- Guard Your Best Self
You undoubtedly have have lots other responsibilities related to your commitments. For example, mine include:
- Preparing invoices
- Making pitches
- Managing email
Your best self is the time of the day when you’re fresh and most productive. These other tasks are important, but you can accomplish them during the hours of the day when you’re tired. Depending on your working environment you can guard you best self by:
- Using a proven productivity system like the Pomodoro technique for your most important tasks of the day
- Disconnecting from social media, email and even internet
- Letting your colleagues know what you’re working on and when they can expect to hear from you
This strategy will succeed if you understand the rhythms of your day and if you attend to your other responsibilities after you’ve completed your most important task.
- Track, Track And Track Again
Freelance journalists learn how to write fast. They need to eat. They need to sleep. And they need to get working on their next commission. I spent almost an entire week on my first 3,000 plus word feature article for a national newspaper. I carried out long, multiple interviews and spent hours researching the topic online and offline.
I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but much of this research and many of these interviews were unnecessary. So, I started tracking how I spent my time, and I used this self-knowledge to speed up.
You can track how you’re spending time on your projects by:
- Setting a timer on your computer or phone when you’re working on a project
- Making a brief note in a professional journal or log at the end of the day of how and where you spent your time
- Reviewing your log, journal or timesheet at least once a week to see what’s holding you back
Tracking your work may seem tedious at first, but it will help you figure out which projects are taking longer than others, how you can complete these projects quicker and even if you should accept projects like these in the future.
It will also make it easier to submit your invoices at the end of the month, and this self-knowledge will give you the confidence to negotiate a better rate from your next client.
Spending Your Reward
I’m not a freelance journalist anymore, but I’ve never forgotten the power of a deadline and the important of finishing projects within set time period. If you’re having trouble managing how you spend your time on projects, review your calendar and commitments, do your most important work when you’re productive, and track what’s working and what’s causing you problems.
If you succeed, you’ll have time to make even more money by working on new commissions. Or you could take break. How you spend your hard-earned time is your choice.
Question: What tips do you have for those who struggle with time management? You can leave a comment by clicking here.