Working from home may have many perks. While you are structuring your day as a freelancer, it can be challenging with tons of tasks stacked on your to-do list. Apart from a stronger set of skills, plenty of hard work, and the willingness to learn, there are many more factors that can work in your favor if you are a freelancer.
When things get messy, it becomes tough to focus, particularly when you have plenty of strict deadlines, amidst several interruptions, approaching faster than you expected.
As a freelancer, you don’t always face ‘good’ days when everything’s going just right, you are feeling good about your work, your projects are achieving milestones and it’s all rosy and happy. You might often face tougher days when you seem to run out of time with everything running just upside down.
This stage in your career, as a freelancer, requires you to be disciplined, remove bad habits, and own mental toughness. These can make things count and bring everything back on track to keep you going.
One of the biggest struggles that often freelancers face is time management and the real challenge is to continue being productive. You need to make most out of a 24 hours day to boost your productivity and income.
If you don’t master your own time management, it will be hard to be productive which will cause stress and may even lead to losing clients.
Not just as a freelancer, any profession requires you to manage your time and have a production schedule to get more work done in lesser time. How can you manage your day and become more productive and successful? Here are a few smart freelancing tips and keys to a successful career.
Plan your day in advance
Planning is one of the best things that you can do to set yourself for success as a freelancer. Instead of doing random things or worrying that you forget something, writing everything down is a much better way to organize your work and clear up your mind.
I personally use a whiteboard that hangs on a wall next to my workplace.
If you don’t have one – don’t worry. You can simply use a notepad or one of the fancy mobile apps on your phone to plan your day.
If you decide to start planning your days in advance, here is a good suggestion of how you can do it. At the end of the day, plan your next day in advance with a list of things to accomplish and action plans set out for the same. You shall get clarity on the kind of things you expect to achieve. You should be more realistic about the number of tasks you can finally accomplish.
Planning too many tasks in a day might make you feel exhausted and disappointed by the end of the day. You shouldn’t also plan every 30 minutes of your day but rather have some breaks. This kind of schedule will help you stay on track yet you will have some flexibility for situations when things don’t go as expected. Smart and realistic planning can help you be more organized and boost your levels of productivity.
Start with the most difficult and urgent tasks
Is there a list of tasks that you have been avoiding so far? Exactly, those are the kind of tasks that you need to take up first. Get the harder tasks out of the way and make sure that you have accomplished a bigger part of your day. The rest of the tasks seem to be less complicated when compared with the first.
Taking the harder tasks out of the way should help you to focus well without you having to think about the dreaded tasks. You can expect yourself to achieve more.
Batch similar tasks
If you’re like me, you will find yourself having to do 10 different things that aren’t directly related to the outcomes that you provide for your clients.
Those can include things like sending invoices, answering emails, working on your marketing, and many others.
Doing them during your typical work hours can be a major distraction.
There’s no point in doing them one after another if you can group similar tasks first and complete them together with a single point of focus. Get them done in the same time frame or even better – on the same day.
Schedule a time frame, make phone calls, and reply to your mails in that particular time frame. It ensures that you will not just focus better but also be a little more productive in that time frame. Staying on one task for too long can make you lose focus and hamper your productivity. Take on similar or bigger tasks at a time and focus.
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Avoid social media during work
Spending time on social media when it’s not a part of your work makes less sense when you are overburdened with plenty of work and find yourself helpless to manage them effectively.
You can make use of apps to track the time you have actually spent on social media. Spending time on social media uselessly will divert your attention and keep yourself less focused often persuading you to push your tasks for later!
You have to try to avoid distractions as much as you can and stay focused on the project you’re doing.
Some people are simply addicted to their phones or social media.
I’m partially guilty of that as well. If you’re the same, a great piece of advice that I can give you is to go on social media diet for one or two days.
I sometimes do this myself. I pick one day in a week (usually it’s Sunday) and I don’t use any social media websites or apps during that day.
The next day after that I feel much more focused, productive, and less anxious. It works really well.
Use time tracking apps
For freelancers, it might be tough to track the time spent on clients’ projects particularly because in most cases, they don’t work from a dedicated office.
Even though I’m not a fan of hourly billing, tracking the duration spent on a project becomes important especially if you are paid by the hour. Time flies for the ones who are dedicated to working and losing track of time as you work can be easy.
Time tracking apps should help you explore how you should actually bill your clients and whether you are billing them accurately. They will also allow you to find out whether you are spending your time productively or not. It makes sense to take short breaks for relaxation and spending time on social media for the same purpose is justified if you can plan things well without getting distracted.
There are many apps that can actually help you keep a reliable track of your actual work hours. Some of them use the Pomodoro technique, others just let you schedule your own breaks. It doesn’t make a big difference which app you use as long as it helps you stay on track and be productive.
It’s not possible for everyone to be completely productive almost 24 hours a day hence your brain deserves a rest for which you must take short breaks in between. Sitting for longer durations of time for work can make your body stiff so take a break, rest or simply stretch. It becomes extremely important to take some time out to refresh your mind and get back to work with a fresher mindset to enhance productivity.
I personally like to take a short nap during the day to clear up my mind. Another great way to refresh yourself is to go for a walk.
It’s amazing what some fresh air and movement can do for you.
If you’ve tried one of these activities and they don’t work well for you – no problem. Everybody is different.
You can try listening to some music, watching a short movie, reading what you love, or playing a game. You will be surprised at how you can get more work done in a shorter time frame.
Setting your work hours every day might not always work for freelancers who often rant on their personal lives being mixed with their work life. With poor time management, you will only find yourself end up working on weekends, late nights, or during odd hours when you actually desired to avoid work.
Offer yourself some routine to work and put some structure into your work life, one of the most sensible ways to succeed as a freelancer who can finally make clients happy and successful.
Being a solo entrepreneur is not an easy task. Unlike working as an employee, you need to manage a lot of things that are not directly related to the services you provide.
If you want to build a successful career as a freelancer, you must be disciplined and know how to manage your time.
Otherwise, you may end up with a lot of stress due to missed deadlines and not being productive.