Time management is a major issue for freelancers and small business people. It can often seem difficult to create and stick to a workable schedule when there is no one to answer to. No matter where you work, there are bound to be distractions and some basic tasks can seem to take a frustratingly long time, leaving too little time for the real money-making tasks.
Here are some tips to help freelancers avoid the pitfalls associated with time management and to create a more manageable work schedule.
- Outsource menial tasks. Successful freelancers may be able to create an operating budget that will allow them to hire a virtual assistant. Sites like Elance and oDesk help freelancers connect with assistants who can get simple work-related tasks done. The quality of worker on these sites varies, but there are tools to help assistant-seekers select high quality employees. Your Man in India is a site that connects freelancers and assistants in a similar way. However, the assistants are associated with a company, so if the assistant doesn’t live up to your requirements, you can request another from the company.
- Identify and eliminate distractions. It is important to eliminate distractions that keep you from working. It is even more important to do an honest assessment of your work practices so that you can identify distractions in the first place. You’ll have to be able to critique yourself. Are you checking news web sites or Facebook when you are supposed to be working? Even if you only do this occasionally, it wastes time and draws your concentration away from your task. Are you playing music that distracts from your work? Which habits are hindering rather than helping your completion of tasks? Once you’ve identified these time wasters, it is easy to eliminate them
- Find a time of day that works best for you. One of the benefits of freelancing is that you don’t have to work on someone else’s schedule. This frees you up to choose the time of day that is the most productive for you. Some people work better in the morning, but experience a significant drop in concentration and production after lunch. Others work better in the evenings or even late at night. Find the time that works best for you and simply construct a schedule so that this time of day is completely free of outside distractions.
- Have a dedicated workspace. You should search the best place to work in addition to finding the best time for work. Some people find that a home office space is ideal. If this is the case, set up an office in your home and use it for work and not for anything else (relaxation or eating, for example). This will help you get in the correct mindset, so that you can increase your output. If you work better outside of home, at a coffee shop or library for example, you can get a kind of mobile office set up to get the most out of the time you spend in these places. Noise canceling headphones or an extra laptop battery can be invaluable for this type of work environment. Make sure that things like unexpected noise or the lack of a power outlet don’t stop you from working.
- Finally, experiment with changes to your habits. Coffee is an important part of many freelancers’ diets. But it can lead to over-stimulation and leave you feeling tired and groggy after the caffeine has worn off. You can try going caffeine-free, or at least replace your coffee with tea or energy drinks. You may find that your tasks are un-manageable without coffee, or you may find that a caffeine-less workday is more productive and has fewer side effects.