Many of the people I work with have often only recently left full-time employment and are in the process of setting up their own freelance businesses. Quite a few struggle with how to use their time effectively. There are so many things to do and so many competing demands for our time that it can be difficult to know where best to invest it. So here are some thoughts:
1. Integrate your personal life with your professional life. You don’t have two lives you have one. So resist the temptation to live as if you were still employed and trying to create 8,9, or 10 hour days. If you feel that you want to post a blog on a Saturday evening then do it. If there is an important event with your kids on a Monday afternoon then go to it.
2. Make sure your daily, weekly and monthly tasks are set out in lists. Do the most important things on these lists first. I like to make a list on the evening before then do the most important thing on it the next morning – that’s my most creative time. Just a simple paper list is fine.
3. Don’t do things that you can easily give to someone else to do. If you can get another person to create your website quicker than you could then do it, likewise your letter heads or business cards. If someone can do it quicker and more efficiently then outsource it to them.
4. Get the ‘big’ things’ done first. That means not spending a lot of time over small decisions. Don’t spend ages worrying about how your business card looks or the commas in your latest article. Get it done or move on (preferably both).
5. Try not to work in a public area in your home. This is not always possible to achieve but if you can you’ll be more effective without the distractions. TV off, door closed, and keep interruptions to a minimum.
6. Invest money in time-saving decisions. If your sales letter, article or brochure is 80% done, don’t spend the rest of the day looking for problems on it. Find someone else to proof read it – pay them if necessary. If you have need to generate new markets – consider finding a provider of business lists rather than trying to find new customers yourself.
7. Be disciplined with your personal and family time. Don’t let people invade this. Dedicate hours in the day that you want to spend with your kids. Leave a message on your phone or an ‘Out of Office message on your email responder to say that you are busy at that moment and you will contact the caller as soon as you can.
8. Plan important appointments, plan them well in advance. If you have a talk or a pitch to give or a meeting with a customer, plan backwards and begin with the deadline. Diary in the tasks on days leading up to it rather than trying to do all the tasks in one go – you’ll be much more efficient and focused this way.
9. Do what you feel is right at the time. Don’t force yourself to do things like phone calls or letter writing if you aren’t moved to do it at that time. Do some content or product creation. If you aren’t ready to do some serious work yet then choose a personal or family item on your list and do that first.
10. Build in some time for the unexpected. Never try to pack your day with activities that you don’t have any space for any thing else. Most professionals build in a little ‘wiggle’ time just in case of emergencies. A frantic customer rings desperately to speak to you. If you have some ‘wiggle’ time built in to your day then you can deal with that.
This is just a list of 10 things you can do to manage your time – there are tons of others. Comment in the box below if you have any more to add – we’ll include it in a revised list later. Don’t forget to put your name in the box at the top right of this page so you’ll know when we publish it.