Welcome back to reality! Labor Day Weekend has come and gone and Summer has officially (although not technically) ended. Like it or not, we are in full business mode again. Yet despite what the calendar indicates, Summer’s slower pace may still cling to you like sand on your ankles and you might be having trouble getting up to speed. Maybe some good time management tips will help you find your groove?
Freelancers are busy people. Effective time management is important not only for our P & L bottom line, but also for our spiritual and psychological health. In addition to drumming up and working on billable hours, it is equally important that we make time for our personal pursuits.
We owe it to ourselves to go to the gym or out for a bike ride, participate in our children’s lives, nurture our relationship with a special someone, or recharge our batteries by maybe taking a nice walk. Therefore, it is imperative that we utilize our time efficiently, so that important things get taken care of and we avoid running in circles, which wastes precious time, creates aggravation and eventually leads to burn-out.
But there is so much to do and it is easy to get overwhelmed. On top of billable hours, we must network to remain visible, attend certain conferences that help us build skills or prospect for new clients, maybe prep for a speaking engagement, keep up with social media and there are perhaps also board responsibilities that were taken on to demonstrate commitment to one’s community and expand one’s skill set (and bring in a referral along the way, we hope).
Then there are the administrative functions like invoicing, paying bills, calls and emails, updating the website, de-constructing the new health insurance options and planning and budgeting for next year’s marketing initiatives.
Oh, and dare I mention housework, laundry, cooking and grocery shopping? Yikes! It’s enough to make you want to hide in the closet. How can any one human being face this down?
I suggest that Step One in getting your arms around all that you must do is to make a list and document major tasks and responsibilities, so that you can visualize and make sense of your obligations. Once your list is created, separate business obligations from personal. Red star all tasks that have a deadline e.g., September 15 for filing third quarter taxes.
On the business side, make separate categories for client billable time, marketing/self promotion and administrative tasks. On the personal side, create categories for fitness, household, children, etc. Next, prioritize according to what must be done first and what brings (or can potentially bring) the best ROI to you. Break responsibilities down into what must be done daily (emails), weekly (children’s lessons/ sports), monthly (networking/ board meetings) and quarterly (taxes).
Block out corresponding time periods, make calendar entries and build a daily to-do list schedule. Examine your schedule and look for ways to be more efficient. You may have always gone to the gym after work, but might a time change be advantageous? Is there a Zumba class at 7:00 AM or Pilates at lunchtime? That change will free up time in the evening for other activities and will also ensure that you maintain your fitness regimen. Or maybe now you’ll see that you can start one!
PDA electronic calendars and smart phone apps are now standard, but I’ve found that posting on an office white board or old-fashioned desk calendar is especially helpful for remembering monthly and quarterly tasks. It’s good to have it all there in your face, a constant reminder of what you must do and when you must do it.
I’ll be back with more time management next week. Thanks for reading.