It is not easy to stay focused and manage one’s time effectively, especially when Freelancing. Working from home presents so many opportunities for distraction, from the laundry, to the vacuuming, to the suddenly gross- looking bathroom sink. How can you avoid letting the household chores fester and still successfully complete an in-house project, keep an eye open for potential new assignments, create additional revenue streams that sustain financially during the inevitable gaps in contracts or client slow-pay situations and somehow find time for professional development and networking? Fear not, Freelancer friend, there is a way to keep those plates in the air.
The secret is to prioritize and be resolute about it. Learn to value yourself and your time. Allow yourself to acknowledge and honor those things that you Must Do and things that you Want To Do. Equally important, allow yourself to recognize low-priority tasks and have the courage to let them fall to the wayside.
We all have obligations and preferred activities and we have about 16 waking hours each day in which to act upon them. To manage time effectively, become more productive and refrain from burning yourself out, priorities must be made and adhered to. Be brave. Climb into the driver’s seat and decide which activities and people mean the most to you and let those choices guide how you allocate your time.
Where to begin? Start with work, because that is how you earn money. Make a time line for important projects and/or goals and create a what you Must Do manifesto. Draw up an action plan to ensure that all deliverables are in hand by the desired date. Identify important milestones along the way and reward yourself when they are reached. This will help you to establish the right things to do and when to do them and that is the essence of prioritizing.
Next, think about your personal life and what you Want To Do. Are you married, maybe with children, or do you have someone special in your life with whom you want to spend quality time? Refer back to your project/goal time line and brainstorm approaches to Must Do priorities that can increase the amount of Want To Do time. You still may not show up at all of your son’s football games, but you’ll be more likely to be at the important ones.
When on a serious deadline you’ll probably be basically unavailable while the pressure’s on, but with careful planning you’ll meet most obligations (buy take-out food and consider hiring a cleaning service to get you and the family over the hump during a crazy-busy period). You might even be able to have the occasional quiet dinner with the family or that special someone, which will give you some much-needed relaxation and battery-charging. You might be able to accept an invitation to a good party, too.
Other aspects of your personal life involve only you and those needs should likewise be honored, because they are what you Want To Do. One way to get more things done is to get out of bed earlier, so consider going to the gym at 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM. If you’re really busy, exercise will help you to stay strong, focused, creative and in reasonably good humor. If necessary, limit work-outs to 30 – 45 minutes, so that you’ll stay on your time line, checking off the boxes of what you Must Do.
Along the way, it will be necessary to recognize which activities and unfortunately, people, are time-wasters and limit or eliminate your exposure. Toxic and/or time-wasting people should be diplomatically ushered to the door. You have no time available to indulge nonsense.
Social media is yet another potential time-waster. Limit social media activity to 30 minutes two to four times a week. Even if your custom has been to spend lots of time on Twitter because it could be good for business, ask yourself if you need to post every day? If the verdict is that you must, then limit tweet time to 15 minutes/day.
Finally, learn to forgive yourself if a few things don’t get done. Do what is necessary to achieve what you Must Do and Want To Do and maybe let the vacuuming wait a few days. Celebrate your progress and remember to find time to relax and enjoy time with yourself, family, friends and special someone. Give yourself the gift of work – life balance.
Thanks for reading,