Everyone has the same number of hours in a day, but how they utilize each and every minute is entirely up to them. As such, time management is vital to those who want to get the most out of each day, but it is particularly so to freelancers. After all, there is no one around to overlook whatever they are doing and it’s entirely up to them to decide and organize their own schedules. For those who are less organized or lack discipline, time management can greatly improve their working style or motivation.
Time management skills can benefit everyone by helping them to boost their productivity and prevent them from experiencing burnout. It also keeps their tasks organized so they know how to plan for each one better. As for freelancers, it can help them to ameliorate the caveats of multi-tasking while also helping them to make sure that they are billing their clients accurately.
Prevent Yourself from Experiencing Burnout
While most office workers maintain their work-life balance by following the stipulated working hours at their workplace and relaxing at home, it is up to freelancers to regulate their own working hours. Burnout occurs when a person feels drained or unsatisfied with what their work demands of them and can be caused by overcommitment. Symptoms such as exhaustion, cognitive problems, frustration, and decline in work performance may manifest. To prevent this phenomenon, freelancers should arrange for regular breaks in their working routine.
For people with workaholic tendencies, they might view taking breaks as slacking off. However, it is important to note that breaks should be a part of everyone’s working routine. Breaks can serve as a great mood booster, while also allowing workers to remain more focused on whatever they are working on. They are especially important if workers expect to perform the same tasks over and over, or if they normally sit for long hours at each time.
Time management systems like the Pomodoro Technique allow people to arrange for breaks throughout their work day and help them to prevent burnout. By delegating short breaks between longer periods of work, one can run their errands in between or even just consume some form of entertainment to get their mind off work briefly. This gives them plenty of time to work on less pressing matters and also lets them have short periods to get work off their minds. It also helps people to reduce the number of interruptions they will encounter while working, thus helping them to focus better on the task at hand. While many people are aware of the detriments of physical fatigue, they are often less so about the costs of mental lethargy which can have rather insidious effects as well.
Keep Your Things and Tasks Organized
By learning to manage one’s time, freelancers can also make sure they don’t get confused by all the concurrent projects going on. Calendars are a great way to keep track of one’s meetings and agenda for the day. It is also important that freelancers allocate the right amount of time to the various projects that they are working on so they do not spend too much time on a single one and leave too little time for others.
To identify which tasks are more important and should be worked on first, one can use the Eisenhower matrix which categorizes tasks based on how important and how urgently they need to be completed. By identifying those tasks that are both important and time-sensitive, it becomes easier to organize your tasks and decide which ones need to be worked on first. For freelancers, they might need to decide which project is due first, as well as which project is more important. In doing so, they can carefully evaluate the importance of the tasks and improve their decision-making skills, especially when they find themselves working under time constraints.
With a proper time-managing system in place, they can also make sure that they are delegating the right amount of time to each client they are working with. Overfixation on a particular project can cause a freelancer to neglect his other customers if they do not take steps to prevent such an occurrence at an earlier stage. To avoid such incidents, freelancers need to find a time-managing system that works well for them.
Counter the Drawbacks of Multi-tasking
It is not uncommon for freelancers to take on several projects at once. Only 13% of freelancers devote their time to a single project at any given time. Another 13% take up 5 to 9 projects. 4% work on 10 or more projects, while the remaining work on two to four projects at once. As such, it is not surprising that freelancers might have to switch between different tasks and clients every now and then, which can get confusing fast especially for those who have not quite honed the art-of multitasking. For those who take on multiple projects, multitasking is an essential skill that can help them step up their freelance game. However, while multitasking can introduce flexibility into one’s working style, it can also bring in some drawbacks.
Multi-tasking can seem like an appealing concept especially when one is pressed for time, but it can actually cause them to use up even more time. When switching between different tasks, people tend to lose some time. This lost time is sometimes referred to as a ‘switch cost’. These switch costs may seem insignificant since they are rather small and are normally just a fraction of a second. However, this can accumulate and eventually add up to larger amounts when people start to swap more between tasks.
In addition, multitasking has also been found to reduce productivity by as much as 40%. It also serves to increase stress while reducing the levels of meaningfulness and achievement. Aside from all that, it has also been found to be harmful to our brains since it impairs our cognitive ability and even reduces our IQ. Overall, the perceived efficiency of multi-tasking is not as high as it seems. While it may be unavoidable for some freelancers out there, they can at least mitigate its negative effects by working on their time management skills.
Bill Clients Accurately
Figuring how to bill one’s clients can be tricky for a freelancer especially if they are working on multiple projects at once. Not only do they need to make sure that they dedicate the appropriate amount of time to each project, but they also need to note down the amount of time they spend on each one. This is where time-tracking software might come in handy.
Time-tracking software such as Clockify, Toggl Track, and TimeCamp can help freelancers visualize the amount of time they are putting into their work, which helps them to bill their clients fairly while also allowing them to determine if they are spending too much time on less important matters. This is important for freelancers who take up work that pays them by the hour. It also makes things transparent to the client who can ascertain that they are getting their money’s worth. Such an arrangement can also protect freelancers if the client has a sudden change of mind and decides to change the course of the project or abandon it. While being paid by the hour can also allow freelancers to take days off with fewer issues, it can be tricky to accurately estimate an hourly estimate, especially for larger projects. As such, freelancers who charge by the hour need to be meticulous when it comes to time tracking.
Of course, there are many more ways that freelancers can bill their clients: daily rates, weekly rates, monthly retainers, charging per project, and value-based pricing. Freelancers who utilize such pricing strategies will definitely benefit from tracking the time they spend on each project as well, which can help them to plan for future projects and clients better.
To sum up this article, time management is very important to freelancers due to a lack of authority. While they are not restrained by regulations like office workers would, this freedom can come at a price especially if they lack discipline or organizational skills.
Time management can:
- Help freelancers to prevent themselves from experiencing burnout, especially those with workaholic tendencies and take on many projects at once
- Assist freelancers in keeping their things and tasks organized since the number of different tasks they have to work on concurrently can become confusing if they lack organization
- Counter the drawbacks of multitasking such as switch cost, reduction of productivity, increase of stress levels, and decline of cognitive abilities
- Aid in the billing of clients to ensure that the prices that freelancers set are fair to both themselves as well as their clients.