If you’re a side hustler working towards taking your business full-time, it’s fun to daydream about what your days are going to look like when you can. Having a flexible schedule, an open window of time to get done what you need to etc, sounds like bliss.
The reality can be a bit darker at times. If you don’t have a plan for your time, it can slip away faster than one would think!
As I’ve been preparing to make the jump, one of the things that I’ve been plotting and planning is a “model week” or rough schedule for my work days. Part of my motivation of making the change is to be able to spend even more time with my young family. I don’t want to leave for home and realize that I didn’t really accomplish much that day, as I got sucked into social media or reading blog post after blog post.
I’m sure it’ll be a work in progress for me to find the perfect schedule and activities to focus on, but IMHO it’s better to anticipate potential problems before they arise. So I asked my internet friends (many of whom are already working via the web full-time), what their best time management tips were. They came up with some great ones – here are 10 that I plan on implementing ASAP. I hope you do too!
1. Make a List of Important To Do’s
“When I’ve got a ton of things to do, and not a ton of time I make a list of everything I need to do. Then, I set goals for how long I want each project to take me and what time I’d like to have the list completed by — this keeps me focused and goal oriented.
If I know I can’t get up from my desk until three items have been checked off, it motivates me to get those items done. In one evening, I’ve been able to plow through work because I made a list and set goals for the time I had to work with.”
~Holly Hrywnak, The Common Queen
2. Make Your To Do List Visible
“Create a to-do list everyday as soon as you get up and write it on a whiteboard, so you can hold yourself accountable for completing your daily tasks.”
~Donny Gamble, Personal Income
“Time management is all about prioritizing items of importance and focusing your time on those. For those who are visual, like me, go with something simple like a whiteboard. I use mine every day and it’s super easy to dictate what needs to be done next and which line items need to be taken care of immediately.
The best part is you can wipe the slate clean when you start a new month or new planning session! Visuals help you get a grasp on what you need to get done and helps you keep on track with your most important tasks. It’s hard to stay on task all of the time, but visual aids can help you get back on track.”
~Grayson Bell, iMark Interactive
3. Plan Your Day/Schedule Ahead of Time
“My top tip for time management is to make sure that your day flows together as smoothly as possible. You should try to eliminate any inefficient time gaps in your day, as 30 minutes here and there can add up to hours wasted over a week’s time.
Also, somewhat related to this – you should try to create a schedule that works best for you. If you are able to write at the crack of dawn, then do that! Do tasks when you are able to get the best use of your time.”
~Michelle Schroeder, Making Sense of Cents
4. Give Yourself a Time Limit
“I think the biggest thing that helps me is forcing myself to work within a set time limit — it’s a proven fact that you’re more productive when you have a set or shorter amount of time to accomplish a task.
If I set my time limit with a task that needs to get done, then I’m more focused and productive. Time Management is all about self-discipline, so you just have to buckle down and figure it out.”
~Ariel Rule, Freelance Freedom Fighter
5. Within the First 5 Minutes, Identify Your MIT’s
“My best productivity tip is what I do in the first five minutes to start my workday. Basically, I sit down at my desk and identify the 1 to 3 “Most Important Things” (MITs) that I’d like to accomplish for the day.
The key here is to be specific (i.e. write 2,000 words of Kindle book, create 3 podcast episodes, create Facebook advertisement). That way I know at the the end of the day if I’ve accomplished these tasks or not.
Another important aspect of MITs is toI make sure that I spend the first part of the day (when my energy levels are at their peak) working on these tasks. That way, if I’m interrupted or if an emergency happens later in the day, I know I’ve already done the tasks that have biggest value.”
~Steve Scott, Develop Good Habits
6. Keep a Time Journal
“Whether you use a moleskin, day planner, or just Google calendar. I find that when I record where I spend my time, I not only notice patterns but find out when I’m most (and least) productive. It’s also great for looking back on at the end of the week to view your accomplishments.
As you know, it’s all too easy to get sucked into obsessing over your to-do list, and forget how much you actually completed. Keeping a time journal allows me to think more positively about my work, and has increased my energy and productivity levels. I highly recommend it!”
~Carrie Smith, Careful Cents
7. Focus on What’s Important and Forget Everything Else
“That’s the secret of a productive and happy life.
As human beings we tend to procrastinate by keeping ourselves busy with unimportant things. We read unimportant emails, we take unimportant phone calls and stay on the line far too long, we update our status on social media…even if we know with have important things to do. These activities waste a lot of our time and prevent us from moving forward.
To better manage our time we must define very clearly what really matters and focus on it every week.
Every Sunday, list every task you have to do for the upcoming week. Take a look at your list and define the tasks that are the most important (important tasks are the tasks you will do even if you have to stay up late at night). Write MIT (Most Important Task) next to them to prioritize them.
Make sure to keep an eye on this list throughout your week so that every time you find yourself distracted you can refocus immediately.”
~Simon Cave, The Becomer
8. Use the Pomodoro Technique
“If I’m working on an important project (like redoing my Blueprint course), I’ll block out time on my calendar and then calculate how many pomodoros that is (i.e. 25 minute blocks of time). I shut off email, social media, etc and just focus in on what I need to accomplish, taking a break for five minutes after every 25 minute session.
There’s a Pomodoro app (I use the Mac version from the app store), that pops up a text window when each session is over prompting me to write in what I accomplished. This journal builds, so I can look back on the entire day or week and see what I accomplished. It’s pretty powerful!”
~Brennan Dunn, Double Your Freelancing
9. Work When You Work Best
“Since I’m now a full-time freelance writer, I need to write in order to be productive! I’m most creative in the morning, so I like to try and build my schedule around my writing projects.
Right now, it’s my goal to write at least 10 articles/blog posts per week, which equates to two per day (M-F). I consider it a win when I can write 2-3 pieces in a morning and it leaves me with a sense of accomplishment.
My tip piggybacks on many of the above, but shows the real way that I apply it. Figure out what is most important and then get it done first – or during the time of day that is most productive for that task. You’ll feel so much better about your day when you get those big tasks done and crossed off your list!”
~Gina Horkey, Fully Booked VA
10. Stop Trying to Manage Your Time
“You get the same amount of it as anybody else, and it goes in the same direction. When you say “time management,” what you’re really trying to manage are tasks, motivation and energy. Break it down that way and it gets a lot easier: “What do I need to do? Why do I want to do it? How can I make sure I have the energy to get it done?”
THEN you can break out the calendar and to-do lists. They’ll be more realistic if you address energy and motivation before you try to squeeze everything into your schedule.”
~Sophie Lizard, Be a Freelance Blogger
What a great list of tips from my successful webpreneur friends! Thanks for participating guys.
Many of the tips hinge on identifying what’s most important (i.e. what makes you money in a lot of cases) and then making those things non-negotiable. Getting urgent or time-sensitive things done first works only if they’re also important.
If you’re struggling with managing your time as you work on your freelance business, consider writing a to do list (and making it visible), giving yourself a time limit, tracking your time using a journal and focusing on what’s most important. Try the Pomodoro technique, managing your tasks and energy instead of your time and working when you’re most productive.
You don’t need to implement all of the above tips at once. Pick something and try it to see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, try something else until you find something that works!
Where do you lose the most time when you’re not careful? Social media, email or something else?