As a freelancer or home business owner, you are in charge of absolutely everything. It can feel like you have been gifted with the most freedom you’ve ever had – but with great freedom comes great organization. Having the freedom to create your working week is a great thing. But, you need to have systems in place that allow you to enjoy that freedom and stay as productive as possible.
There are of course going to be plenty of days where the system doesn’t feel like it’s working, or that you just don’t feel like working – and that is fine too. But, to help you have less of those days, and more ultra-productive smooth ones, here are a few tips.
Photo by MARVIN TOLENTINO on Unsplash
Work With How You Work
Some people are night owls, some people are early birds, and others work in dribs and drabs throughout the day. If you can see a pattern in how you work, use that as the basis for your schedule. There is little point in putting a working routine together that starts at 6am if you aren’t functioning at your best till 12. By choosing to work in the times, you are most productive you won’t waste any time getting things done. If you have any staff or work with other freelancers, you’ll also want to implement a system to schedule your employees with ease too. As well as time routine, you could think about what times your breaks would work best, could you prep your lunch the night before?
It is all about making your day run as smoothly as possible and maximizing your working time.
Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – does that sound familiar? Probably. Most freelancers are guilty of letting their days run long because they don’t set solid time limits on their work. It might sound counterproductive – getting all of this freedom then tying yourself into timetables and timers, but by maximizing your working time, you’re going to getting a lot more free time. A few great options are:
- Be Focused: Allows you to set up a task list with a time to complete it and a work interval in between each. Typically it sits in 15-minute slots with 5-minute intervals until the long interval of 30 minutes. You tick each task as you complete and it moves on to the next one.
- Office Time: This one has expense tracking, Apple calendar syncing ability, summary graphs, and a simple invoicing system. Perfect for keeping track of hourly contracts.
- Time Panther: This has a brilliant break down of projects and clients. So you can tally up how much time you have spent on each, making invoicing for hours spent super easy. It has timers to keep track of all of the activity, and it can even tell you when you were working productively or when you were surfing facebook.
Lists Are Your Friend
Each and every morning, you should make a checklist. You might like to tie this moment into when you have your morning coffee (or shake if that is what you do), think about what you need to achieve. Be specific too. Rather than just write ‘deal with emails’ write something closer to ‘respond to XYZ, contact ABC and unsubscribe from X newsletter’. Setting actionable goals will help you feel accomplished. Transfer that written list into your digital time tracking app, set your timers up and away you go.
Goals are Goals
The lists are part of you setting daily goals. As well as daily, you should think about setting goals for the next 3/6/9/12 months. Think about what it is that you would like to achieve. Want to create some downloads? How about complete an eBook? Learn a new skill? You’d be wise to write down a financial goal too. Visualizing your goals, and keeping them somewhere as a visible reminder will help you stay on track. Once you have written down your goals, think about the actionable steps that you’ll need to take. If you don’t already have one, then you should put together a business plan or at the very least a vision for your venture. For two reasons, every business should have an idea of the very long-term goals, and the purpose which they serve. And, on the very hard days, the vision is a nice reminder of why you started this in the first place.
Don’t Get Bogged Down
When you are implementing new working systems, it can be all too easy to pile on too much work and not manage to finish any of it to the standard you want. Or, in your excitement, you take on more clients than you had room for. Be sensible with what you have the time to do without exhausting yourself. Overwhelm is a real thing and can hit particularly hard when you are the only person who can be held accountable.
End of The Day
When you send that last email or put the final period at the end of the sentence, and is time to switch from work to personal take stock of the day. Have a look at your to-do list from the day, what did you accomplish, what needed more time than you had thought? Where there any tasks that you keep putting off? By taking a moment to talk about what you didn’t get done, you will begin to streamline your process even more.
Now is a good time to check things that track your productivity vs procrastination, like the Time Panther app mentioned above. How can you eliminate those distractions?
If you haven’t been able to find a system that works for you, now might be a good time to head to Google and check out some productivity planners. You might just find the one that makes a serious impact.
Keep it Neat
Having a neat filing system that works is very important. The earlier on you have a system for your files the better. As a freelancer or small business owner, you need to be able to access things quickly and easily. If a client were to call and ask for some specific information, but you couldn’t find the file – either on your computer or a paper file, it doesn’t look great. These are some of the documents that you should make sure are within easy reach and in good order.
- Receipts (although you might like to get an app to manage these)
- Invoices (have a paper and digital copy of all of them)
- Tax Forms
- VAT documents
- Legal Business Documents
- Client Project Files
To be extra organized, use color coding for all of you files, and have the corresponding folders and email markers for that client on your emails. Anything over a year old that you no longer need to refer to, place in an archive folder. Remember to keep any financial details or sensitive information in a safe filing cabinet with a lock.
The joy of the internet is that even if you are really pushed for time to meet in person, there will be numerous online message boards or groups that have the same interest as you. If you work in marketing or PR for example, search for groups that meet your needs. You can use them to socialize, to chat with others, ask for advice and maybe even pick up some work. Building a community of people with similar goals is great for motivation.
This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.