How Freelancers Can Win the Time Management Game

It seems so straightforward at first. You accept a freelance project and think, oh, it’ll only take a couple of hours at most. You quickly realize, though, that your best work will take more time than that. Except, you still have a several other work things to do – and oh, there’s your personal life, too!

Yes, management for any given freelancing workday can be a regular challenge. Strict deadlines can keep you on track only to a point (see the above example). Then, there are the projects that are a bit more open-ended – you know, the ones where you can log in and complete work as you see fit. Such projects can lead to procrastination, and the inevitable decrease in productivity.

Know your “no.”

It can sometimes be quite tempting (especially when bills are due) to work as much as you can, whenever you can, and throw time management caution to the wind. However, your health, your relationships, and quite possibly your professional reputation can suffer for it; after all, no one can be on their A-game all the time.

Have set hours for work, and don’t budge beyond them unless it’s an absolute must (and even then, that should be a rarity). Within those hours, be mindful of what you can accomplish well. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a freelancer is never quite being able to anticipate what any given work day will or won’t bring both in type of work, and time of work.

The time zone conundrum…

If you’re new to the freelancing world and used to a job with definite days and hours, start simply. By this, I mean begin by only taking projects that are run by clients/companies 5 hours or less ahead/behind your own time zone. As you start to adapt to these differing schedules, then consider taking more ambitious projects, but I would recommend no more than two at a time.

Some adjustments are easier to make than others. For example, if you live in Massachusetts, and you’re working on project that’s centered around Pacific Standard Time (PST), then you’ve got an extra 3 hours to work with. Switch that around, though, and it’ll mean earlier mornings or later nights.

In more general terms, if you live in the United States and accept a project in New Zealand, then you’re more than 12 hours behind them! So, in these instances, the necessary tools of the trade would be a reliable alarm clock, as well as a time zone converter on either your PC/laptop, or your phone.

Build in those breaks…

Even if you have any time zone differences accounted for, it’s important to stop every once in a while throughout the day to recharge. After all, a rested freelancer is a productive freelancer! Perhaps you might prefer to take one larger break in the middle of the day for lunch/errands/a walk. Then again, taking 15-minute breaks after every hour or so of work. Still others might have a set window of hours to work each day (for example, in a 4-hour increment), and that’s all.

So, yes, a combination of pre and on-the-spot planning can go a long way in making each and every work day valuable in both time and money. Those who stay in the freelancing game the longest are the ones who know their strengths and limits within the art of multitasking – hopefully you are, or will be, among them.

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