Ah time management – two words that are always being thrown out there when it comes to productivity and getting all the important things done. Which essentially means every day of your working life.
As a freelancer with no real work schedule or 9 to 5, time management has never been more important. In fact, it is the number one skill I had to master if I were to ace freelancing. Especially when I am juggling different deadlines from multiple clients all at the same time – help!
If you are a working professional (freelance or full time), making the most of your time to work smarter (not harder) is what the time-management game is all about. Who wants to spend their 9 to 5 staring at the computer screen trying to get something done? Who wants to spend their weekday just ploughing through work without really making sense of anything? Not me for sure!
Which is why, over the years, you could say that I’ve mastered time management well. There are times when my task lists just keeps getting longer and longer but the hours just aren’t enough but you bet I will clear that list as soon as I can. With these three time-management tips that have come in handy for me… and maybe for you too!
#1 Be a list guru
I am all about lists – things I need to get done today, things I need to get done this week, and things I need to prepare for the entire month. In fact, I have a list for just about everything in my life (what to cook for dinner, what to buy at the supermarkets, my personal errands… you get the drift).
Why do lists work? Because you have something in black and white (or electronically) to actually keep you on track of what you need to do and when to get them done. An actual time-management score card. Having my to-do list keeps me focused and I know exactly what is due for the week so I don’t forget and I can direct my energy towards getting them done.
To be even more efficient at this time-management tip, take time the night before or the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your list. Don’t start your day until you’ve completed this list so you can have a roadmap to productive.
#2 Learn to “ignore”
If I answered every email I get in the day, you can bet I won’t be getting any work done. Same goes for WhatsApp messages or DMs. They may seem like mini distractions but that’s exactly what they do – distract you from your actual work. Especially if I am working on finishing an article within the hour. Stopping every five minutes to answer the phone or email will essentially add a few minutes to the task, which means instead of getting it done by 3pm, I am only done by 4pm (if I am lucky).
So practise not instantly giving someone your attention (unless of course it is crucial to your work). We live in a world where we feel almost compelled to stop everything and give a reaction (no thanks to social media’s instant notifications) but if you just learn how to “ignore”, you can manage your time better. Do what I do instead: If I am busy focusing on meeting my deadline, I schedule a time after I’m done to answer emails. This way, I am not distracted and when I do answer that email, I am 100% committed and focused to give my best response.
#3 Do work that matters when you are most productive
There will be work that requires your 100%... and then there are the admin stuff that seems mindless but still needs to be done. For me, that’s invoicing, doing some research for an article I am writing, clearing my inbox. For these kind of work, I tend to do it at a time when I know I am not super productive, which is between 2pm to 5pm. At these hours, my attention would have waned, especially after a super productive morning and I know I won’t be doing my best work. So I schedule in all the miscellaneous things I need to do but doesn’t require a lot of my focus and effort.
As for the real work, because I am most productive either first thing in the morning or when everyone has gone to bed, I schedule them in during these hours. I know I am 100% geared to be most focused and am likely not to be distracted, which allows me to finish up what I need to do instead of trying to do the work during a time where there will be a lot of distraction (might as well not bother!).
So do the same – figure out when you are most productive. Schedule to do work that is top on your list and block out whatever distraction you may have. You’ll find yourself more efficient at completing the task and have more time to do other things – that’s the goal for good time management!
Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash