Most of us have quit our jobs and become free because of the luxury of being free. Historically, a freelancer was a kind of medieval mercenary. In a time of serfdom and fidelity for life, they were free of a master.
Modern mercenaries who kill code or fight the dragons of design often change a master (their former boss) with many (their clients). If we are not careful, it is too easy for many masters to give up on us and go for others and the biggest problem in this is inability to manage time.
Here are a few steps that can help you manage the time.
1. Limit The Information Recording
Information is available in many forms. Sometimes it is reckless like browsing through Hacker News or Reddit. Sometimes it can be important in the form of a conference call or a meeting. Fact is: multitasking is almost impossible. I often tell my clients, especially if they need something as soon as possible, that I cannot work when I’m on the phone with them and talking about what needs to be done. Information is not necessarily bad, but going on a diet is a great idea, if you try to work then focus on doing just that.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Email, Skype, Twitter, IM. All of this affects productivity and causes you to lose time and focus. Try to limit the checking of emails to once or twice a day (morning and evening). It will also encourage your clients to realize that not everything in life is urgent and don’t deserves an immediate response. Our civilization has somehow managed to survive everywhere before the advent of cell phones and emails, and it still can.
3. Work In Short Bursts
I use the Pomodoro technique for working, blogging or even research. The idea is simple: work 25 minutes (and do nothing but work) and then take a 5 minute break. Stretch, brew a tea, or look out the window for five minutes, but do not think about your work. This allows us to detach ourselves from our work and to turn our working spirits on or off at will.
4. Practice Saying “No”
We all want to please people, but we should not sacrifice our happiness for it. Normally, things that need to be done right now can wait for a moment. I respect companies like e.g XYZ because they have very busy business hours from 9am to 6pm and refuse to do anything outside of these times. Too many freelancers and consultants use their planned free time and sacrifice their time with friends and family to satisfy their clients.
5. Treat Freelance As A Job
That sounds probably ridiculous, but hear me out. I’ve been working with clients for years and have been through many great times and hard spells. My family life has suffered at times because it was really hard for me to leave work. I worked from home, my laptop was my toolbox and was with me everywhere. I was my Job, Set up business hours for my clients, confidently explaining how and why I work, and stick with it.
The only way to achieve freedom as a freelancer is to set up a system and tell your clients how it works. Otherwise, your clients will continue to influence how they want the work to be done from you. Remember, time is money. If you do not manage it as your budget, it disappears.
Share your time management tips in comments.