Have you ever noticed how there’s just never enough hours in the day? (I’m talking to all the freelancers out there.) How an entire day of productivity can just slip away from you? One minute you’re sipping on your first cup of coffee, lackadaisically scrolling through your morning emails, the next it’s midnight and you’re still drinking coffee trying to wrap up your day’s work. It happens to the best of us. For freelancers in the ever-moving world of production, however, these wasted days are a luxury most of us can ill afford.
The question is, how can you practice good time management to maximize these precious hours, all while fighting off the temptation of slipping into the blissful reverie of an eight-hour binge-a-thon (damn you, Stranger Things…)? It’s not always easy, but here are four quick tips on how to get the most out of your time as a freelancer.
1) Avoid technological temptations
Seems like an obvious suggestion in theory, but man is it hard to enact in practice. While the high-tech world we live in can be a godsend, giving us the ability to work almost anywhere we want, allowing us access to an unfathomable cache of resources, it also plagues us with distractions. Reddit, Imgur, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Wikipedia: the rabbit hole is a long and dark one (as evidenced by the fact that it led you to Wikipedia).
But fret not, there are safeguards against these boondoggles!
Option one–the most surefire fix–is to work offline, avoiding the internet altogether. Out of sight, out of mind, right? That said, this practice might not work for everyone, as a majority of freelancers need the interwebs to communicate with their team, flesh out projects, etc.
Ergo, your best bet is option two–temporarily blacklisting websites with either in-browser extensions or apps. These extensions and apps are safe, easily downloaded solutions that allow you to block yourself from websites for as long as you choose. So,if you have a call sheet to generate or maybe just a blog post to write (*cough cough*), use these tools to keep yourself from even trying to stray. Try blocking all your usual suspects for a three-hour timer and marvel at how much you can get done!
2) Create templates for all your freelancing needs
Templates might not be the answer to all your problems as a freelancer, but they sure are a great way to save you a crazy amount of time. Whether it’s generating a budget template on Google Sheets, or creating a uniformed pitch deck in PowerPoint, having those blueprints at the ready will majorly cut stress next time you’re asked for a project on the fly.
And when you’re done with a project, you want to get paid, right? Well, if you have a templated invoice ready to roll, all you have to do is plug in the info from the company that contracted you, and then BOOM! payday will be here sooner than you know it. And, as ECG Principal Trey Gregory points out, the invoicing process might seem daunting, but really it’s a piece of cake.
3) Find a place and time that best fits your work style
One of the beauties of the freelance life is its unparalleled freedom. Your work schedule doesn’t revolve around a 9-5 corporate clock, it’s based on a project-by-project basis. Take advantage of this freedom, and use your intuition to pick and choose where and when to work! It has become a cliche that the sultry, aromatic confines of local coffee shops are the safe haven for a productive day of work. And perhaps for good reason. With their endless stream of liquid stimulants and a soundscape of meandering acoustic music, coffee shops can be a great work spot. However, coffee shops and cafes aren’t ideal for everyone. For every person who thrives on quiet, there’s someone who needs cacophony to really hone in on their work. Sometimes a busy restaurant or a living room filled with talkative roommates can be leagues better than a quaint bistro, it just depends on the person.
But while finding a place that fits your work style is crucial, it’s often overlooked just how important knowing when you work best can be for productivity. Traditional business hours just don’t work for everyone. If you’re a night owl who usually finds himself awake at 1 AM, use that energy to work through a project. Or, if a 9-5 schedule does fit your other social obligations, then rock it! Just be conscious enough of your work patterns to know what actually fits you best.
4) Take the time to relax and decompress
As anyone who’s ever seen/read The Shining will know, “All work & no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Sure, staying on task and getting all your projects finished is crucial, especially for us freelancers; but, there is a thing as being too absorbed by your work. Hard work deserves hard play, and both ends of the spectrum counterbalance each other.
And this mentality isn’t just rationalizing having a good time, it’s rooted in practicality. For one, as most of us freelancers work from our computers, it’s never a good idea to sit and stare at a backlit screen for literally hours on end. Honing your “keen eye for detail” is just as important as as maintaining your actual eyesight, so take the time to take a break from these extended stare seshes. Moreover, there is such a thing as creative exhaustion. A breadth of work does not always yield a depth of work. Overextending yourself and trying to juggle too many balls at once will make a jack of all trades and a master of none, a phrase that no one in production wants ascribed to them.
So take the time to enjoy that TV show you’ve been hearing about, to read that book you’ve been meaning to get to, to catch a ballgame and enjoy a cold one (or 3). Doing so sparingly and appropriately will leave you more rejuvenated than ever and ready to take on your next project!