How to master time management once and for all

Jan 21, 2020

How do you strike a balance between being accommodating all the projects you are working on (often for individuals in different timezones) and not working all the hours of the day? After all, what’s the point in freelancing from a small beach town in Costa Rica if all you ever do is work?

Here are four steps to figuring it out.

Schedule

Whether you choose to use an online version such as Google calendar, or an old-fashioned paper diary doesn't matter. But use something, because as plans change, deadlines move, and jobs pile up, keeping track mentally just won't work.

Put everything in a schedule, and make sure it's accurate. If you're tracking hours per month for invoicing purposes, you’ll be extra glad you did.

Set established start and finish times

There will be times when you have to work a little later, or begin a little earlier. That’s the nature of freelance work. But as a general rule, set established start and end times to your day, and respect them. One of the biggest challenges freelancers face is the blurring of the lines between "work time" and "personal time." It is easy to feel like you're always on the job. This does you no favors, and the quality of your work can suffer too.

When I started out as a freelancer, I just worked as much as I could. This meant most evenings. Soon I was working rather than doing the other things I like to do, such as cooking, reading, and watching TV. Six months went by and I realized I hadn’t read a book or watched a single TV series that my friends were all talking about. I was eating instant meals as I didn’t want to waste time preparing something more carefully. This is no way to live.

Take regular breaks

Things like lunch break can seem disposable because it is just another hour where you could be earning. Although you are perhaps maximizing your earning capacity, this will have a detrimental effect on you psychologically, as well as impacting your health, and ultimately, the quality of your work. Taking a break has been scientifically proven to benefit productivity, so working through your lunch breaks day after day is false economy. Take a break.

Take days off

An extension of working into the evenings, and not taking lunch breaks, is never taking a day off. If you're not careful, soon there's  no such thing as a weekend. This is a disaster for your life, so don’t fall into that trap

Say "no"

It’s inevitable when you start off that you want to win as much business as possible to stay busy and earn. But very quickly, this can reach tipping point. Never saying "no" will inevitably lead to longer workdays, no lunch breaks, and no days off. And will you be happy with that situation? Never forget why you made this career change in the first place.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Aimee Laurence

Aimee is a marketing professional, freelance editor, and an expert in work/life balance and maximizing productivity.