Good time management can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a freelancer or contractor. Once the structure of a traditional workday is gone, you may be surprised to find out how much time you spend on certain activities that may not be as important or productive as you thought.
This is where time tracking comes in; by tracking your time usage, you can gain a better understanding of how you’re spending your time and where improvements can be made.
In this article, we’ll break down the importance of good time management, as well as some different techniques to optimize your schedule. We will also discuss some common challenges freelancers and contract workers may face, and tips on how to avoid these issues.
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Common Time Management Challenges
Some frequent time management issues that you as a freelancer or contractor may face include procrastination, multitasking, distraction, lack of prioritization, and lack of motivation.
Procrastination is one of the most common of these challenges, and one of the most dangerous. Putting off your work until the last moment will produce hurried, lackluster, and often incomplete results. There are a variety of reasons that you may procrastinate, but there is only one way to fix it; by setting a clear timeframe and milestones for completing a project and sticking to it.
Another common killer of good time management is multitasking. While you may think that tackling more than one task at once would be good for your schedule, it is actually quite the opposite. Giving your full attention to a project is the only way to guarantee valuable, coherent results, and attempting to do too many tasks at the same time is a recipe for failure.
A distracting environment can be a big issue when it comes to time management. When there are constant interruptions in your work day, it will be difficult to maintain focus and therefore take significantly longer to complete tasks. It is essential to create an organized and distraction-free work environment in order to function to your full potential.
Lack of Prioritization
Prioritization goes hand-in-hand with multitasking; knowing which tasks to handle first and which can be left until later is vital. Naturally, the tasks with the nearest deadlines and the ones that take the most time to complete should be given priority, and tasks that are less urgent can be moved to the bottom of the pile.
Lack of Motivation
In addition to the above, you may simply be experiencing a lack of motivation. Large projects may seem daunting, and a poorly managed schedule can easily lead to burnout. These factors combined can lead to low energy levels and significantly decreased motivation.
How To Manage Your Time As A Freelancer or Contractor
As a freelancer or contractor, the ability to organize your time efficiently is your most powerful weapon. Thankfully, there are a plethora of tried-and-tested techniques to improve your time management.
The idea behind time blocking is to prioritize tasks and allocate the appropriate amount of time needed for each one. By breaking down tasks into manageable chunks of time, you can focus on the task at hand and avoid the temptation to multitask or get sidetracked by distractions. This method also provides a sense of structure and accountability, as you are held responsible for completing tasks within their designated time frames.
Time blocking is a powerful time management technique that can be particularly useful for individuals juggling multiple tasks or struggling with distractions throughout the day. This approach involves setting specific time slots for each task, with a clear start and end time, and committing to working on that task without interruptions.
To implement time blocking effectively, it is essential to identify and prioritize the most important tasks for the day or week. Once these tasks are identified, allocate specific time slots for each one, ensuring that there is sufficient time to complete each task without rushing.
The Pomodoro Technique
The second technique, widely recognized as the Pomodoro technique, is one of the most popular and effective ways to manage time. This productivity “hack” involves using a timer to focus on a single task for a designated 25-minute period, followed by a 5-minute break before starting the next task.
Using a timer creates a sense of urgency and helps you to prioritize tasks, making it easier to concentrate on completing them. By breaking work into manageable intervals, the Pomodoro technique also allows you to take frequent breaks, which can further help maintain focus and support your attention span.
If you’re considering using the Pomodoro technique for better time management but need some extra motivation, there are plenty of tools available in our resource library to help you. Forest is one of these tools, and it’s excellent for increasing focus and motivation. In this app, your tasks are represented by trees. As you work on your task, your tree grows, but if you abandon your task, the tree dies. The goal is to create a forest by adding and completing tasks.
Overall, the Pomodoro technique is a simple yet effective time management tool that can help you increase productivity, reduce procrastination and stay focused on your tasks. By setting specific time intervals for work and breaks, you can work smarter, not harder, and achieve your goals more efficiently.
The Eisenhower Matrix
Another excellent time management technique is the Eisenhower Matrix. Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th US president, and renowned World War II general had an excellent attitude when it came to productivity: he separated his tasks into what was ‘urgent’ and what was ‘important’. If you’re struggling with time management, the Eisenhower Matrix may be an effective solution for you.
This approach is particularly useful for people who struggle to prioritize certain tasks, have difficulty pursuing long-term goals, feel constantly rushed, or worry that their work lacks impact.
The technique involves sorting tasks based on their urgency and importance.
To start, decide which of your tasks is most urgent, and further sort those tasks into Urgent/Important and Urgent/Not Important. Take what’s left and decide which tasks are Not Urgent/Important and which are Not Urgent/Not Important.
Prioritize the Urgent/Important tasks first, then tackle the Urgent/Not Important tasks. Schedule a designated time in your calendar for the tasks that are Not Urgent/Important, and evaluate whether the Not Urgent/Not Important tasks are worth keeping or deleting.
To Do Lists
One of the simplest and most effective time management techniques is creating a to-do list. This method can be tailored to fit your needs by organizing tasks by workflow, priority, due date, or any other way that works for you. The to-do list is particularly useful for those with busy schedules or frequent interruptions who regularly find themselves trying to multitask, and can even be used in conjunction with other productivity methods.
To make a to-do list, start by identifying all the tasks that need to be completed within a certain timeframe, such as a day, week, or month. Then, create a list of these tasks and check them off as they are completed. This way, you can keep track of all your tasks at a glance and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
By using a to-do list, you can increase your productivity and stay on top of your tasks more effectively. This method is easy to implement and can be customized to fit your specific needs, making it a timeless time management technique that can benefit anyone. Apps like Todoist can help you keep track of your to-do list easily and all in one place while sorting your tasks into daily, weekly, and monthly sections.
Setting Measurable Goals
Setting measurable goals and sticking to them is another critical habit to cultivate. Using the SMART goal technique can help you to set relevant, attainable goals that you’ll actually stick to. SMART stands for Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound, and together provides an excellent framework for setting all of your professional goals.
Good time management is crucial for maintaining a structured workday. Time tracking is an effective solution to this problem, as it provides insights into time usage and areas for improvement.
In the article above, we determined the best solutions for each time management issue that may arise in regards to your work schedule. For a distracting environment, both the Pomodoro technique and Time Blocking can be extremely helpful. On the other hand, multi-tasking can be solved by creating clear assignments that are being completed one by one, using a to-do list.
Then, for issues with prioritizing, the Eisenhower Matrix will help you to determine which tasks need to be completed first, as well as those that can be left until later. If you’re struggling with a lack of motivation, then the Pomodoro technique can help you to bring the excitement back to your work.
It is also essential to build good habits, such as establishing a daily routine, tracking progress, setting measurable goals, and addressing procrastination and distractions. By implementing these strategies, you can optimize your schedule, maximize your productivity and achieve your goals efficiently.