Time Management Methods for Freelancers
“Time keeps on slipping into the future.” So go the immortal lyrics from Steve Miller Band’s 1977 hit song Fly Like an Eagle.
And that is a feeling that freelancers everywhere can relate to. Sometimes, it feels like an entire work day goes by without us having accomplished much of anything. We kept ourselves busy for 7 hours straight, perhaps, but not very productive. The time just seems to have slipped away from us.
In this post, we’ll look at 7 time management methods that you can use to help make the most of the precious minutes you have. Every. Single. Day.
#1 Eat the Frog
Mark Twain had a grotesquely vivid description of time management:
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.
And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.
Hopefully, you’re job doesn’t involve eating frogs. (But hey, if you’ve convinced people to pay you for it, more power to you! Maybe we need to create a new service category on Legiit).
What Twain was trying to say, of course, is that you should tackle your biggest jobs as soon as you start working. That way, your most important task for the day isn’t looming over you for hours. And you can ensure that it actually gets done instead of procrastinated away into the ether.
#2 The 2-Minute Rule
This rule is perfect for anyone who is prone to procrastinating. It gives you a simple two-part time management method to prioritize your tasks. Throughout the day, as new things come to mind that you need to get done, apply these two rules:
Rule #1: If you could get the job done in less than 2 minutes, just do it right now.
Rule #2: If the job would take you more than 2 minutes, start it and work for at least 2 minutes on it.
Rule number one will keep you from letting stupid little things like answering an email pile up on your to-do list. Rule number two gives you impetus to just get started on the big things rather than procrastinate them. All you have to do is commit to making 2 minutes of progress. After that, you can stop if you want. More than likely, though, you’ll have built up some momentum and end up knocking the task out.
#3 The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique involves strategically dividing your work up with breaks. It is a way to force you into focusing for short, productivity packed intervals. It goes something like this:
- Create your to-do list.
- Work for 25 minutes straight on a single task, only switching if you finish. (This 25-minute interval is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato because the creator of the technique used a tomato kitchen timer).
- Take a 5 minute break.
- Repeat another 25-minute pomodoro.
- Take another break.
- Continue until you’ve completed 4 pomodoros total. Then, take a longer break of 10 – 30 minutes.
#4 The 80/20 Rule
This rule goes by a lot of names: the Pareto principle, the principle of factor sparsity, and the law of the vital few. Whatever you call it, the 80/20 rule states that approximately 80% of output comes from 20% of the input. As a freelancer, this means that 80% of your profit will probably come from about 20% of your clients.
Applied inversely, the Pareto principle also dictates that you spend 80% of your energy on a mere 20% of your results. So, as a time management technique, you can try to identify your most productive tasks and focus more energy on them instead of wasting time on less efficient jobs.
#5 The Eisenhower Matrix
This time management method was developed by former U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower as a method to prioritize the wide range of tough decisions he had to make. Basically, any of your tasks can be plotted on a 2×2 grid according to their urgency and importance, like this:
|Important||Do these tasks first.||Schedule these for later.|
|Not Important||Delegate these tasks to someone else.||Don’t do these.|
#6 Energy Planning
Next up on our list of time management methods for freelancers is planning your tasks around your energy levels. This one is good for people who have trouble maintaining consistent output throughout the day or even week.
In essence, if your energy levels fluctuate, you should develop a schedule that has you performing specific types of work at the times that you are most prepared for them.
To give you an example, imagine that you tend to have a lot of energy at the beginning of the day, that it wanes a bit after lunch, and that you have very little energy for work near the end of your day. Your schedule might look like this:
Morning (high energy): Tackle the most difficult tasks, the ones that require you to spend the most energy.
Afternoon (mid energy): Take care of less demanding tasks, such as scheduling, answering emails, and goal setting.
Evening (low energy): Do the things that are easiest or even fun, like brainstorming or open-ended tasks that don’t have a strict deadline or end state.
The same principle can be applied throughout the week too. For example, some people have less energy on Monday as they are still winding up from the weekend. Their energy may peak by mid-week and then begins to wane a bit on Thursday or Friday.
#7 Time Management Apps
While some people love the old-fashioned pen and paper or whiteboard methods of tracking time, digital freelancers are tied to their smartphones even more than average folk. So capitalizing on apps to keep you on track could be the perfect time management technique for you.
As you are implementing various time management methods, you may want to look into apps like Trello, ToDoist, or PomoDoneApp. If you want to learn more about our top recommendations, check out our review of some of the Best Productivity Apps for Your Business.