This is a particularly relevant post for me this week as I work to re-energize my own time management skills and get more organized. I scoured the internet for time management hacks and have compiled a list of the ones I find most helpful already as well as the ones I intend to implement going forward.
There are lists out there with upwards of 15 or 20 tips, but I’ve narrowed it down to the eight I find most relevant to freelancing. Enjoy and happy organizing!
1. Be aware of how you’re using your time
Before you can get organized, you need to know where you’re currently spending your time. Track what you’re doing for a week using a time management app or a daily journal. Keep track of what you’re doing and how much time it takes you to do it.
This will help you see where you can tighten up your day while also showing you how much time tasks actually take so you can plan accordingly.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Take a moment Sunday evening to map out your week. And then take a few moments to create a daily plan either every morning or the evening before.
In general, put your most important tasks at the top of your daily to-dos and work your way down to the least important task. And take a few moments to mark things done for a quick boost and sense of accomplishment.
3. Commit to your plans
Once you’ve got your plan, commit to it. I like to put things on my calendar with alerts. Just the act of putting it down solidifies it in my mind but having an alert as well spurs me to actually do it.
Get started on time too, don’t wait around for the muse to strike. I’ve found that once I get going, inspiration isn’t far behind. The worst thing I’ve ever done for my creativity is not start.
4. Eliminate nonessential tasks
Take a look at your weekly and daily tasks and pare them down. Commit your time where you need it and spend less time on superficial tasks that don’t add any value to your work.
Hand-in-hand with this for me is to let go of some of the details in favor of getting the task complete. If it isn’t perfect, you can come back and revise it. But in the end, it’s better to have a task done and imperfect than perfect and incomplete.
5. Build important tasks into habits
Take one or two of your daily tasks and make them habits. If you’re a writer, make it your goal to write something every day. In this way, not only are you spending more time on your craft, but you’re training yourself to get into that headspace every day.
If you can make getting into the right frame of mind as natural as your morning coffee or daily workout, you’ll struggle less to get into your work.
6. Allow time between tasks
Make sure you’re leaving some downtime between your tasks. You don’t need a ton of time, just enough to get up and take a quick walk or make yourself some tea. Enough time to extract yourself from your previous task and switch to the next one.
Along with this, put a time limit on your daily tasks and try to stick to them. This challenges you to work more efficiently by discouraging distractions and makes time management a breeze.
If you know that you only have 45 minutes to finish that first draft before moving on to revisions, you’re less likely to glance at Twitter. It also keeps you on track to complete the rest of your tasks.
7. Stop multitasking
Our brains do not multitask well. Focus on what you’re doing and leave the rest at the door. (I’m writing this while steadfastly ignoring the dryer that just went off.) If it’s something important, add it to your task list and come back to it once you finish what you’re doing.
And always finish what you’re doing. If you do get interrupted, make sure you go back to your original task and complete it before moving on for the day.
8. Take care of your body
This one is important for life in general, but probably more so for productivity at work. The average adult needs 7 or more hours of sleep each night, according to the CDC. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that sacrificing sleep to get more done will help you out in the long run. Your quality of work will suffer with your sleep and you may find you end up getting less done.
Fueling your body with good-for-you food and regular exercise will also keep you functioning at the top of your game. If you’re like me, you probably spend a good deal of time sitting in front of a computer, so it’s important to balance that sedentary time with spurts of movement.
When it comes to my body, I’ve found that when I feel good, I work better than when I feel crummy. So I make keeping my body healthy as much a priority as planning my day.
I can’t wait to implement a few of these and take better control of my time. I hope these help you as much as they help me! If you have a hack to add, tell me about it in the comments!