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Paul Maplesden

As a freelancer, you know how important and valuable your time is. Because of this, it’s important to develop good routines so you can look after yourself and your business.

 

Introduction

Schedules and routines are vital to freelancers. We have to track projects, complete work, carry out business admin, communicate with clients, and more. We’ll teach you:

  • Why you need a routine.
  • Understanding the value of your time.
  • Just start.
  • Use the tool that works for you.
  • Chunking your time.
  • Review and tweak.
  • Weekly and monthly schedules.

 

Why you need a routine

Time management is at the heart of any good business, but it’s especially important when you’re working to deadlines. A daily, weekly, or monthly routine helps you get everything done that you need to, while leaving you with enough time to manage your business, and maintain a healthy personal life.

 

Understanding billable time, non-billable time, and attention

There are two types of time in a freelancer’s work day - Billable time that you can charge to clients, and non-billable time. Non-billable time might include responding to emails, applying for jobs, creating invoices, business administration, or any of a dozen other tasks. A routine helps you manage both your billable and non-billable time by limiting the frequency you have to switch between them.

It typically takes us around 10 - 20 minutes to refocus when we change tasks. If you’re switching attention throughout the day, that’s a lot of wasted time. When you schedule separate slots of your billable work and non-billable admin, you reduce the number of times you need to switch, making you more efficient.

You have to start somewhere, it doesn’t matter where

Just start making a schedule. It doesn’t matter if you wake up at 5 AM, work for two hours and then get some personal time. It doesn’t matter if you work through lunch and take a break from 4PM to 5PM. What’s important is that you get into the discipline of planning your day and scheduling it out. Start now, using whatever tool you like.

 

It doesn’t matter what tool you use, as long as it works for you

It doesn’t matter if you schedule on paper, in your calendar, or using some other scheduling tool. What does matter is that it’s easy to put information into your schedule and quickly understand what you need to do next.

The importance of chunking your time

Because of the issues with switching attention and refocusing, splitting your time up into chunks is important. Make a list of all the things you need to do in a typical day and how long those tasks are likely to take; this might include:

  • Complete chargeable work for clients.
  • Search for jobs online.
  • Apply for jobs.
  • Follow up with my clients.
  • Update my time tracking tool.
  • Promote myself on social media.
  • Have lunch and screen breaks.

Once you’ve done that, put your tasks into your calendar or scheduling tool. Set aside distinct times for every task.

You might like to work for long stretches of three or four hours, and then spend an hour or two on non-billable tasks. Some people like to work for a couple of hours with half-hour breaks for doing other stuff. Ultimately, your schedule has to work for you, as much as you work on your schedule. Try a few different routines and learn what works best.

Review and tweak your schedule

You should review your schedule through the day and tweak it as you need to. No schedule is perfect, and no plan survives contact with a client! Be prepared to adapt and change as you need to, but always move back to the central principle of chunking your time. Refine your schedule over a week or two until it naturally reflects the work you need to do.

Creating weekly and monthly schedules

Once you’ve mastered the daily schedule, set up weekly and monthly ones for other recurring tasks. These might include payroll, chasing up invoices, reconciling your payments, tracking expenses and other essential business admin tasks.

 

Conclusion

Remember that a schedule is a tool that should help you focus your time on the most important areas. Spend a little effort setting one up and you’ll see your productivity soar.

Paul Maplesden is a freelance writer specializing in business, finance, and technology. He believes a day spent not reorganizing a schedule is a day wasted!