Time management is one of the most critical skills to hone when you're a freelancer. Your rep is largely determined by how well you stick to your word, the quality of your work and meeting your deadlines. Don't lose potential business by neglecting the importance of a good time management system!
I've been managing many projects for many different brands for YEARS, all the way back to my LPK days when instead of staying on one brand team, I chose to float across projects and teams! Time management is one of my best skills (clients are often surprised at my speedy replies/project turn-arounds and the workload I'm managing), and I've learned a lot through the years.
I've had LOTS of practice though! Tosave you the hassle of figuring it all out on your own, I'm sharing the methods that have worked for me. Hopefully it'll save you the headache of learning the hard way!
HERE'S HOW TO DO IT:
Get to INBOX ZERO (my top tip).By the end of the day (EVERY. DAY.) I clean out and organize my inbox. WHAT. This might sound impossible if you get lots of emails, but believe me, it's possible...my inbox is a busy girl! If you make good use of your free time, you can stay on top of it. I work on "inbox zero" throughout the whole day. If I'm waiting on people for a meeting, bored at a coffee shop or just need a mental break from my current task, I'll hop over and whittle it down a bit more. Sometimes, I can't get to it till the end of the day, but I will not go to bed until it's done. Otherwise that shit can get out of control real fast (plus it makes for a zen start to your morning to not have to worry about an overflowing inbox right off the bat)!
Honey, get a to-do list. Most projects probably come in via email, so find a tool that helps you organize your projects and tasks thru it. I use a Gmail extension for Todoist that adds projects with the click of a single button. If a project comes in via phone or text, I add it manually. I also use the Getting Things Done (GTD) process, where you take care of quick requests (less than 2 mins) immediately and file everything else into some sort of "Take Action" folder. It works!
Block your calendar. If I have a meeting, I block that time on my calendar. If a project is going to take most or all of a day, I block the time on my calendar. When a project comes in, estimate how long it will take you to get it done, then slide it into your week. If you have no idea or it's hard to estimate, build in some buffer time and get started on it early. Simple!
Plan your day a day ahead. This is also something that helps keep my mornings calm.I always organize my Todoist the night before. That way, I can start my projects for the day immediately vs spending time getting organized or getting side-tracked by clients' morning emails.
Watch for unnecessary time suckers.Sometimes you'll get sucked into a swirling email chain of last-minute changes and back-and-forth between team members. When this starts to happen, it can take a ton of your time to read each email and open the file numerous times to make tiny changes. It's best to hit pause and ask the team to let you know when they're aligned on all the changes. When the team is ready, you can make all the changes at once.
Don't overload.Try not to sign up for more than you have time for. This can be really hard to judge, especially when you're first starting out, so just do your best. You may not get it right every time, (even large corps that have been doing this for 20 years don't always get it right!) but you should be willing to pull an all-nighter every once in awhile. ONLY as a last resort, ask for an extension if you see you're not going to make your deadline. Eventually you'll figure out the right balance, but err on the side of not overloading yourself so you don't lose clients in the process.
Delegate. If someone else can complete a task for you and save you time, and it's financially affordable, let them do it for you. I delegate things all the time, like finances, marketing and promotion, specialized skills, etc. I also ask for help on design and photography projects when needed. Delegation is a huge (and necessary) part of growing your business.
Set boundaries, especially for meetings, so they end on time and you can focus on your work. That way, you don't waste time you could be spending on creating incredible designs.
Make shortcuts.This is really specific, but one little thing I do is create my own keyboard shortcuts for any action I do over and over. Also, a little-known fact, Automator (comes on all Macs) can be used to set up automatic tasks. Literally anything you do on your computer can be automated! This is especially nice because it does it in the background so that you can move onto something else. PLUS, when that special client is looking over your shoulder while you're designing, you'll look SO FAST with all your automated tasks and keyboard shortcuts. **SCORE.**
Heyyyyyyy...having issues with time management?? Need advice? Reach out! I'm always happy to help my fellow freelancers and share my experiences (and failures!) so that you can be more successful!