Time Management Tools for the Busy Freelancer

Spend your time wisely.
© iStockphoto/v_rybakov

I can hear my father telling me, “Time is money. Manage your time wisely; do it now!” In this fast paced culture, it is so easy to lose time, and therefore lose money. We need to set up a system for managing our time and adhere to it, so that we work efficiently and have time left over to play. Here are a few tips – and time management tools – to help you get started on taking back your valuable time.

Set up a workspace. Whether you work in an office, in a store, or at home, find your own workspace where you can keep your things. Having the items you need to do your job in one place saves time and causes less stress.

Steer the conversation when on the phone. Learn how to steer the conversation to a close when talking on the phone. Too often people go off on tangents when talking on the phone and you need to be able to wait for a pause and gently say, “I understand what you are saying, but I really need to get back to work.”

Take notes. Keep a notepad by your desk and take notes while on the phone. Be careful about scribbling notes on random pieces of paper because they will get lost. If you have to, use sticky notes and then paste these notes into your datebook immediately so they won’t be misplaced.

Schedule a time to check email (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and stick to it. If you are working, you need to be working, not checking personal email. Let everyone know that you check personal email once in the morning and again in the evening. Unless it is work related, you should try to stay away from social networking while on the job.

File it. Have a place for files and file things promptly.

Hang a whiteboard on the wall. Whether you have an office or work from home, it is helpful to have a large whiteboard on the wall that lists your pending tasks and to-do list for each week. You will save yourself time by being able to glance at the big board instead of scrambling for your datebook.

Stop your open door policy. Let friends and family know that you are available at certain times and to please not bother you otherwise. If you let people just pop in whenever they want you will waste many hours of time during your workday.

Put a sign on your door. “Busy, please do not interrupt. I will be available at [time].” While it may seem harsh, some people just don’t understand and will waste your time constantly interrupting you. Be firm.

Schedule meetings at your convenience not other people’s. Unless it is your boss or a client, don’t give in to every person that wants to talk to you on their time. Remember that your time is just as valuable as theirs.

Prioritize tasks. Take care of important and urgent matters first. If you make a habit of prioritizing projects and chores, you will get much more accomplished – and with a lot less stress. Each morning, jot down what needs to be done and then assign numbers to each item an order of importance.

Multitask. Group projects together so that you can use your time more efficiently. File while you’re on the phone. Clean out your desk drawer while waiting for the printer to print out your work. Catch up on reading notes while waiting for the copier to print your latest project.

Just say NO! Learn to say no when asked to take on more projects than you have time for. Bosses, clients and co-workers will only keep piling on the work if you let them. Take a stand and save yourself time.

Make a to-do list each night as a template for the following day. This will help to keep you on track so that you won’t feel overwhelmed or forget something important.

Keep a diary. Purchase a small notebook (even a composition notebook will do) and write down phone calls you make and take, notes from meetings you attend, things you need to get done, etc. At the end of each day, review your diary notes and enter what else you accomplished that day.

Time Management Tools

Freelance Switch Hourly Rate Calculator

Toggl. Time management you enjoy. Helps you see how you really spend your day. Makes every second count.

Slimtimer. Slimtimer lets you track your time on projects with a dead simple interface.

Rescue Time. RescueTime not only tracks time, but it monitors how time is apportioned by tracking what programs are open and for how long.

Klock. Keep track of anything with Klok’s simple work timer and visual display of how your days “fill up”. This Adobe AIR based application can track your time as well as export data to a spreadsheet to be used in invoices.

How do you manage your time? I’d love to hear from you about tools you use for time management. 

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About Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.
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