Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time management – No more excuses for freelancers

As a freelancer, I always try to manage my time better; the distractions when working at home can be many, there is housework, pets, gardens, outdoor recreation, not to mention social media. Freelancers have great liberties when it comes to scheduling their time, as long as the job gets done, right?

My normal schedule looks like this:
- 6:30 Wake up, prepare kids lunches and breakfasts, eat breakfast and hustle them off to school.
- 7:30 Check email and social media
- 8:00 Work
- 10:00 Exercise (run, yoga etc.)
- 11:30 Lunch
- 12:00-3:30 Working hard
- 3:30 Kids get home from school, eat a snack and help with homework
- 4:30-5:30 Work
- 5:30-7:30 Dinner and family activities
- 8:30 Finish up work, social media

This is a good day, but I also have to throw in mommy taxi, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, grocery shopping, etc and I often end up working late in the evenings to “catch up”. Needless to say I have been studying all the time management tips I can find.

Here are some time management and organizational tips that I want to share:
· Set fixed working hours and stick to them. Do not allow housework, errands etc. into this time.
· Limit time you spend checking email, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., but if you hit a slump in work motivation, get out of your chair and have a snack, do some laundry or socialize for a short time.
· Get an office at home and close the door when you are working. This limits distractions.
· Tell your family and friends about your work hours and ask that they respect them.
· Learn to say no. Don’t take on too much
· Think like a business. Just because you are working from home does not mean you can take on all sorts of volunteer work or help out at school, church etc. all the time. One of the perks with working from home is that you can do this if you want to and have time to, but set limits.
· Organize!!! Create a filing system, both for electronic files, paper, email etc and always use it. Read and file right away. Create a project management system. This can be an electronic calendar, a “traditional” paper calendar, project management software etc. Find something that works for you.
· Create To do-lists and follow them. Prioritize, check off and add new tasks every day.
· Use “The 50 minute focus technique”. Focus intently on a project for 50 minutes without interruption and then unplug and take a 20 minute break.
· Consider hiring virtual assistants to handle administrative tasks and other chores so you can focus more on project work
· Outsource stuff that you are not good at or do not like doing. I for example have outsourced house cleaning and accounting.
· Schedule time to relax. Just as it is important to schedule your work time, it is also important to schedule time to do things that relaxes you and reenergizes you.

These are some of the tips I have learned or collected over the years. Do you have any other tips that I have forgotten? Please share!

This all looks good on paper, but can be hard to implement in reality sometimes. Recently I got introduced to the website/software “rescue time”. ( Here you can download an application that tracks your time, and if you choose to use the paid version you can also program it to block out certain media during certain hours. I have now used it for a week and it is an eye opener. I easily get sucked in to social media for example, and this one tells you how much. Here are the results from my week:

This dashboard shows me my productivity, efficiency and what kind of work and distractions I have been spending time on. Notice the tall pillar on the left? That is Facebook activity during the week. Hmmm…… At least the productive pillar on the right is equally as high, but…

I find this tool very useful for documenting my time and hopefully it will also lead to better time management. Comments? Questions?


  1. Thank you Tess! I love this, it is just what I was looking for. In fact today a friend and I were having the "Time Management" conversation, then this pops up. Perfect! Thank you! I shared on my Facebook page because this is a hot topic now in my circle. Being a Mother and Business woman, recently widowed...I get to handle it all and I desire to do so in grace.
    Much love & thanks,

  2. Tess,
    I really like your blog esp. your last entry on time management! Great tips and ideas for managing your time better - I will definitely use some of them! :)

  3. Great info, Tess. I really like the 50-minute focus excercise, and of course, time mananagement is something that can always be improved. I am constantly working on it, and my main problem is that the "shiny new object" syndrome, which means that I tend to deal with the newest things that come in first, even when I have others, perhaps less exciting ones, pending. Working on it!

    I have recently decided to not have my e-mail client open all the time and to check it only once or twice an hour. I haven't been able to be strict on this all the time, but I am trying. I love your schedule, BTW, very impressive, thanks for sharing. Must check out Rescue Me!

  4. Thanks for sharing your time management tips, Tess.

    I use a similar tool to block certain sites during certain hours. It's an add-on for Google Chrome called "Stay Focused". It's simple to use, free and has saved me lots of time.

  5. Hi Tess!

    I've found your blog only few days ago and reading all your posts.
    Thank you so much for your tips.
    I will definitely follow the ones on time management!


  6. Thank you for your encouraging and helpful comments guys!

  7. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time, and budget. The secondary—and more ambitious—challenge is to optimize the allocation and integration of inputs necessary to meet pre-defined objectives.

  8. I am constantly working on it, and my main problem is that the "shiny new object" syndrome, which means that I tend to deal with the newest things that come in first, even when I have others, perhaps less exciting ones, pending. Working on it!