As a freelancer or entrepreneur running a home-based business, there's no doubt you’re already loving the benefits of being able to work when you want, for as long as you want, without having to worry about your boss asking what the heck you are doing every five minutes.
But while working from home has many advantages, many freelancers find that after taking on a good number of clients they’re presented with an altogether different challenge – they simply cannot find enough time in the day to get everything done!
Most people experience problems with time management at some point, even those who work-from-home full-time. For those who combine their freelancing work with a full-time, 9-to-5 job, the problem can be especially difficult – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
How to Be More Productive at Work
Lots of freelancers wish they could make more time, but of course, that simply isn’t possible. There are only 24 hours in the day, no more, no less, so you have to use them wisely. We can’t make time, but, we can certainly free up some of the time that's available to us. The trick is in knowing how to do so.
Here are two options:
1. Get yourself better organized to make more efficient use of your time.
2. Identify gaps in our schedule that can be filled in with work.
1. Getting Yourself Organized
The first option is to become more efficient. This is especially relevant for those who are working from home full-time, as we have complete control over how we manage our time.
The key to organizing your time better is to get your work station organized first. After all, if you can’t get that organized, how on earth are you going to do anything more efficiently?
Start with your desk – clear out all of that clutter, so there are no distractions in your workspace. See, doesn’t that make you feel better already?
Now, let’s look at some things that everyone can do to get their freelancer life in order:
A) Administrative Tasks
No matter what business you’re in, there will be some amount of administrative work that you have to perform (emailing clients, billing, and invoices). Start by creating a new folder and keeping all of these records in one place. Use services such as Google Docs, and list these by project or client so that you can find them easier. Do a similar thing with your tax records. If you need to bill multiple clients or track hours, use a service such as Invoicera to automate these tasks
Related Content: 5 Ways to Automate Your Business for a Better Work and Life Balance
B) Work Contacts
Use Gmail and create a separate inbox for work contacts. These contacts can be color-coded so that you can immediately identify messages relating to specific clients and projects.
C) Work Projects
Keep a separate folder for each client and project, so that you can find things faster and avoid making mistakes like emailing the documents to the wrong client.
2. Identifying Gaps in Your Schedule
Now that you’re better organized, you’ll be able to work faster and more productively, so it should already feel as if you have more time in the day. The last thing to look at is your daily schedule. Bear in mind that freelancers need to have a daily routine, and so if you don’t already have a schedule, you should make one.
You can be flexible with this schedule. We all like to take off now and again, and indeed, that’s one of the reasons most people decide to work-from-home in the first place, but in most cases, we’ll be at home throughout the day, and so we should plan how we use our time.
You should make a schedule for your entire day, so that means including things like cooking dinner, getting the kids ready for school, appointments, meetings, downtime and so on. By making a schedule and sticking to it religiously, you’ll probably already find that you have more time to get things done. But if you still need more time, it might be possible to find extra time within the gaps in your schedule.
Most likely, you’ll be screaming at me, “I don’t have any gaps in my schedule!”
Finding the Gaps in Your Schedule
You’ll be right, of course – none of us do. Everyone leads busy lives these days, and our schedules are jam-packed. But it doesn’t mean our schedule doesn’t have room for more work. The key is to identify and then utilize those uncommitted chunks of time that are littered throughout our daily schedules, instead of doing unproductive things like playing games, scrolling through Facebook, or watching YouTube videos.
Here are some possibilities:
- Your lunch hour or breaks
- While you’re cooking dinner
- Waiting around for appointments, meetings, etc.
- Instead of watching TV at night
These are all pretty short periods, but, they can be utilized effectively. Instead of flipping through a magazine or scrolling through Instagram, use this time to get small jobs out the way – send emails, create invoices, fill out forms – whatever you have time to do during these short periods. All of this adds up, and you could easily find an extra 45 minutes or more in your workday.
Being more productive at work isn't impossible, you just need to create systems and be more mindful of how you're currently spending your time. With a few simple tweaks to your schedule — you can easily find more time to get your work tasks done.
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Vishal P. Rao has been doing business online since 2003 and runs a popular discussion forum for those who work at home. When he is not working, he spends time doing meditation and yoga.