I wrote a post last month about never having actual time off as a freelancer. My plan was to try out the Big Rocks principle from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I said I would follow up and let you know how it went. So how did I get on? Have I become a highly effective freelancer?
So, in a nutshell, the plan was for me to take 10 minutes every Friday and schedule the big tasks I need to do for the coming week. The idea is that I would be reminded of the big tasks and focus on getting them done without letting small things; emails, messages, YouTube, whatever, get in the way. How did I do?
I think a solid C+. Did it help? Yes. Was it great? No.
What Did I Do?
My method was to go through the week and block out chunks of time. The chunks were either a) for specific tasks I needed to do or b) chunks allocated to particular clients. I have 3 regular clients at the moment and I gave them chunks that roughly matched the amount of time I thought they would require.
What Went Badly? 🙁
The smart people among you will have already noticed a flaw in my plan. While I had about the right amount of weekly time for each client, the client demands vary on a daily basis. Client A might have a rush job at the start of the week and nothing at the end while Client B is the reverse. This meant that I was constantly readjusting my plan because Client A had used their allotted time and ran over into the block for Client B or vice versa.
On a couple of occasions I had multiple clients with urgent requests which meant everything went out the window and I just did whatever was needed. One day I had a quiet afternoon and was catching up on some blogs while my calendar was pinging me every so often suggesting that I should be doing client work. I didn’t actually have anything to do so this just filled me with a vague unease…not what I wanted from the experiment!
What Went Well? 😀
When I had a specific task in my calendar it worked out great. The best example is this blog. It usually takes me about an hour to write a post, find images and get it ready. The problem is that this hour is sometimes the hour before it is published!
I blocked out an hour a week to write the blog. Even though,due to client demands, I couldn’t always do the blog in the slot I had planned, I would reschedule it to the next available time. The result is that I was regularly reminded to do the blog and it got written with plenty of time before posting. This was a small but significant stress reduction that was also seen on a few other small jobs.
What Will I Do Differently?
The main benefit I saw from this activity was dedicating known amounts of time to specific activities… like writing this post. Things went wrong when I gave chunks of time to vague activities like “9:00 – 11:00: Work on Client A”.
My plan is to continue giving chunks of time to specific tasks like the blog. For the more variable things I am going to allocate chunks of time for “Client Work”. These chunks of time are going to be dedicated working time but not for any particular client. This should allow me to focus in the times I am supposed to without feeling bad about not doing work for Client A or B or whoever.
I also have recently developed a man crush on CGP Grey:
I love his Hello Internet podcast and his Youtube channel. He is a big advocate of a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. I am currently reading this book and I’m going to see what I can adapt from it. I will follow up in part 3!
How do you manage your time while freelancing? Let me know.