Do you feel like there are never enough hours in the day, but at the same time realize that so many hours just seem to disappear and you look back and realize how little you got done? As a freelancer time management is not just about managing your time, it is about ensuring that the time you do have is spent doing the things that matter.
In this short video from the Daily Stoic (highly recommend this channel) by Ryan Holiday, he delves into Stoic philosophy and provides 8 nuggets of wisdom, and the first of which is all about guarding your time.
As he mentions in the video, Seneca’s commentary on the topic related to how even though time is the only non-renewable resource, we are more frivolous with it than so many other things that are in fact renewable. If someone were to steal something that belongs to you, say a phone, laptop, or car, you would be enraged and do whatever you could to get it back.
On the other hand, we let others rob us of our time on a regular basis and worse yet we rob ourselves of our time by wasting it on activities that do absolutely nothing for us.
We say “yes” way too often and end up in unproductive meetings, hanging out with people that don’t really serve us or bring out the worst in us, we do favors for people that we know will never fully appreciate them, and so much more.
We also waste our own time by scrolling endlessly through social feeds, binge-watching the latest and greatest from Netflix or Disney+. We waste time doing things that do not move us towards our goal to make us feel “productive” but in fact, we are just procrastinating on the very thing we need to get done more than anything else.
Take a few minutes to watch the video and then let’s dive into what time management for freelancers should look like.
Step one in any time management endeavor is often the most overlooked. You absolutely need to start saying “no” more often. Deciding what to say no to is something you will need to do on your own.
The best place to start when it comes to deciding what you are going to start saying no to is your values. If you know what your values are then deciding what you are going to start doing more and less of will be easy.
If you don’t hold your values close, like most of us, then I would suggest sitting down one morning with your caffeinated beverage of choice, and list out what really matters to you. Let’s assume that you are a freelancer trying to grow your business, if you are here, I imagine that is a good guess.
Now let’s say you are trying to build a side-hustle freelancing career while you balance being a good life partner, son or daughter, friend, and staying on top of your health. Then your values would be directly related and proportionate to what living each of those means to your overall well-being.
Let’s be honest, some people value their career over anything else, and I am not one to judge, but if that is the case, then anything that does not move you in the direction of your freelancing goals needs to be moved down your priority list.
For most though, it is a balance of family, friends, health, and career. If you subscribe to the “put your mask on first” advice you get on an airplane during their safety speech on every flight, then you understand that unless you are alive, breathing, and even in good health, then you are not much use to anyone, especially yourself.
If you think I am going to say that you need to value and prioritize your health over everything else, then you are right. You cannot build your company, be a good partner, a good friend, or anything else for that matter if you are not in good health.
Beyond that, you need to sit down with your thoughts and outline just what you value, list the friends, activities, etc. that bring you joy and that actually move you in the direction of your goals and start saying no to everything else.
Do this one thing, and you will see your goals get closer and closer every day at speeds you would never see if you just kept saying yes to everything else.
This is one that I struggled with for years because I always considered myself more of a night owl. I was more creative and even more energetic in the evenings. It may be due to getting older, but regardless I absolutely love waking up at 5 AM in the mornings, or even earlier sometimes and getting focused work done on my most important tasks.
When you combine working from home with a 5 AM wake-up time you can get more done in the first few hours of the day than most would all day because there are no distractions. Obviously, that is different for everyone, you may have kids, you may have to stay up late for your job, or you have a hard time falling asleep.
If you do wake up early or are willing to give this a shot, I would recommend getting the blood flowing and getting hydrated within a few minutes of waking up. The fluids will wake you up and moving the body with some stretching, squats, push-ups, yoga, or a walk will prime your brain for kicking ass.
I know waking up early is not for everyone, but I would invite you to give it a shot for one week. If you don’t notice a difference in your productivity then feel free to return to hitting the snooze button.
Now that you are primed and it is time to get to work, you need to focus like your life depends on it. Remove all distractions and get to work on the ONE thing that is most important today.
Do not multitask, do not leave your inbox open, do not leave your phone on, do not procrastinate. Sit down and do the damn work.
We cover a few productivity hacks to help you stay focused in another post which I would highly recommend you check out. It is hands down one of the best approaches to getting and staying productive and focused.
There is absolutely no greater force in the universe than that of focused work. If you sit down with a goal in mind and give that single thing everything you’ve got, you can move mountains.
Freelancing Time Management
As a freelancer, it can be even more difficult to manage your time because you have to do it yourself. You don’t have a manager or a boss that provides you with a to-do list and a timeline to guide your priorities. You are in charge of that and so you have important decisions to make.
Going back to the value system, and the hierarchy of what to focus on you can apply the same rules to your to-do list. Within your career, what are the most important tasks you need to stay focused on to ensure you are not only surviving as a freelancer but thriving as one.
Once you have said no to all of the things you need to say no to, set your values, and prioritized your tasks, it is time to sit down and do the deep work necessary to build your dream freelancing career.
This post is more about reminding you that it is what you say no to, and how you decide to spend your time that will determine whether or not you are managing your time well. It really boils down to clearing your plate and focusing on what matters.