How to Improve Time Management (+ Pro Tips for Freelancers)

How to improve time management for freelancers

When it comes to time management, there’s no one-size fits all approach. The reason being we all have unique work habits and preferences in how we want to accomplish work. But the fact remains that we all have 24 hours in a day to get things done, and with each second that ticks away, that time becomes less and less.

The thing is, effective time management isn’t easy. Even with the most advanced time management tool, if you lack the proper time management skills, they won’t do you any good.

That’s why we prepared this article to show you how to improve time management as a manager, a freelancer, or an entrepreneur.

What Is Time Management?

Time management is the ability to decide the order in which you will accomplish tasks, and ensure you do them on schedule. It’s about planning and controlling how much time you need to spend on specific activities and that you allocate the right time to the right activity.

Ultimately, this conscious control of time enables you to work smarter, use your time more productively, and increase effectiveness.

Why Is Time Management Important?

If you want to get more work done and improve your work-life balance, learning how to manage time better will help you get more work done in less time. Subsequently, you’ll earn extra time for your personal enjoyment.

By improving your time management skills, you stand to gain numerous benefits, such as:

  • Ability to avoid unwanted stress
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Ability to focus more and procrastinate less
  • Ability to improve your work-life balance
  • Ability to control your workflow better
  • Ability to boost your productivity

11 Tips How to Improve Time Management Skills

The secret to improving time management skills is to review and improve our relationship with time itself. Here are some of the best practices to help you spend your time more wisely.

1. Avoid Multitasking

Contrary to what you may have believed all along, multitasking doesn’t save you time. In fact, multitasking can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time, as research by the American Psychological Association found.

While it may seem efficient on the surface, it actually leads to spending longer on a task, increasing stress levels and the risk of making errors. Another study by Stanford even suggests that multitasking can affect your long-term and short-term memory.

Multitasking entails switching across tasks, which comes with a neurological cost. According to Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, all that switching between tasks depletes resources. No wonder after an hour or two of multitasking, you find yourself tired and unable to focus.

Single-tasking can not only improve your ability to sustain focus and effort on your tasks, but also improve your time management skills.

2. Take Breaks

Whether you work from home or at the office, resist the temptation to complete large chunks of work before taking a break. This could harm your mental health and result in burnout and work-related stress.
One study by George Mason University concluded that short breaks can boost your attention. Therefore, don’t view stepping away from work as wasting precious time. It actually helps you gain optimum concentration when you get back to your desk, work with greater comfort, and boost your overall work efficiency.

3. Normalize Saying “No”

Whether it’s an invitation to social gatherings, scheduled meetings, or work projects, learn to say no to non-priorities. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed, and this can take a toll on your mental health and work efficiency.

Meetings can be particularly time wasters, and knowing when to say NO can save you a huge chunk of time. So, instead of accepting all kinds of responsibilities thrown your way, share your work schedule with your manager or supervisor and explain how additional tasks will impact your workloads and deadlines.

4. Start Working Early

Make it a habit to start your day early. The last thing you want is to work under constant pressure, which will only leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Most people are calm, clear-headed, and creative in the morning, which is why experts recommend doing the most important things first thing in the morning.

If you aren’t a morning person, you can wake up early to exercise or prepare a healthy breakfast. This routine contributes to more productivity during the day.

5. Organize Your Workspace

For starters, uncluttered life promotes mental clarity. And with a clear mind, you can be more focused and attentive to the tasks at hand, meaning you’ll do your best work. In addition, an organized workspace means less time wasted searching for documents, files, and other items necessary for work.

6. Deal with Procrastination

People procrastinate for many reasons, from unpleasant or unattainable tasks to a lack of organization to feeling overwhelmed or bored. Unfortunately, procrastination can impact your professional and personal life.

If you work remotely, daytime TV or taking long lunches can lure you from tasks at hand, leading to procrastination. In the end, you’ll find yourself working late into the night trying to catch up!

One way to overcome procrastination is to schedule smaller, fun activities throughout your workday to break up complicated and difficult tasks. This will prevent you from getting bored, ultimately helping you stay on track.

7. Allocate Each Task a Time Limit

Time intentionality is a great quality to possess if you want to nail time management best practices. You want to intentionally choose how much time you’ll dedicate to specific tasks to prevent spending unnecessary time on them.

If you don’t finish that task within the specified time, stop when the allotted time ends, move to other tasks and come back to it later. Shifting to a different responsibility and then coming back gives you a new perspective, allowing you to perform the task even better.

8. Set Reminders for Your Tasks

The key to successful time management is setting deadlines and sticking to them. Deadlines give you a sense of urgency and push you to put more effort to hit your target before time runs out.

Again, make sure your deadlines are realistic rather than always pushing them back.

9. Schedule Time for “Dreaded” Tasks

Whether it’s cleaning the bathroom, making a doctor’s appointment, or cleaning the backyard, we all have those tasks we dread to do. As a result, they keep us in a state of anxiety, which can drain our energy and waste our time.

Start by scheduling 10 minutes in your daily schedule to get these tasks done, one by one. Just be sure to respect the time limit, so you don’t keep working on it and interfere with the rest of your schedule.

10. Make a To-Do List

To-do lists can help you stay organized. They serve as a reminder of the tasks you need to accomplish in a day or a week. When we check things off, it’s proof that we can get stuff done, and that makes us feel proud and confident.

But to-do lists can only be effective if you use them. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure the tasks on your to-do lists feel attainable. No need to create a 20-item to-do list only to accomplish five at the end of the day.

11. Evaluate Your Peak Productivity Hours

Not everyone functions optimally in the early morning hours. Some are more energetic in the afternoon or at night and feel more productive during those hours. Knowing the times of day when your productivity levels are at their peak will help you schedule your days better and reduce time wastage.

Start to gradually shift your schedule to align with your most productive hours and evaluate your progress. If you feel more focused and can achieve most of your goals effortlessly after the change, stick to that schedule and review it weekly to determine where you can improve.

7 Pro Tips For Freelancers

Time management is particularly essential for freelancers as it allows them to manage their clients and workloads more efficiently and avoid missing deadlines or overworking. If you want to get more done in less time and run a stress-free business, here are the top tips on how to improve time management skills for freelancers.

1. Be Self Aware

Self-awareness allows you to assess your current weaknesses and strengths to establish what needs to be improved. Unless you are aware of your poor time management skills, you can’t know where to initiate change.

Understanding that time is limited allows you to take a realistic approach to set goals and deadlines.

2. Eliminate Distractions from Your Work Life

Distractions take away your focus and encourage time wasting. The problem is, no matter where we work, distractions will always be around us.

Whether it’s random thoughts, mobile/desktop notifications, kids, chatty co-workers, or loud music, distractions can automatically take away your attention from the tasks at hand. A 2018 Udemy Workplace Distractions report shows that distraction kills employee morale. According to the report:

  • 54 percent of employees believed “they aren’t performing as well as they should.”
  • 50 percent said they are “significantly less productive.”
  • 20 percent believed they are “not able to reach full potential or advance in career.”

Limiting these distractions can lead to better time management and increased productivity. To limit distractions and give yourself time to focus on work:

  • Work from a dedicated workspace, be it a home office or co-working space.
  • Set clear boundaries with family and friends, asking them not to disturb you during certain periods of time.
  • Reduce the number of meetings with clients or suggest no-meeting days.
  • Put your phone in airplane mode to mute notifications. Better still, put it out of sight, so you don’t get tempted to pick it up and check Instagram when boredom kicks in.
  • Block certain apps or websites, like social media sites, from your work computer. That way, you won’t be able to access them while working.

3. Delegate and Outsource

Understand that you can’t do everything yourself. Otherwise, you’ll end up burnt out. Determine tasks that you can delegate and assign them to people who are good at what they do.

This will give you more creative energy to do things that you’re naturally better at, making the most of your time.

4. Work with a Daily Planner

Planning your day is like using a GPS to guide you to the right destination. Just like without the GPS you’d get lost, without a daily planner, you won’t know what needs to be accomplished, in what order, and by when.

Creating a daily plan makes you aware of everything you want to accomplish that day. The simplest way to start planning your day is to make a to-do list of all the tasks that need your attention.

Top the list with tasks that you need to accomplish followed by tasks you want to accomplish. Next, create a timeline that takes you through your entire work day, from start to finish.

5. Prioritize and Organize

As a freelancer, you probably have multiple tasks, all competing for your attention. Instead of multitasking, consider prioritizing them wisely. Take 10-20 minutes at the end of each day to prepare your activities for the next morning. Decide what’s important and what’s urgent. You’ll want to tackle important and urgent tasks first and work your way down.

Schedule those tasks on your calendar in between the already booked time slots. Once you realize that you’re in control of your clock and know exactly how to spend your time, you’ll start getting things in order that works for you and your schedule.

6. Break Large Projects into Smaller, More Achievable Chunks

Working on large projects can be overwhelming and could be the reason you can’t manage your time as well as you’d like. And when you get too overwhelmed, you may be tempted to procrastinate, and do other things instead.

To overcome this and make every minute of your workday count, break those large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. The smaller tasks will be easier to complete, making the progress faster and more enjoyable. Ultimately, you’ll get the work done in less time.

7. Batch Similar Tasks Together

Creating a to-do list and prioritizing tasks is a wise move. To make it even more effective, review your list and batch related tasks together. For example, you can create five core categories, such as:

  • Networking
  • Creative activities
  • Administrative
  • Writing
  • Phone calls

So, if you want to make calls, allocate a time slot to make all the planned calls. This creates synergy, and your brain doesn’t have to jump from one of thinking to another. As a result, you won’t lose momentum shifting from one task to another. Instead, you’ll streamline your workflow, saving time in the process.

Additional Ways to Manage Your Time More Effectively

Use a Time Management Tool

Time management tools help you do much more than track the time you spend on tasks. They help you do a time audit to understand where your time is spent. A time-tracking tool like Traqq allows you to learn how you spend time on projects, so you can understand how long it takes to complete each of those projects. This can be useful when planning for future projects.

Its smart alerts and notifications feature ensures you don’t miss recording a minute. If you forget to activate the timer, you’ll get a notification nudging you to turn it on.

As a freelancer, you probably get paid by the hour. Traqq ensures accurate recording of billable time to facilitate accurate payments every single time.

Use a Project Management Tool

Apart from time tracking software, you can manage your time better and boost productivity using a project management tool. Such tools make it easier to track your project progress, review the project details, and even collaborate in real time with the client.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for how to improve time management, these tips can come in handy. Find what works best for you and implement them into your workflow. Mastering these tips will allow you to enjoy better work efficiency, more productivity, and improved work-life balance.

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