Time is our most precious resource. Do you need to be more productive with it?
The reason most of us become freelancers is that we want more control over our schedules.
We crave more time.
Many freelancers aren’t freelancing to become rich.
No, we do this for the love of our work, and because we want to control where we spend our time and energy.
The next time you think to yourself, There are never enough hours in the day, I want you to remember that time is not your opponent.
You don’t need to beat the clock.
You need to befriend the clock.
We need to see good habits as friends, not enemies; opportunities, not challenges.
Make Your Routine Work for You
I used to have this notion that if I didn’t work in my home office, at my prescribed hours, I would fail. I thought if I couldn’t complete all my work by 3 pm, I would be letting my clients down.
After working so long in a culture that demands so much of our time, I had forgotten that I own my time.
I can work when I want, sleep when I want, have lunch when I want, and take breaks when I want. You can do that too. But here’s the thing. It needs to be the same, every day.
I tried the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach after I embraced the idea that my time was flexible.
It didn’t work.
I would sit on my couch and watch a little TV and then write a little. Then my favorite episode of The Office would come on, and I would take a break to watch Jim and Pam get married for the hundredth time.
I was getting very little done.
Instead of feeling energized and excited that I was working from home and doing what I love, I felt defeated at the end of the day because I hadn’t gotten anything done.
I needed a routine.
I started to get up with my husband every morning to see him off to work. Then, I would get to work in my home office. No more couch time, no more snuggling with my furry co-workers to distract me.
Fair warning: It was tough at first.
I felt uninspired being in a smaller space with my door closed. I missed the din of the television in the background.
But after a few days of consistent office time, I got so much accomplished. I started acquiring new clients. I felt great at the end of each day.
My office hours are 9 am to 3 pm every day. I fill my time with writing, networking, and sharing ideas that drive me forward in my career.
Part of my routine is spending 30 minutes free writing to jumpstart my day.
Give it a try: Tomorrow morning, before you get cracking on your next writing gig, sit down and write out (yes, as in longhand) anything that comes to mind.
Free writing is a way to prepare your mind for the day ahead. Get all the fuzzy, cluttered thoughts out of your head, and you’ll save time later in the day when the creativity is overflowing.
Hint: If you feel weird and don’t know what to write, just start with I don’t know what to write, and go from there. Write about your breakfast cereal or things you want to accomplish that day.
Just get it all down on that paper.
Valuing Your Time is Valuing YOU
How do you value your time?
- Do you value it by how happy you are in the morning when you wake up and get ready for the day?
- Do you value it by feeling how accomplished you are at the end of the day?
- Is your time measured and valued in hanging out with family?
- Is your time valued by money in your bank?
How you value your time and how you choose to spend your time is a direct reflection of how you live your life.
I am a frequent online shopper. I will pay an extra 20% on my Q-tips as long as I don’t have to spend two hours fighting crowds, wishing I would have stayed home. It’s not because I’m the queen of convenience, it is because my time is priceless.
As freelancers, we do have to put a price on our time. Never underestimate how valuable your time is.
Some freelance writers use software programs that track time, or payment schedules. If you like to kick it old-school, which is my preferred method, buy yourself a handy planner, or a notebook, and keep track of things by hand.
You could even keep a schedule on a whiteboard hanging up in your office. For extra fun, paint one wall with chalkboard paint and then go wild with floor-to-ceiling planning. For more organization ideas, check out Organizing My Life as a Freelance Writer.
Using tools to help you stay organized will allow you to monopolize your own time with intention, which can propel your career, your relationships, and even your health in a positive direction.
Ask yourself what holds the most value in your life.
- What are your priorities? If you don’t know, ask yourself what is important to you.
- Is it saving money for a vacation?
- Is it spending time with your family?
- Is it cultivating new clients?
If you can list what is important to you, you’ll get a clear picture of where your priorities are.
Wasting Your Time
I get tired reading articles that say if you do XYZ, you are wasting your time.
If something makes you happy, you are not wasting your time. You are fulfilling and enriching your life with something that brings you joy.
Some days, I need a break.
Sometimes, you’ll need a break, and that’s okay.
Do you re-energize yourself by playing video games? Do you recuperate by watching reality TV? Then do those things. Once you understand the value of your time, you’ll begin to designate tasks appropriately and be able to schedule yourself some downtime.
Maybe you need downtime but want to stay on task. Use that time to research your niche, or learn a new skill. Check out the Contena Academy for lessons in freelancing. Can you sit on a couch and watch a video? Great! Then you can learn something while you relax!
It feels so much better to sit down at the end of the day and not have anything on my to-do list because I used my time as the valuable resource that it is.
You can’t travel back in time, but you can ferociously protect the time ahead.
Budget your time the same way you budget your money.
Time is an asset that every person on this Earth has. It’s the one thing that we all have in common. I start with 24 hours. You start with 24 hours. Your competitors start with 24 hours.
Instead of working against the clock, make the clock start working for you.