Freelancers who manage multiple projects understand the importance — and the difficulty — of effective time management. But simply dividing your day into discrete blocks isn’t enough.
Writing, editing, and designing all require different mindsets; jumping straight from one type of project to another — say, from carefully proofreading every word in a technical report to staring at the wall for an hour while an article composes itself in your head — wastes more time than it saves, as you try to adjust your frame of reference from one to the other.
Through trial and error, I’ve developed two-step a time management technique that seems to work well. Try it and see if it works for you.
1. Chunk Your Time. The ideal period of time probably varies from person to person, but for me, productivity seems to happen in 90 minute spurts. I use a countdown clock like Apimac’s excellent Timer Pro (shown above), which I’ve set to pause iTunes (I always work to music), chime an alarm, and recite the time. (All that is probably overkill, but I like the emphasis on hey, stop already!).
If the alarm goes off and I’m either on a roll or need just a bit more time, I either start another 90 minute countdown or switch the timer to stopwatch buy tramadol overnight cod mode and keep going.
2. Take Breaks Between Projects. Breaks are especially important if you’re switching between projects that use different parts of your brain, e.g., between something analytical and something creative. For me, I aim for 15 minutes between projects that are similar (say two proofreading tasks) and 30 minutes between projects that aren’t (say a proofreading task followed by a website design task).
During that time, get away from your work — intellectually, physically, philosophically, however you “get away” meaningfully. Play a game, do some time on the elliptical machine, do a load of laundry, whatever lets you push your brain’s big red “Reset” button.
Bonus: Group Your Work by How You Bill. I find that I am more efficient when I’m able to group hourly work together separately from piecework. In fact, I try to block those together at the day level, so that I can know in advance that I’ll have a whole day to stare at a wall for my big article, instead of trying to squeeze the wall-staring time between two editing gigs or wait until the end of the day when my brain’s too tired from wrangling words to think creatively.
How do you structure your time? Leave a comment and share what works for you.