This article was first published at Antwerp Avenue.
Working for yourself has amazing perks. You can work from your couch in your pyjamas, if that helps you get in the flow, or you can hang out all day in a cool cafe with your hipster coffee, feeling like a boss – whatever floats your boat.
One of the challenges, however, is how to manage your time without the strict schedule that working in an office provides you. There, you have to arrive on time and can’t leave early, and your boss will soon catch on if you spend most of your day online shopping.
When you work for yourself, you lose accountability, and it can be difficult for some people to manage their time well.
This goes both ways: some people find it difficult to force themselves to sit down at their laptop and do their work, while others work round the clock without taking a break – neither of which is an ideal situation. Below, we’ve assembled some tips on time management for people who work for themselves.
It’s easy enough to decide which tasks you want to do during the day, but sometimes when you work for yourself, it’s difficult to actually stick to the timetable you’ve set yourself. We recommend setting yourself alarms (not just for waking up in the morning – but that would be a good idea too!) for when each task begins and ends. Our brains are programmed to respond to alarms thanks to all those 7am wake-up calls, so an alarm each hour, or whenever you’re supposed to have finished a certain task, can help jolt you into awareness of how long you’re spending on each item.
Make use of apps
There are endless apps out there that can help you with time management as a solopreneur or freelancer, depending on what it is that you struggle with. If you’re a procrastinator with the tendency to do anything on your laptop apart from your actual work, try Self Control. This computer app lets you choose sites you want to block, and the length of time you want to block them for. You may need to use social media for your work, but just blocking sites like your email or go-to celebrity gossip can help you stay free from distraction for an hour or two. Apps like Trello can also help you stay organised. Trello allows you to create project boards where you can make to-do lists of ongoing tasks, so it’s easy to stay on top of what needs to be done by which deadline. This can also help people who tend to overwork: just being able to see on your board that a certain tasks isn’t due for another two weeks can help you relax and focus on the here and now.
Work with your body clock
One of the best attractions of freelance life is that you can choose your own hours. This means that you can tailor your professional schedule to your individual body and preferences. Are you a morning person? Awesome! Set your alarm for 6am, and work until 2pm or 3pm. More of a night owl? Cool! Sleep in until 10am, and then work till 8pm or 9pm. Work out your own body clock and what suits you best, and you’ll find that you become more efficient and productive because you’re working in line with your biological processes. You might also find that you work best when you have a gym or yoga break in the middle of the afternoon – you’re your own boss, so go right ahead! Get to know how you work, and you can use this to your advantage when setting your own hours.
As an overworked entrepreneur or freelancer, it can be very difficult to force yourself to take time off. It’s amazing if you love your job so much that you want to spend every waking minute on it, but it’s also important to take time for yourself. Your mind and body need to recharge, and if you don’t leave yourself time for this, you put yourself at risk of burnout. One great way of ensuring you take time for self-care in your busy schedule is to plan it in your agenda just as you would a business meeting or a client call.