One of the major perks of freelancing is that you’re your own boss. Being in charge of your daily work schedule, however, also means you’re responsible for completing tasks on time. Luckily, if you know how to manage your time well, you’ll be off to a great start. Well-managed time can increase productivity and lower stress levels — two ideal objectives to strive toward when you’re the boss. Time management does take discipline, and the latter often requires some time to develop. Use the following tips to help you efficiently run a business.
Check items off your to-do list
It might seem like a no-brainer, but to-do lists are priceless tools for developing good time-management practices. Visualizing every task that you need to complete will help you prioritize the most important ones, and assess which ones will require the most time to finish. At the beginning of every day or week, jot down a few goals and tasks that you must complete for your business to run smoothly. Don’t expect to finish everything on your list in short order, but begin with the highest-priority items and transfer any remaining ones to your next list — or cross them off entirely if they’re no longer important or relevant.
To kick off your to-do list, consider adding the following task: organize work space. Although this might seem insignificant, a tidy desk and office will help you create a more manageable space to work, making it easier to complete assignments — and check the rest of the items off your list.
Think back to any of your past bosses — did they complete every task themselves? Of course not: that’s why they hired you and your colleagues. Now that you’re the captain of your own ship, you may have to delegate some duties to others in order to stay afloat.
Even if you don’t want to hire help right away, you can always find an extra pair of hands when you’re stretched for time. Consider asking a family member or trusted friend to run some errands on your behalf. Once or twice a week, task a helper with checking the mail, answering the phone, making the day’s deposit, or other time-saving jobs. You might consider hiring a temporary employee through a local job placement agency for help with the more specialized or time-consuming tasks such as bookkeeping, data entry, or assistance during the busy holiday season. You can also use technology hacks to cut down on time-sucking activities. For example, adding a “Buy Now” button via PayPal to your website can eliminate the need to take orders over the phone, as shoppers can make direct purchases online.
Tasks and to-dos can creep up on us unexpectedly. Watch out for any of the following red flags — they indicate that you might need extra help:
- You often feel rushed, exhausted, and are too stressed to sleep.
- You’re spending most of the day making phone calls or sending reminder emails to shoppers, suppliers, or associates.
- You have to schedule appointments during personal days or scheduled time off.
- You’re getting complaints from your shoppers.
- You’re usually late for appointments.
- Your desk or office resembles a dumping ground for business-related clutter.
Mastering time management may include delegating duties to someone else, which will alleviate your personal workload and increase productivity — and maybe even boost your bottom line.
Ditch the distractions
Social media is a necessary part of every enterprise, as it helps business owners develop relationships with perspective fans; however, don’t let social channels devour precious work hours by distracting you with puppy videos or the latest must-try muffin recipe (unless you’re in the muffin-baking business).
What about personal distractions? Some things may need your immediate attention (you wouldn’t let the answering machine take an emergency call from the hospital), but others can probably wait until you have a spare moment. Even minor staff meetings can usually be delayed until you finish the task at hand.
A smart way to avoid getting sidetracked is by scheduling every minute of your workday. Abiding by a strict schedule not only teaches you to manage your time, but it can also help you stay on task every day. Arrange your daily agenda by the half hour, leaving a few time slots open for unexpected events. Sync the calendars across your devices to keep each month organized no matter where you are, and stick to these timetables to the best of your ability.
Use your free time wisely
Running yourself ragged is never good for business, so be sure to take mental breaks throughout the day. Use this time to catch up on emails or post to your website. Better yet, put work aside entirely and refresh yourself with a little mental and physical respite — and maybe a nutritious snack. Free time is valuable, so spend it doing something constructive that will leave you feeling energized and ready to get back to the work that you love.