Wednesday, November 2, 2011

7 Time Management Strategies That Work

7 Time Management Strategies That Work
(The following is an excerpt from an eBook, 15 Steps to Freelance Illustration by Øivind Hovland.)

One of your most valuable resources is time.

Unfortunately, time is also one of the first things to run out on you, which can affect your quality of work, your ability to meet deadlines, and your peace of mind. Time management can be one of the most difficult parts of freelance business to master, so it’s important to set up a time management strategy as early as possible. That way, you’ll have a better chance of staying on top of the demands of running a business, as well as a schedule to return to when things inevitably get out of control.

Here are some tips on setting up a time management strategy that works for you:

1. Know your personal clock.

Figure out what times of the day you are best able to perform specific tasks. For example, you may be more creative in the early morning hours and better at taking care of mundane business tasks later in the day. If you pay attention to the way you work, you can plan accordingly and make the most of the time you have.

2. Make lists.

Document your goals for the day, the week, the month, and so on. While this may not sound like the most exciting activity, it can help to clear your mind and keep you on task. In addition, the feeling of accomplishment each time you cross off an item on your list can be a great reward. Consider keeping your daily list short (3 or 4 tasks) so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Often, this is more than enough to keep you busy for one day.

3. Assign daily duties.

Consider allocating specific tasks to each day of the week, so that you don’t feel the need to address everything at once. Here’s an example of how you might organize your time:

Monday – Marketing

Tuesday – Business Duties

Wednesday – Website and Blog

Thursday – Networking

Friday – Research

4. Promise low, deliver high.

Often, Illustrators are tempted to promise the world in order to secure a client, but it’s important to give yourself more than enough time to complete a project. You never know what distractions might arise. Another benefit of this approach is that if you complete a project ahead of schedule, it always impresses your client more than if you were to merely meet the deadline.

5. Set up an efficient workspace.

Try to keep your office free from distraction and clutter, so that you can get more accomplished in less time. In addition, using the right tools for the job and to fine tuning your workflow can also help you to increase your efficiency.

6. Break down your projects.

One trick to help you work your way through a project without feeling overwhelmed is to break things down into smaller pieces. In other words, focus on just the first stage of a project, rather than trying to wrap your brain around the entire concept. Just like making lists, this can also help to motivate you by showing you a pattern of forward momentum.

7. Try the Pomodoro Technique

Another effective approach to breaking down your time into manageable bits is called the Pomodoro Technique, which was developed by Francesco Cirillo. Here’s the basic idea:

Choose a task to be completed.
Set a timer to 25 minutes.
Work on the task until the timer stops, then take a 5 minute break.
Start again from Step 1.
This technique is great for helping you to stay on task and rewarding you for your accomplishments. Find out more here.

Whatever methods you choose, pay close attention to what is working and what is not. If you consistently find yourself feeling overwhelmed and short on time, take a step back and reevaluate your schedule. Often, making a simple adjustment here and there can have a substantial effect on your ability to keep up with the demands of a freelance business.

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