I’m one of those people who is usually on time. Yesterday when a client again missed a phone appointment, I began to wonder again about how I run my life so I’m almost always on time. Here’s what I learned.
Without some structure time gets away from all of us
One of the joys of freelance writing is the ability to control our time, and it’s one of the problems as well. I started freelancing when my kids were young and when I quit going to a regular job, I started going back to bed once they were off to school. After a week or 10 days of that I realized I had to do something differently.
I solved the problem by grabbing a legal tablet (this was back in the typewriter days) and pen and head for the nearest restaurant. I’d have coffee, maybe some breakfast, and write for an hour or so. (Was I ahead of the curve? Maybe.) Then I would head home and either write from those notes or work on whatever writing project needed to be worked on.
After several weeks I realized I could make coffee and breakfast at home and accomplish exactly the same thing, without spending all that money.
The point of this is that anyone can change the structure of how the spend their time so it supports them and their goals. Here are some tips to help you get your time under control
Track your time for a week
I think before any of us can make a change about how we spend our time it’s truly helpful to actually see how we spend our time. Time tracking sounds like a pain, and it is in a way, but I’ve found it helpful in big important ways.
I’ve discovered, for example, that it does take me longer to get dressed to go somewhere than I thought. I was underestimating by anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the event. The result was I was always rushing. Without time tracking however I wouldn’t have noticed the reason for the rush. Sounds dumb, but it was true for me.
I’ve also found it helpful to track how much time it takes me to, for example, to write a blog post for myself and for others.
There are many ways to track time. I started with pen and paper which rapidly became a chore, but got me started. These days I use Toggl which has both a free and a paid version. You’ll find it at toggl.com and it’s cloud based so you can access it from anywhere.
The time leaks I found, like an extra 15 minutes of recreational reading a couple of times a day, or traffic delays on Fridays when I have a physical MasterMind meeting.
I tracked every work day for a couple of months. Now I only track occasionally – if things seem to be getting out of control time wise, or just because I want to be sure my time estimates are accurate.
Make appointments for everything
While your learning to handle your time well, make appointments for everything. Schedule from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. The point isn’t just for the sake of writing things down, but of helping you discover how your currently operating. It’s so easy to think you get up at 7 am when you’re freelancing when instead you hit the snooze button 3 times and find yourself getting up at 7:30 or 8 am. Nothing wrong with that except if it’s unconscious you’re setting yourself up for time struggles.
You’re really looking for more time leaks. Maybe you shower quickly but spend extra time getting dressed you don’t recognize until you look.
I use a combination of Google Calendar and Todoist – both free although Todoist also has a paid version.
Schedule generous time around each appointment
Instead of trying to make several appointments back to back, get in the habit of adding generous time before and after each. That might be only 15 minutes or so for phone calls, although I like 30 minutes, to as much as an hour or more if you have to drive to meet someone.
Here’s the thinking: I want time to change gears mentally between each appointment. And if I have to drive I want to allow for unexpected delays in traffic, or finding parking or other delays. I want to be relaxed at the beginning of each appointment.
By adding extra time I also allow for the appointment to last longer than expected.
Yes, it may mean fewer appointments during the day, but not many fewer, and when I’m calm about keeping an appointment rather than stressed, I do a better job.
Give each of these suggestions a good try and see how they work for you. Let us know in comments. And if you have additional tips, put them in comments as well.
Write well and often,