You’ve got a time management app on your PC that links to every internet device you own and has every conceivable feature you would want, while being easy and quick to use. You know your deadlines and you’re great at prioritising. So why is your time management still so poor – and why are you still not getting everything done?
Let’s look at five possible culprits…
Your Tasks Are Too Big
Unless you break down projects and tasks into smaller, more manageable steps right from day one, two unhelpful things are likely to happen.
First, the project may be overwhelming – and fear that you can’t handle it, or that it’s too much work, or that it may prove just too darn difficult may cripple you and prevent you from starting at all.
Second, without breaking the project down, you won’t have an accurate idea of what’s involved – how much brain power and time each stage will take and how much you should be charging for the work.
Your Tasks Are Too Unspecific
You need to know exactly what you’ve got to do and why every time you arrive at your desk/studio/workspace. Think about what’s really required and the steps involved, and try to make sure that you know exactly what you should be doing next. ‘Sort furnishing for Client A’ is too vague.
What kind of furnishing for what room? ‘Research lime green cushion and curtains for Client A lounge’ tells you exactly what to do.
Your Home Life Is Interfering
Whether it’s physical interruptions such as phone calls and knocks on the door or emotional distractions such as worrying about your children or a family argument, you need to develop strategies to reduce their impact on your working life. Be firm with people who interrupt you and make a rule that they don’t call or arrive on the doorstep unless they would do so if you were employed and at your workplace.
As for emotional issues – as freelancers, often working alone at home without the distraction or discipline of a work environment and colleagues, we can find it difficult to mentally leave these behind, and this can affect our productivity.
Try to create physical and mental buffers between your home life and work life with a set time and place in which to do your work. Give yourself time to resolve as many issues as possible before your working day starts, take regular breaks and learn some stress relief and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques to help you keep these worries in proportion.
Take practical steps to solve issues such as childcare by finding a reliable childminder who could care for your child if they have a minor illness and there is work that you desperately need to complete.
You’re Not Feeling the Love
Few of us are lucky enough to be constantly working on something that fills our heart with joy and our pockets with gold. But if the work you’re taking on is boring, repetitive or uninspiring, all the time management skills and apps in the world won’t drag you to your desk.
You need to be motivated by money, interest or preferably both, so investigate ways to diversify, or seek out new clients and types of project.
You’re Taking on Too Much
Sometimes, you’re not making excuses – you really are taking on too much. To avoid this, be brutally realistic about the time and mental effort involved in your work, and how many hours you can put in without feeling totally drained. Then factor in the expected interruptions and add a little leeway for those unexpected interruptions too.
Planning a work schedule that can only succeed if the boiler doesn’t break down again, your brain is working on full power and you and everyone around you remains in peak physical and mental health is just asking for failure. Life rarely runs that smoothly for long, so build in blocks of apparently ‘spare time’ (they won’t be!) and make contingency plans.
There is no magic spell to make you organised and motivated, but by being honest about your working life, capabilities, workload and distractions, hopefully you’ll be able to regain some control and reduce your stress. Good luck!