One of the primary reasons I made the decision to trade out working as an employee for taking on contract work as a freelancer was due to an increasing sense that too much of my time wasn’t really mine. I’ve quickly learned that effective time management is one of the first and most important traits you must learn in working as a freelancer.
When for most of the week I gave the same 8 hours to someone else’s business and about the same 8 hours to sleep (this is pretty non-negotiable for me, I’m not nearly the capable person I want to be if I’m working off less than 8 hours of sleep), the windows of time that were left over started to feel too limited. This was especially true once factoring in the little energy that was left over at the end of the work day; not to mention the non-professional obligations that can sometimes feel like work, such as errands, cooking, cleaning and the like.
I made a realization at a certain point that the amount of hours spent working was less of an issue for me than the lack of flexibility in those hours. If I have a little more freedom to define when I work and where I work, that opens me up to being able to travel more to visit friends and makes me more likely to fit something like exercise and errands into the day before I reach the points of low energy that would often previously begin right at the end of the workday.
The trade off is that where I used to take it for granted that I would have a couple of hours to wind down and do something relaxing before falling asleep each night, I now find myself often doing some form of work until much later into the evening. My life isn’t nearly as compartmentalized between work time and my time, as those distinctions have in and of themselves begun to blur.
I’ve found it useful to do some reading of how other people in similar positions have chosen to approach time management as a freelancer. Here are a couple of resources I’ve found useful:
A lot of this boils down to planning well and avoiding distractions, even some that we can tend to think of as productive, like checking e-mail.
It’s also important to get a sense of the times of day you work the best and your personal rhythms so you use the time you’re working most effectively. I’m still figuring this part out to a certain degree.
Finally, it’s important that you budget time for yourself and activities that aren’t work. Make sure you’re not letting your social life or preferred relaxation/entertainment choices slip away into work time.