I would imagine that anyone who works for themselves will agree that time management is a big obstacle to productivity. Sometimes the Internet is too alluring and suddenly half the day has disappeared, and sometimes you get so focused on one project that you overlook all the other things you have to do. Either way, the end result is a lot of work that should have been done was ignored.
Working for yourself also means that you’re perpetually in a cycle of looking for new work to keep the income steady, while also trying to complete the tasks you need to do. Some are short projects while others are ongoing, and it can be tough to balance it out. Currently, I am ghostwriting two books, one of which requires reading a lot of text before I can begin the writing, and the other one I am writing for every day. I also manage a website (Friday is Video of the Week, so my job is to scour YouTube for entertaining videos. Today’s is a proofreading one, for anyone interested), have three travel articles to write for one client, three articles of various topics for another client, a blog for a recruitment agency, and two manuscripts and a short story to edit.
Short of working a full twenty-four hours a day, it isn’t possible for me to do all of those things in one day, so I need a plan. Thankfully some of those tasks are only on a given day – I only need to find a video on one day of the week, and many of the articles are for specific days. That means I know what takes precedence on certain days of the week, but prioritisation is still necessary.
My preferred method is to use tools like Wunderlist, which is available on PCs and Macs, as well as smartphones. What this means for me is I can sit down of an evening with my phone, input tomorrow’s list in order, and when I get on the computer in the morning those tasks are right in front of me. Wunderlist even lets you cross off tasks as you’ve done them, ‘star’ the most important ones, and adjust the date – ideal for projects that are ongoing or you didn’t get time to do.
Both Macs and PCs come with Sticky Notes built in. These are notes that sit on the desktop of your computer for you to see all day, and I find these useful for writing a list of what to do that day if I’m not using Wunderlist. In the past I have also used a notepad and a whiteboard nailed to my wall to remind me what I have to do.
Whatever tool you use is up to you; the important thing is you work out a schedule. I work out what is the most important task that day (usually on the basis of what has the nearest deadline), and I write a list beginning with most important. Sometimes it helps to give myself a set time limit too, such as 9-11am write as many articles as I can, 11.15am-1pm, write a chapter for the book, and so on. It depends on the day and the work I have to complete.
Whether I give myself a time limit or not, the important thing is to know what I have to do on any given day, so it gets done. It is too easy to forget a certain task, or underestimate how long it will take. By writing it down, in order, I find myself much more productive.