Time management skills for freelancers and creatives

Eliminate distractions with these five time management tips and techniques.
When it comes to allocating your time between various projects and switching your attention between tasks and topics throughout the day, creative people have been doing it for a long time. All independent professionals can adopt strategies from the creative crowd and apply them to their own projects, regardless of whether they do fine arts or financial accounting. We've collected some tips from our community for you.

1. Choose a time management technique

There are many options to choose from when it comes to managing your time: a classic to-do list, the pomodoro technique, the Eisenhower Matrix and more. Give them a try and see which one works best for you and your tasks.

See our Freelance Business Month session with Selma Franssen and Linda A Thompson where they explained the pomodoro technique.
If you're struggling with distractions, use an app like RescueTime or Clockify to track your time and see how you spend it. Then start testing different methods and see which one feels the most comfortable. Our team member Ivan Karabaliev shares he switches between routines quite often, so it can take a while to find the one that works best for you.

2. Find your productive time and manage your energy

Some people are early birds, others are night owls. Depending on your type, you will do your best work at one time, and your energy levels will fall at another. Doing creative work as opposed to analytical work will also be affected by your body's natural rhythm. When you learn to match your tasks with your body's energy levels, your work will flow better and you will be more efficient in your tasks. A great resource for the topic is the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. More books on freelancing can be found here.

Some of our community members share that once they've figured out how to batch their analytical tasks separately from the creative ones, their productivity skyrocketed. This trick helps to minimise some context switching that, studies show, is overcharging our brains. Also, knowing what times of the day you're more productive with those tasks can bring your efficiency to the next level.
3. Fill in your calendar
If you don't want to be missing deadlines (and you really don't!), using a calendar is the most effective solution. You can use a paper one, but today digital calendars have many advantages. Our founder Elina Jutelyte shares that she sets the deadlines for her projects first, and based on that, she plans the rest of her tasks.

If you want a comprehensive introduction to setting up Google Calendar, see Pavel Minar's session during our Freelance Business Month here:
He also made a fantastic training for Gmail that will save your time managing your inbox.
4. Disable phone notifications
Your phone is often the biggest thief of your attention – learning how to use it in a helpful way can minimise its distractions. Our team member Anastasiia Dehtiarova shares that she disables all email and social media notifications, leaving only the essential apps like Slack and work email active, so she can get urgent messages. This popular approach needs to be tailored to your workflow to be the most effective – choose the apps you use the most to communicate with your team and your clients and leave their notifications on, while disabling everything personal and distracting.

You can also put your phone on Do Not Disturb (check your Digital Well-being settings) for the weekends, which will allow you to enjoy your time off without constant messages from work.
5. Know how to start
You can have the perfect schedule, but if you sit down to do your work and spend an hour staring at a blank page, you're in trouble. For our team member Bozhidar Ivanov, learning how to start creative work on command was a useful skill when freelancing.

Step one: warm-up. This can be something simple and easy you can do during your morning routine. Write in your journal, sketch an object, come up with a crazy idea – the point is to get your imagination flowing, which will make it easier to start. When you sit down to work, the best tip is to start quickly. You will most likely write/draw/code something horrible which you'll end up deleting, but the point is you've broken away from the restraints of writer's block and made a start. Remember: you can always edit a bad page - you can never edit a blank page.

Doing creative work may seem easy from a distance, but it's often built on strong practical skills and work routines. Knowing how to make the most out of your time and energy and remaining consistent will determine whether you'll be successful as a creative professional, or if your passion will remain just a hobby. With motivation and perseverance though, everyone can improve their time management skills.


Lastly, our invited guest speaker - Claus Raasted - director of the College of Extraordinary Experiences and coach at McKinsey & Company and an expert in productivity and innovation will share the Art of Having Shit Done during the upcoming Freelance Business for Creatives.

Claus is a prolific author, with 34 books to his name, and recently did 100 innovation keynotes in 100 days. He also has a past in reality TV. How did he manage all that? Join us on 23-24 August to figure this out. Register for free here.

You can also subscribe to our upcoming Freelance Business Book with tips and tricks from almost 80 freelance experts and professions. In that book you will find advice on any topic: from how to market yourself to how to find and retain clients. See more here.
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