Time management. Now as freelancers entrepreneurs and people who do not work for a boss, time management becomes critical. Every Freelancer is familiar with the feeling, you know, well, I could just watch TV right now, and no one would notice, for example, or even worse, well, I got into business for myself, so I wouldn't have to deal with too much stress. So why not relax right now? Let's face it, when you have a boss, you basically just need to do what you're told by the boss. And if you keep doing that, then you will get promoted and you will keep having a job.
Even when you're not busy, you try to spend your time looking busy. That's how it works in an office. So what happens when all of that goes away? What happens when you are the boss? Can you really stay at home and not do anything? Well?
Of course not. And hopefully, that's not why you got into business for yourself. I firmly believe that the goal of anything you do should never be idleness, with a limited number of hours and days. We get on this planet, it makes no sense to waste any more time than we have to. I know that I've had quite a few issues with this in the past, and frankly, I still do, I will go through what I called the cycle of extremes. Basically, I would get burned out because I was I had too much work.
And so then I would take time off and I'd have more of a mindset, well, I should just relax and take it easy because you know, I got into business for myself so I could have a better life. So why not take it easy, but then I would panic because there was no business and I wasn't making money. So I would jump back in and work too hard, and then repeat over and over again. Now, because of this, I got very deep into time management. So based on what I've learned, I will make some recommendations here I can give some basic pointers as to the tips I follow and hopefully they can be useful to you. My tip number one is to embrace lists and labels and folders, etc, etc.
In essence Everything you do and everything you have should be retrievable. It should be retrievable at a moment's notice. This includes your bank account information, your invoice information, past jobs, tax info, etc, etc. I actually try to have as little as I can in physical format, it helps when I'm traveling or on the road or going even to coffee shops, etc. And so everything and everything I do have is labeled clearly. And this counts for my computer as well.
I treat everything like my cabinet and label it clearly if it's whether it's on my computer or actually in my cabinet. And if need be, I take time out every month or so to make sure that it is and to re label things and to put them back in order and no miscellaneous or other is not a label. Now if you want to know more about lists and labels and folders and how to divide up everything that you work on, then I actually recommend a book called Getting Things Done. I will mention this again in In the in the lesson about books that I recommend, so I will talk more about it then. But for now, I just want to recommend that you actually do set up folders and labels and lists with all your work and with everything you do just so everything is easy to find at a moment's notice.
Because once you start getting busy, it can really be a time saver to have everything readily available. My tip number two is to plan your day, the day before. Ideally, you should plan your work day, the day before before you go to sleep. By all means, you know, leave some time for surprises, but not too much. Trust me your life isn't as exciting as you think it might be. I'd recommend planning your most important thing or the hardest thing as the first thing you do.
So you can get the hardest or the worst thing let's say out of the way first thing and then plan the other maybe more fun things are things you look forward to later on. And this actually brings To the time management tip number three, which is do not check email first thing in the morning. Do not? Absolutely not, you already have your most important task planned out if you follow the tip number two, so no matter who emailed you, they can wait until after you've completed that task. Remember, emails are a great way of keeping busy and feeling like you're doing things and actually not accomplishing anything. When the best ways I've heard it described is that your email inbox is a to do list that other people have made out for you.
So it stands to reason that you should finish your own To Do List first, before you start doing the stuff other people gave you to do. Now, the way you go about this can vary but I generally recommend checking your emails at set times during the day ideally, say two or three times. And during this time you can respond or delete or otherwise take care of all your emails online. In one go. Once again, if you are interested in this topic and how to deal with emails, there's plenty of information on the internet. And there are also several books that deal with it.
And I will go through these books and mention them in once again in the recommended book section. Just quickly, I can say that getting things done by Dave Allen also deals with emails, and so it's good for that as well. Also the four hour workweek talks about emails and so both of those have some quite interesting recommendations. But I get into them in more detail when I talk about the recommended books later on. Now, the time management Tip number four is to focus on the three or four most important tasks per day at most. When planning your day, ideally the evening before as I mentioned before, you should be asking yourself, okay, if I completed these things, would it be a good day and if those are all you need for a good day, then Why not just complete those.
The main idea behind this is that if you have a to do list with 20 items on them, you'll never get them done. And even when you do get done, you'll probably concentrate on the easiest tasks first, which means that the hardest, most difficult, most daunting tasks will be on your to do list for a long, long time. So my recommendation is to put three or four important tasks and concentrate on those once those are done, then you can see how you feel or how you want to go about it. But know that once you've completed those tasks, it's already a good day. And so you don't have to stress out about the other things. So tip number five.
Now this one can be a bit complicated, but basically, it is that once you know how to do something, you write down the steps that are needed. In fact, this might seem a bit useless, but bear with me here. Remember that first of all, you can always miss something. Even if you know how to do something you might miss a step later on especially when you have say Four or five or eight different clients contacting you for jobs. So it makes sense to actually list what to respond, you know when to respond, and how much time to allocate to what, when to start invoicing, when to start sending reminders for invoices, say, etc, etc. Secondly, once everything is written out, you may spot methods of improvement you couldn't notice before, like maybe should I create an email template for my standard responses or something of that sort.
Then thirdly, and this might seem advanced, but in this day and age, you can find VA or virtual assistants anywhere so if you wanted to, you could hire an assistant. And you could just copy and paste the list of your steps and send it off to them. So if you have things that you need to work on that are pretty much standardized, like say you have certain steps you need to take in order to I don't know for yourself Marketing endeavors or in order to keep track of your jobs or this, that and the other, or maybe every week, you want to contact, you know, 20 potential clients, and you have a standard way of doing it. Well, on one of those websites like Upwork, or guru, etc, you can find virtual assistants who will do stuff like that, or else who will find the people to contact or either way will do administrative jobs.
And so if you have the steps already laid out, then it's very easy to explain to them what to do, and they can get it right the first time. However, as I mentioned, this would be a more advanced step that you might take later on. For now, though, I still think it's useful to write down the steps that are needed, once you figure out what you're working on. Just because as I mentioned at the beginning, once your business grows, it can be very chaotic. And so you want to make sure you have either a checklist or just a list of steps to take, so that your life in that sense can be much easier with this stuff. That's more or less Regular Tip number six is to use help whenever possible, because you will probably need it.
Now this isn't necessarily help, as in asking people to help you out, or it doesn't necessarily have to deal with other people but just with yourself and with what's available out there. For me personally, I noticed that my productivity started increasing a lot once I stopped having faith in myself. What I mean by this is I stopped thinking that I had great willpower and in a time management skills, and I decided instead to treat myself like an employee and to be my own main boss. So I started downloading apps that blocked websites where I waste time, such as, say Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, just so I could make sure I don't get distracted without thinking and end up wasting an hour watching YouTube videos say I also was able to find some coffee office with no internet. And so I started going there to work when I needed to concentrate on something offline once again, so I wouldn't be distracted by Facebook or by other things on the web.
Basically, what I tried to do was try to make it as easy as possible for me to work and as hard as possible to waste time, a lot like a micromanaging boss would do. And so I became my own micromanaging boss. Now, as a quick pointer, I use self control. This is an app for Macs. I'm not sure if it exists for PCs as well, but I find it very useful for Macs. Now I will get into this in more detail later on when I talk about all the apps and programs that I recommend.
But just briefly, this is an app that is free and that makes it very easy for you to block any websites or any applications or folders on your computer that you might waste time on so if you even if you have games etc on your computer that you might be tempted to waste your time on this will block them for you.