Do you feel like you’re always working but getting nowhere?
Been there, done that!
It feels like you’re a tiny little hamster running in its tiny little wheel — without accomplishing what you want. No wonder you feel exhausted!
Apparently, there’s more to time management than just sticking to a schedule. Once you learn how — and when! — you’re the most productive version of yourself, you’ll find yourself working your way towards your dreams fast!
Are you ready to fix your productivity?
Follow up to find out what are the most common time management mistakes that prevent you from skyrocketing your freelance career.
1. You don’t have a routine
Notice how I didn’t say habits here — but a routine?
Instead of obsessing about planning everything to the second, create routines. Routines keep you en route — pun intended! — but at the same time, they’re giving you some much-needed flexibility.
The best routines consist of a few well-chosen habits.
Habits are behavior you don’t really have to think about. Seriously — you’re on autopilot the whole time. Think things like brushing your teeth or unlocking your phone to check social media. Autopilot!
Your brain has gotten so used to the repetitive behavior that it doesn’t waste any additional mental energy! In return, that leaves more brain space for focusing on the things that matter.
Create a solid routine for every part of the day. Base that routine on healthy habits.
Here’s an example of a morning routine: get up, do some exercise, stretch, shower, eat breakfast and then get to work.
And here’s another example for an evening routine: dinner prep, clean up, free time (do some reading, watch TV, meet up with friends), put phone/electronics down an hour before bed, go to sleep.
2. You’re multitasking
Multitasking is dangerous for two reasons:
1) It gives you the false sense you’re being productive
2) It kills your productivity.
The human brain isn’t designed to be multitasking. When you think you’re multitasking, you’re actually switching from one task to another — losing precious mental energy in the process. *and that doesn’t allow you to get in a state of deep work*
Get faster by slowing down.
Do one thing per time. Minimize distractions. If you’re working, then only do work — don’t check phone or respond to emails. If you’re watching a movie — watch the movie.
3. You’re not working during your peak hours
Not everyone’s most productive at 6 AM — some people do killer work at 10 PM. So why’s that? That’s because they’re working during their peak hours.
The peak hours of the day are your most productive hours. That’s when you’re the most alert. You get the most done in less amount of time.
How do I find my peak hours?
Track your day. Some people even journal the data to get better feedback. You can also use the ultradian rhythm as a guide.
My peak hours are: 6 AM — 9 AM; 1 PM — 3 PM; 4 PM — 6 PM.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get anything done in between — it’s just that work’s done faster and easier if I work during my peak hours. *that’s how I try and schedule work hours now*
But what do I do between peak hours?
You don’t have to leave empty time slots between your peak hours. Simply, plan something else that needs to be done that doesn’t require laser-sharp focus.
Things like replying to emails, doing laundry or grocery shopping. Leave all the deep work.
Pro tip: Don’t shy away from scheduling something fun! Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom or do some reading to freshen up your brain.
4. You’re not batching
Are you writing one blog post at a time? Cooking only one meal? Replying to one email at a time?
Yup — you’re wasting time.
As I said, your brain doesn’t really enjoy multitasking. Nor does it like being distracted — and it takes up to 23 minutes to regain focus again!
On the other side, human brains love repetition. It’s soothing and easy — and you don’t have to waste any additional mental energy on it. The more you repeat something, the better you get at it.
Which is exactly what batching is — repetition.
How do I start batching?
Here’s how to triple your productivity!
1. Choose a specific task. (think writing, replying to emails, invoicing, scheduling social media, cooking — anything else that has a lot of repetition in it)
2. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed — or interrupted. Turn off phone notifications.
3. Set time — for example, 2 hours of work, followed with 5 minutes of rest. Calculate how much time you need.
4. Work only on that specific task and nothing else!
5. You’re not planning ahead
Fail to plan and you’re planning to fail — at least that’s how the saying goes.
Planning your day is the backbone of the routines you set in place. *see no. 1*
While I’m not a hardcore fan of obsessively planning every single minute of your day, planning ahead often means simply being prepared.
Actually, the better the plan you have, the easier it’ll be for you to make decisions, simply because you know the direction in which you want to move.
How to get better at planning?
1. Set major goals — and then divide each goal into different milestones. It’ll help keep your motivation high.
2. Get a planner — or a bullet journal — and write things down. Seeing your plan written down motivates you and keeps you disciplined along the way.
3. Don’t sweat if things don’t always go according to plan. One minor obstacle along the way shouldn’t be the reason you give up altogether. Go back to your major goal and find other ways to reach your final destination.
4. Think of your plan as strategy — not as something that always has to work out the way you’ve envisioned it has.
6. You’re doing the wrong thing
Don’t fall in the false productivity traps.
The false productivity traps happen when you’re working — but not doing anything important that moves you towards your goals.
Use the Pareto Principle to prioritize tasks. According to the Pareto Principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — 80% of the effects come from roughly 20% of the causes. Or in other words — work less but do more by prioritizing.
How to use The Pareto Principle in time management
Here’s how to learn prioritizing tasks with ease:
1. Don’t label all tasks equal on your to-do list. Look at the long term picture.
2. Rank tasks by the amount of effort required (going from 1 to 10) the potential positive results from completing task (going from 1 to 10) and the importance of the task.
3. Do the tasks with the highest potential positive results first. Often, this is the task that takes the least amount of time to complete but gets pushed at the bottom of your to-do list. *simply because we all have tendencies to procrastinate*
4. Don’t be scared to outsource menial tasks that eat away your time and energy. It’ll clear your schedule and open up time for more important things.
7. You don’t schedule rest time
You’re not doing yourself a favor by pushing through 14-hour days for years.
Longer working hours don’t mean increased productivity. Actually, working more than 50 hours per week is the best way to see your productivity drop!
And if you’re in this for the long run, you have to find the time to rest.
Schedule time to unwind every single day. Step away from all the hustle and bustle — and turn off your phone. Go do something you love in your free time — and restore energy.
8. You’re obsessed about making it perfect
If you’re a perfectionist like me, then you have the tendencies to go over your work again and again and again — until you make it perfect.
I used to write and re-write and re-write and edit and re-edit articles until I got tired of writing them altogether. *and giving up completely on the blog for a while*
The thing is… nothing ever can be made perfect.
I’m not saying you should downgrade the quality of your work — all I’m saying is, relax a little. Loosen up a little — and live a little.
You’re wasting precious time trying to make one thing perfect — instead of making it great and moving on to work on the next thing.
Remember: Momentum over perfection. Always.
What aspect of time management do you struggle the most?
Leave me a comment and let me know — I’d love to hear from you!