How I'm learning to organise my time
As a freelancer, you are your own boss... but sometimes you turn out to be the worst, most unreasonable boss you've ever had!
This is becoming a running theme, me writing about time. Back in April, I wrote about the way it feels like time simply disappears, especially these past 16 months, the psychological effects that could be causing that, and the things I’ve been trying to manage these feelings.
I’ve also written a lot about struggling to feel like I’ve achieved anything in a day, a feeling that has always been there in the back of my throat, a slight pressure in my chest; a feeling that exploded tenfold during the worst of the lockdowns and one that hasn’t really gone away.
It has decreased to a manageable level though (mostly, anyway) and that was due to some big realisations on my end.
As a freelancer, you are your own boss. That’s often touted as a considerable benefit of being a freelancer, but sometimes it’s really not – sometimes you turn out to be the worst, most unreasonable boss you’ve ever had!
Looking at it this way wasn’t a perspective I ever thought about until I came across someone describing it like that very recently.
I realised I was being given an unreasonable amount of tasks to do daily, being made to do unpaid work once those tasks are done, never having my wins or achievements celebrated – I wouldn’t stand this kind of treatment from another person, but I’ve been doing it to myself constantly.
Finally, I came across something which helped to change the way I work for the better, enabling me to see an overview of what I’ve achieved, how long it’s taken and how I can approach my work schedule, down to the week, day, hour and even fifteen-minute blocks when I want to.
Setting up a time-blocking calendar has fast become an integral part of my workflow. Before I started using this method, I had a shallow project management system in place where I would plan the tasks I needed to do and when I wanted them to be done, piling task upon task upon task, ticking them off as I went only to see more to-dos pop up unendingly.
The problem was I had no idea how much time I was genuinely spending on these tasks, I didn’t have a proper overview of how much work I was getting done each hour, day or week, which also meant that I didn’t know how much time to plan for in future to manage each project efficiently.
I ended each day with what felt like an overwhelming number of tasks unticked, wondering why it was taking me so long to complete simple tasks and that I’d wasted the day away.
As I was commiserating about this feeling in a previous newsletter, I came across time-blocking and decided to have a go. Now my system looks like this:
An overview project management system:
I document every single task here, separated into freelance work and my personal work, where the information can be viewed on boards and as a calendar.
Each project has its own folder and each task feeds into a main “overview” calendar where I can see what’s happening each week across my entire workflow.
Here’s where I lay out my tasks for the week per client, per project, and any admin that needs doing.
A second calendar that I use solely for time-blocking:
I take the tasks I outlined in the above calendar and block out the time that I will work on each task, doing this for the entire week. I assign time blocks as little as fifteen minutes up to several hours, depending on how specific I want to be.
I also now split my week into days for paid work and unpaid passion projects - things like writing this newsletter, running Black River, working on my photography, my personal social media content scheduling. Paid work is the priority and I do this from Monday to Thursday mornings, then leave time for personal work on Thursday afternoons and Fridays. I say that but in reality, I’ve hardly had any time for these projects this summer.
I’m still working all this out but I’ve already been reaping the rewards. Not only has it changed so much of the way I work, but it’s also helped change my mindset and how I approach everything from the tasks themselves to how I quote clients.
It might seem rigid, but despite the wonderful flexibility of the creative lifestyle and path I’ve chosen, I’ve always needed routine and structure to be able to perform at my best. With this, I finally feel more settled and less like time is getting away from me.
“The New York Times quietly parted ways with international picture editor David Furst in April after an investigation into his treatment of colleagues and freelancers, leaving many at the paper asking why his departure had taken so long.”
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“Between 1899 and her death, in 1962, Nichols created and collected some twenty-four thousand negatives documenting life in her small Wyoming town, whose fortunes boomed and then busted along with the region’s copper mines.”
A little about me
I’m a freelance content writer based in London working with small businesses and brands in the creative and digital media sectors.
I enjoy telling stories about adventure, the outdoors, and I have a love for portrait and documentary photography.
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