Time Management Tips for the Self Employed

No Time!
Photo Credit

I have been my own boss for seven years now and while I’d like to say that from day one that I adopted a slick and ultra-efficient way of working I’d be lying. I’m not talking a little white lie here but an absolute whopper.

In the early years I read all the right manuals, such as Time Management for Dummies (yes really) and subscribed to all of the wonder email programs which guaranteed to help me streamline my day with weekly or hourly tips. None of them helped me find my master switch to turn on my magical time management machine and all of them just made me increasingly frustrated.

I have (eventually) realised that trying to fit the way that I live and work into someone else’s ideal pattern was a fool’s errand to begin with and that the only true successful time management system is the one that is tailored to your own life, your own family, commitments and ways of working. That said, there are some universal tips and tricks that are worth considering regardless of what you do as nine times out of ten they will help.

Use Templates
Whether you are sending invoices, work proposals or indeed any specific document have templates made up with the majority of the necessary information and saved ready for when you need them. Some may be printed off or emailed as and when while others will need tweaking first however having everything ready to go helps.

The same works with standard email responses, especially if like me you get a great number of emails a week that need a response yet you find yourself writing the same thing over and over again.

Back Away from the Email
Switch the damn thing off. Close anything which pops up to tell you have another email, and that includes phone apps and DO NOT switch them back on or have a sneaky peak until you have finished a piece of work or it has reached the time you wrote down on the bright yellow post it note (with lots of exclamation marks for emphasis). Email may be a huge drain on your time and also a great way to procrastinate so take the temptation away.

Love the Cloud
If like me you have an office, also work on the laptop, sometimes have to work outside of the office or even on your phone if travelling the cloud will be your friend. Saving key documents and working on cloud based software protects your work from nasty PC crashes and makes it easy to access it anywhere.
I am a huge fan of Evernote, Google Drive (Docs) and Dropbox which combined work to offer me everything I need wherever I am.

Social Media
Of all of the things that has popped up since the World Wide Web began social media sites are both the best and the worst of inventions. It is easy to get distracted (and kids yourself that you are actually marketing yourself when you are really being a nosy so and so) when you should be doing something else yet there are times that you should be online doing your thing.

I find scheduling a browse just for browsing sake while having my morning tea break or lunch kills the “oh my, what have I missed?” urge to peek and leaves me free to crack on. It also means that the time I spend working on social media projects for either myself or my clients isn’t interrupted by the temptation to catch up on my own social side.

I have a home diary where notes about shopping, payments due and shopping lists as well as the 101 details that come with being a mum get written down. I also have a work diary with deadlines and to-do lists and squiggles and notes. They are not mutually exclusive as my work life and home life often intermingle (much to the horror of time managements gurus I’m sure).

My work diary now also notes anything which I need to remember when setting work schedules, meetings and taking on work such as the fact that I have two school plays this week, a dentist appointment and don’t need to pick K up until late on Monday’s as he has volleyball.

Having everything written down helps me be realistic about how much time I have to work during the day and where I have free time to fit in other working hours around family time.

Be Realistic
You can wear your pants on the outside of your clothes however this will not make you superhuman. Whether you have children to look after as well as a business or not, being self-employed, as wonderful as it throws challenges at you that are unique to this way of earning a living. Try and pre-empt disruption, be savvy about cutting back time that you waste but also remember that stuff does crop up. Leave time for the unavoidable, make sure you can shuffle where necessary and remember that it really isn’t worth sweating the small stuff.