So on the app store today, looking for a timer app to keep track of minutes spent on various editing jobs, I saw the Pomodoro app. It had a five-star rating! So I thought I’d try it. I was surprised it wasn’t a regular timer but a technique of breaking time into short blocks with five-minute breaks between. I’ve been using it today. Do you use the Pomodoro technique or app for time management? How is it working for you? Here’s an article on how it works.
How do you decide how to spend your time? Do you take enough down time? Time management is pivotal when operating a small business, usually juggling several clients at once. Here is an excellent article outlining some pointers for managing your time.
So what’s this last week of 2014 looking like for you? Is work is a little slow, with clients still on holidays? Or are you scrambling to get your last assignments completed this calendar year? If you’ve got a little time on your hands, spend your week getting ready for the new business year ahead. Here are a few things I’m going to be busy with.
- Doing lots of math
Get a head start on your tax prep and add up your business income for the year. I include all jobs invoiced in the current year, even if the cheque won’t arrive until January. Search out all your receipts and determine your expenses as well. If you’re not sure what items you can claim, do some research on the government tax website. As an editor, I can claim things like office supplies, printer ink, internet costs, dinners out for business (such as my editorial collective meetings or meetings with authors), and mileage for things like meetings or conferences. Fees for professional associations and online resources are other eligible expenses. Business use of home expenses involve some math as well.
- Prepping paperwork
Get your spreadsheets and account pages all set up for the next year’s income. For me, this tends to take some time as I have to relearn some of those Excel tricks I use only once a year! It’s exciting to look at that blank page and imagine all the interesting jobs to come—think positive!
- Checking the odometer
Make sure to record your odometer reading on the last day of the year and the first day of the next—where are you going to keep this number for calculating next year’s mileage costs? One suggestion is a little calendar book in your glove compartment to manually record any trip miles as the year progresses. Or include mileage in your calendar app alongside each appointment.
Is there a pile building up on your desk? It seems like paper is busy multiplying at night while we sleep! Get busy catching up on your filing so you start the new year with a clean, organized desk. Spend some time removing old files (I always keep two years’ worth of everything) and do some shredding or recycling.
- Making some resolutions
Are there things you would like to change this coming year? Think of ways you can work more efficiently and take concrete steps to put those changes in place. Some of my resolutions: start work each day on time, all dressed (!); take the furry coworker for a good walk in the middle of each day (good for my brain too); drink more water throughout my workday; and spend less time on distractions like reading the news or blogs.
How about you? What are you doing this week? What new business year “resolutions” are you planning?
When you are self-employed, there’s no clock to punch, no coworker (other than your dog or cat) noticing when you’re not at your desk, and often no one pushing you to meet a deadline. Maybe this freedom and independence is why you chose the freelance life! But some days we may need a push to be as productive as we can be. Here are some tips for ensuring maximum productivity in your workday. You may be newly self-employed and just setting up your work routine, or you may already do these things. Feel free to comment and share what has worked for you.
- Set up a dedicated work space
To work efficiently and have your job taken seriously, it’s ideal to have an office space of your own. Ensure that everything you will need for work is in this space, with a good work surface, a comfortable chair, and adequate lighting. Don’t allow your family to “borrow” your office supplies, or you’ll have to interrupt your work time to search out your calculator or stapler! How to best organize a home office will be the topic of a future blog post – stay tuned.
- Set a weekly schedule
This is key. Determine your work hours and when your breaks and lunch time will be. This may be different from day to day. In my editing work, it’s very important to have long uninterrupted blocks of time for maximum efficiency. So I plan for this and don’t allow interruptions. It’s important to maintain a professional mindset: this is your JOB. As you would for any other job, get up at a regular time, shower, get fully dressed (“to the shoes,” as one home worker says) and show up at your office on time. Resist the urge to work in your pajamas.
- Tell everyone your work schedule
It will take time at first to train your family members not to interrupt you during your work time. But no one will take your job seriously unless you do. You will need to tell people that you work from home and what your work hours are. When you see your neighbour after you take your furry coworker for a walk at lunch, end your chat with, “Well, I have to get back to work,” and remind him what that work is (soon the whole neighbourhood will know). As common as freelance work is nowadays, many people (your mom?) still find it unusual and can’t imagine what you might be doing all day long!
- Avoid unnecessary interruptions
Your scheduled break times are a good time to check your Facebook, your blog feed, or the news headlines. Try hard to avoid these time suckers during your workday. If you check your browser history regularly (or ask your spouse or a friend to do this), you may be astounded how much time you spend online. It’s very important to stay connected, networked, and informed, but just be selective and disciplined about what you read during your workday.
Unless you are expecting an important call, allow phone calls to go straight to message and return them later, on your schedule, not theirs.
Avoid the temptation to do housework during your workday. I will do laundry on workdays, however, as I like to be able to hang it outside as much as possible. Schedule home chores for other days, when other family members can pitch in!
- Keep a timesheet
Set up a method for keeping track of your working hours—what you do with your blocks of time. You can keep a notebook handy on your desk for this purpose, or you can use an electronic timesheet app if that works for you. FreshBooks cloud accounting system is one that I have used and also includes an invoicing feature. There are many other systems or apps—feel free to comment and share what you use.
These are only a few ways you can ensure an efficient workday. What ideas have worked for you?