Time management has always been an issue in any workplace. But now that so many of us are working freelance, or working remotely, it has become more difficult than ever to manage our time efficiently.
If you’re a small business owner, or sole trader, this can be especially tricky, as you’ll often find yourself spinning a lot of plates at once.
There are some simple things you can do to improve your time management though, so let’s talk about them.
Specifically, we’ll be talking about:
- Keeping ‘office hours’
- Factoring in distraction time
- Taking regular breaks
- Working out your hourly rate
Making a schedule
A good plan is always a great place to start.
At the beginning of the week, figure out what needs to be done. Then decide what days you can dedicate to each task. It’s a good idea to do similar sorts of tasks at similar times every week so you can get into a solid routine.
For example, you might take care of all your billing and invoicing on Friday afternoons, or do a little bit at the end of each day. It’s all about consistency.
The important thing here is to be realistic about how much you can get done every day. There’s no point cramming loads of work into your schedule if you know you won’t be able to do it all.
You’ll just fall behind, feel bad about it, and have more work to do the next day.
Remember, maintaining an accurate schedule will help you improve your productivity as you get used to the routine. So you’ll be able to get more done in a day as time goes on. Just start small, and you can build from there.
It might be worth looking into scheduling software and workflow platforms. They’ll let you manage all your weekly tasks, track your time and progress on each task, and easily share information with coworkers.
Keeping office hours
This is a big one for remote workers and freelancers. The lack of definitive office hours has made it difficult for a lot of people to switch off, ruining their work/life balance.
Try to set yourself office hours, and stick to them. It can be extremely tempting to answer that email or phone call that comes in at 6.45pm, but don’t. If it was that urgent, they would have got in touch earlier. And if you do reply, people will just keep trying to contact you after the work day is over because they know you will answer.
Making yourself available at all hours of the day is a surefire path to burnout, and that will be counterproductive in the long run. And keeping strict office hours will incentivize you to get more done during that time.
So set yourself some hours, and make sure your clients know about them. You can easily set and out of office reply on your work email, and send work calls to voicemail.
Factoring in distraction time
Following on from the last point, it’s important to factor in distraction time when planning your schedule. Most people don’t think about this because we like to think we’re dedicated working machines, but that’s unrealistic.
Something’s always going to come up to distract you, whether it’s a personal emergency, or a work matter, so set yourself about an hour a day for random things.
If no distractions come up, then you just gained an extra hour – happy days,
Taking regular breaks
This one might sound a bit obvious but it’s easy to forget, especially when you find yourself on a roll. Sometimes you just sit down to get some work done and, before you know it, 3 hours have just flown by. While this might feel great at the time, what most often happens immediately afterwards is a complete crash.
Scheduling regular breaks for yourself throughout the day will actually increase your productivity overall, and prevent silly mistakes made by your tired brain.
A 10 minute break every hour will be enough to help break things up and keep you from crashing out. If your job involves a lot of sitting down, use this time to move around. Maybe go for a short walk or have a good stretch. You’d be surprised how much mental exhaustion is linked to your physical body.
You should also take proper lunch breaks. Again, it can be tempting to just wolf down a sandwich at your desk but it’s not a great idea.
First of all, you don’t get to enjoy your lunch, which is a shame. But you’re also not allowing yourself down time. An actual lunch break is the half-way point that breaks up your day, allowing you to recharge and refocus your energy for remaining hours.
If you struggle with this, set yourself alarms and reminders on your phone to remind you to stop what you’re doing and take a breather.
Working out your hourly rate
If you’re going to properly manage your time, you should know how much your time is worth. That way you’ll know exactly how much work you need to be doing in order to make your tie profitable.
To figure this out we need to do a little maths with these figures:
Salary: (£50,000) for example
Profit margin: 10%
Overheads: (£10,000) for example
Billable hours: 1840 hours (for a year)
First, add together your salary and overheads:
£50,000 + £10,000 = £60,000
Then, add your profit margin to get your total annual income:
10% of £60,000 = £6,000
£60,000 + £6,000 = £66,000
Finally, divide this figure by your billable hours to determine your hourly rate:
£66,000 / 1840 = £35.86 (might as well round it up to £36)
Multiply this number by 8 (hours per day) to get your daily rate:
£36 x 8 = £288
Once you know your hourly/daily rate, you can properly schedule the right amount of work you need to do to stay on target.
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