Being a freelancer is truly a great career path. I mean, you have the freedom to decide when you want to work, and even how much work you actually want to do. However, it’s no fairytale—like every profession, it still has its pros and cons. For instance, the thing I want to talk about today is having a truly crappy work schedule. The worst part is that most of the time you’re not even aware that you have this problem… at least I wasn’t.
Hi, I’m a freelancer—a freelance writer, to be more precise—and yes, I did have a crappy schedule. Sometimes I was struggling to get even the smallest amount of work done and to handle it in a timely fashion. I always wanted to do the best work I could in order to produce a quality piece of writing, so I kept spending obscene amounts of time to get it done; to make my articles perfect (from my point of view).
Not an advisable approach.
But enough about me. Let’s focus on some indicators that you too might have a crappy schedule, and let’s reveal the big mystery of how to fix it (hint: there’s no mystery).
Note. This article is not only for freelancers. If you’re a business owner, or have a flexible work schedule in any other form then you can still benefit from this guide.
1. You end up working late nights.
This is the first and most basic indicator that your schedule, my friend, is a crappy one.
Now, I’m not here to judge you, and if you like working in the evenings, that’s fine. What is and what isn’t “late night” for you is a personal thing—it’s not defined by an actual hour. From my point of view, however when you start feeling sleepy, yet you continue working because you “have to”, then you’re right in the middle of late night working.
This isn’t good for anything: not for your health, not for your productivity, not for your results. The first step to making your schedule not crappy is deciding not to work late nights.
2. You don’t know what’s going on in the morning.
I know that mornings can be confusing: those first two hours upon waking up are usually chaotic and don’t contain much dedicated effort in any area. That’s fine, but problems start when it’s already been four hours since you’ve gotten up and you still don’t know what to do. I mean, you have your to-do list, your tasks, but somehow you can’t seem to get started.
Usually, this is not a problem with bad task assignment—this is a problem of not setting any in-day time constraints, so to speak. The thing is that your workday is not limited by a specific number of hours. You know that you need to get some things done by the end of the day, but you’re not thinking about your work time as a constant 8 hour or so effort.
This is what eventually kills your free time.
3. You have no time for relaxation.
Or should I say “you think you have no time for relaxation.”
Anyway, this connects somewhat with the previous points: if you constantly don’t know what to do in the morning, and you keep ending up working late night then no wonder you have no time to relax. Your relaxation time is actually one of the simplest indicators of how well-constructed your schedule is, and the rule of thumb is this: If you have sufficient amount of time for relaxation, then your schedule is just about okay.
Just in case you’re not that convinced about the value of relaxation, let me just say that it’s the best and most effective way to keep you sane. It recharges your batteries and gets you ready for yet another day of hard work.
4. Your default answer is “I can’t, I’m busy”
What do you usually say when someone asks you out for a beer, or a coffee? Is it the aforementioned “I can’t, I’m busy?” If so, then your schedule sucks. I’m not saying that you have to be available all day long for every social activity possible, but if you can’t find the time to enjoy some cool activities with your friends for the third week straight then something is probably not right.
5. You have difficulty delivering on schedule.
I’m not saying that you’re always late. I’m just saying that you have difficulties…
Difficulties can mean working ’round the clock for the final two days before the deadline or having periods of intensified work and periods of no work at all for no apparent reason. If you’re going to prevent this, you’ll need some self-discipline and forecasting skills, so to speak.
The approach that seems to work best for me is to handle 50% of my work as soon as possible, then space out the remaining 50% evenly over a given period of time. This way, I don’t find myself in a situation where I have to do 70% of the work in the last three days.
6. You have no time for your own projects.
Freelancing gives you plenty of space to handle your own stuff and to build your other brands and businesses—this sort of thing is very common among successful freelancers. However, not everyone manages to deliver on their promise, if you will. Starting another project is the easy part: finding time to execute it is a whole different ballgame.
If you’ve started a project, but now you have no time to handle it, then you have yourself a crappy schedule. Before you disagree, let me just say that freelancing was never supposed to be a job, so by definition, it shouldn’t be the only project on your mind.
7. You have no hobbies or non-work-related interests.
One thing I’m really proud of is that I’m not only a freelance writer (where I get paid for writing)—caution; one-minute boasting break ahead—I’m also a musician (one mixtape out, album on the way), a martial artist (Capoeira), and probably also a photographer (I have Instagram on my phone… and according to the Internet, that’s all I need). Is it because I have more time than others? No, it’s because I’ve made a conscious decision about my work not defining who I am.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. You have your hobbies too, and if you think that you no longer have the time to take part in them, then maybe evaluate your schedule because, again, it is crappy.
8. You read less than one book a month.
This one is tricky, and to be honest, it’s my favorite item on the list. Reading is a vital activity for everyone, and especially for freelance writers. From my point of view, one book a month is the bare minimum that should be read (my mom reads three every two weeks, for example). Reading exposes you to new ideas, expands your knowledge and strengthens your expertise, and well, do I really have to talk about the benefits of reading? Reading is so much simpler in the 21st century too: we’ve got iPads, Kindles, and such, so you can keep your entire book collection in a backpack at all times.
I guess that’s it for my list. I believe that if you handle each of the items here, you’ll make your schedule a significantly less crappy one. It’s not like I’ve already managed to get all this handled myself—I have some stuff left on my plate too.
Feel free to comment and tell me what you think about this. Is your schedule crappy? Do you have any ideas on what would look good as item #9 here?
Featured photo credit: Evening traffic. The city lights. Motion blur. via Shutterstock