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8 Signs That You Have a Crappy Work Schedule as a Freelancer

8 Signs That You Have a Crappy Work Schedule as a Freelancer

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.

work schedule

    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).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    Karol Krol

    Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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    Last Updated on January 6, 2021

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

    In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

    For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

    For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

    Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

    Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

    Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

    How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

    1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

    Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

    For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

    2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

    Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

    Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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    Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

    3. Create a System

    Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

    This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

    You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

    Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

    4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

    We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

    If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

    Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

    5. Use a Ratings Scale

    Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

    Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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    It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

    6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

    This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

    You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

    You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

    7. Offer Feedback Forms

    Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

    First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

    Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

    You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    8. Track Cost Effectiveness

    This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

    Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

    Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

    9. Use Self-Evaluations

    Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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    Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

    10. Monitor Time Management

    This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

    Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

      The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

      While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

      11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

      We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

      Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

      For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

      Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

      Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

      From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

      12. Utilize Peer Feedback

      This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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      Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

      Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

      It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

      13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

      When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

      Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

      Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

      14. Use an External Evaluator

      Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

      They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

      While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

      The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

      The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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