Welcome to Adulting. To thrive in the Gig Economy, you must be part project-manager. If your mommy isn’t telling you what to do and your boss isn’t on your ass, then who will be? That’s right: responsible adult you. As a Freelancer, you often work outside of a client’s company structure, right? That sounds fantastic until you realize you just binge watched Westworld and that stupid deadline is still there. Do you need to pay rent? Well, then it is up to you to manage your time and to maximize your efficiency by stripping away unnecessary, or unsuccessful processes. Boring, right? Good time management requires realistic goal setting. I’m going to share with you my favorite way to do that. My years of pain is your gain, friend. You will first be able to see the project as a whole (from start to finish), then recognize problems before they occur by keeping to the tasks at hand. With the right simple tools and your new consistent adulting, you’ll be ready to adjust when plans change—especially when that change is for the better!
GOAL SETTING: THE THREE PARTS OF THE BRAIN
Much less painful than a lobotomy, we now divide our brains digitally. Now that we have online calendars, task managers, and the ability to notify ourselves of anything under the sun, we can safely do a little dividing. When goal setting, I break the process up into three compartments: The External Brain, The Weekly Planner, and the Daily List. Into these open concept rooms flow fresh breezes in the forms of organization, action, and reflection.
THE EXTERNAL BRAIN…
…is my nickname for my Google calendar. This compartment is dedicated to big picture goal setting, and making sure that I’m not basking in the glorious California sunlight while I’m supposed to be having a lunch meeting. The ability to view my schedule weeks and months in advance allows me to facilitate multiple clients and projects and keep all toes from being stepped on.
EIGHT DAYS A WEEK…
…would certainly come in handy, but since we we can’t earn extra days, we have to make sure each one counts. First, copy into your Google docs or just print out this fabulous and FREE weekly planner that I rely on the bring the focus in a little tighter and organize my Monday through Sunday. I set up my schedule by time and take end-of-day notes. Note the added a column to record your ‘role’ and ‘goals’ throughout the week. This reminds me of which hat I’ll need to wear and what I set out to accomplish. The most exciting part of this tool is that it helps you reflect on the week’s events. To set attainable goals you have be in touch with the physical, mental, spiritual, social, and emotional aspects of those goals. Recording your reactions to the week’s events and how they affected you provides a clear picture of your progress toward those goals.
I’VE HAD ALL I CAN TAKE AND I CAN’T TAKES NO MORE!
Time is finite, and that’s fine…unless you’re on deadline! With a set amount of hours in each day, maximizing your time-use is crucial to successfully accomplishing your goals. A simple list is all you need to keep track of what must take place over the course of a day, but lists can easily morph from cute and fuzzy to 2000-item behemoths.
I use a small-enough-for-the-desk whiteboard for my daily list. I put only the items to accomplish for that day. By using my Weekly Planner to provide a schedule, I can focus on the day’s tasks, and when they’re complete, erase! Gone, no mas, because we start each day with a blank Daily List (and a sweet note from our daughter if we’re lucky!).
SANDS IN THE HOURGLASS
Time-tracking: make sure you do it, and make sure you do it accurately! Estimations can cost you (and your client) time and money. There are a number of inexpensive time-tracking programs and apps available. Look for programs that allow you to keep track of time spent on individual tasks within a project. It is tempting to focus solely on the duration of the entire project, but a sense of how the bricks make up the wall provides a keen insight for future reference.
The key to prioritization is honesty. Be honest with yourself about 1) how long a task will take, and 2) your familiarity with the task.
Gauging your familiarity with a task is crucial. Simply put, if it’s harder, chances are it’s going to take longer. Prioritizing harder tasks, or tasks that are less familiar, helps you keep an eye on your progress. As the harder tasks are completed, you can focus on the familiar tasks which will be more predictable. Have a clear idea of how long a task will take and then add a little padding. You can always cultivate time that has been freed, but it is impossible to rescue time that is lost.
Although this step of taking a moment to reflect technically comes after the completion of the project, it is of vital importance to the next project. What were the challenges on this project? Did I save and/or waste time on any particular aspect of the project? In hindsight, could I have done something differently, or more efficiently? As you can see, by reviewing a project you begin to build your strategy and goals for the next project. In order to thrive we must learn.
The Gig Economy demands performance: can you get your client from start to finish, ahead of time, and on-budget? Structure when freelancing is completely underrated. Once you begin adulting and stop flying by the seat of your pants, that structure improves with each new project. You will allow it to grow, adjust, and breath, which in turn allows you to grow into your own success. Commence adulting!