We’ve all done it – accepted more work than we can handle. It’s both the freelancer’s dream and nightmare to have more work than they can handle. So – what do you do? What time management secrets will find a way to squeeze more than 24 hours in a day?
I’m feeling pretty happy at the moment. I’ve had a great year so far – good enough to manage a whole month off to take the family overseas for a holiday and return to work with plenty to do.
The problem is that I have too much to do in a short time. For a corporate client, I have the continuation of work that started before I went away. They need about 10,000 words summarising a project they completed and want to publicise within the business. I also accepted a relatively short 8000 word eBook project for a publisher I enjoy a great relationship with as well as my regular weekly and monthly columns. In other words, I have the equivalent of a small thesis to write in about 10 working days.
How do I do all of this in the available time? This is going to need some hard core time management.
1. See what deadlines can be extended
My first step was to check with all my clients as to what work could have a deadline extension. It turns out that all but one could give me between an extra day and an extra week. So, my 10 days has become more like 14 although some of the work can extend beyond the original deadline.
2. Apply some time management basics
I have a running list on my office whiteboard that has all of my current deadlines and, for the largest project, a summary of the project deadline. That way, the schedule is front and centre. I build some time management and planning time into the start of every day. Those few minutes can set my whole day up.
3. Micro-plan each day
Each morning I review my progress against the “big” deadlines and set smaller daily targets and times. The easiest way was for me to break the day into four parts and dedicate each part to a specific task. For today, two slots are on the most urgent project, one is for each of the other main tasks I have on the go. That way, everything moves along and I can show my clients progress if they need to see some preliminary drafts. And don;t foget to allow for some short breaks and meals.
4. Break the rules
I have a rule – I don’t work on weekends. I’ve discussed my schedule with my wife and she understands that I need to take some time on the weekend to hit the deadlines. The payback is that we have a long weekend coming up and that has to remain clear. So, it’s about people as well as time management.
5. Make it worth your while
The main reason I accepted all this work is that I’m getting paid well for it. Given that one of the jobs came at short notice and I accepted it as it’s for a good client, they agreed to paying a premium on my normal rate in compensation for the short deadline.