Tired, itchy eyes? Then you’re probably self-employed. More of us than ever are making this particular lifestyle choice, when it comes to employment. Lack of opportunities in the job market, sudden and only half-expected redundancies or even the simple desire to be free from the nine to five routine are all reasons that the UK is seeing a rapid growth in the self-employed sector. Certainly the opportunity to be rid of the nine to five routine will quickly become a reality for anybody working for themselves. Here are a few tips on time management to ensure that it doesn’t morph into the six till midnight routine.
Priorities, Routines and Tools
- Prioritising tasks is essential to managing your work load effectively. Traditional wisdom suggests that you should put the most important tasks at the top of your day. Traditional wisdom also suggests that if you want to find out if a woman is a witch you should tie her to a chair, throw her in a pond and see if she sinks. So much for traditional wisdom. In many cases getting the most important jobs out of the way first is a good idea but schedule these tasks for when you are at your best. I schedule my first coffee for six am as a priority as it’s the time at which I’m best at drinking my first coffee. I’m no good at emails at that time of day so I fit them in elsewhere. I’m at my most productive between four pm and seven, that’s when I schedule the really important stuff. The trick is to balance what works for you and what works for clients.
- Create a routine; focus on the “create” here. Routines don’t have to be boring but they can be incredibly useful at ensuring you get your work done. There’s a lot of talk about ‘work life balance’ these days and for the self-employed it can often be nothing more than talk. By setting a routine you can at least hope to introduce some of this balance into your life. You can create a routine that you can slot in around many other commitments, depending on your circumstances. A standard nine to five may work for many people, while a much less standard variety may work for some. Find what suits you and stick to it; a regular start time can help to get you in the mood for work and keep things on target. Don’t be afraid to break your own rules from time to time; breaking rules is fun and can end up being more productive than you can imagine.
- For the self-employed it doesn’t matter what the day job is, there will always be several other jobs to do. The biggest additional workload for many self-employees comes in the form of the accounting requirements of running your own business. There are two reasons for the time consuming nature of these task; one, you’ll probably not be an accountant and two, there’s a lot to understand, record and administer. Bookkeeping software and an accountant will make all the difference when it comes to saving time on these tasks. Online varieties of the software are increasingly available at very competitive costs and these can minimise time for your accountant (cost for you) making the whole tortuous process much more straightforward.
Time management is often about common sense. Examining the demands on your time, listing them, and working out how to balance them all will help. Using appropriate and affordable tools to manage administrative task and understanding the ways in which (and when) you work best will also make time mismanagement a thing of the past. Self-employment can, at times, be very hard work indeed, but it can also offer the most freedom in your working life, and the chance to be creative with how you work and how you manage your life.
Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs about business, entrepreneurs and technology covering everything from QuickBooks Online accounting software to social media management tools. He loves reading great entrepreneurs biographies and speaking at conferences about how the internet can help small businesses.