One of the most difficult (and surprising) things about freelance life, for me, is how tough I can sometimes find it to manage my own workload.
I make a living from helping other people organise themselves, and yet when things get chaotic, I struggle to stick to my own rules.
I felt like a massive failure for that at first, but after speaking to other freelancers, I realised it’s actually fairly common.
Copywriters often struggle to write their own website copy. Social media consultants sometimes find it hard to pick a strategy for their own channels.
Maybe it’s perfectionism tendencies that make it hard for us to settle on something when there’s no deadline or client to hold us responsible?
Or maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence or self-worth that tells us that we don’t deserve as much care and attention as our families and our clients?
Either way, it needs fixing.
Just like the rest of you, I (as a VA) need gentle reminders and encouragement now and again regarding my own habits and processes.
So that’s what this post is. It’s my way of remembering what works for me when I have a lot on.
Hopefully it’ll be helpful for you, too.
I set up Calendly recently, which is an app that makes scheduling appointments super easy. It only took about half an hour to set up but oh my goodness, is it worth it! My clients can now book their own calls and meetings with me using a calendar that shows my availability. It saves on all that back-and-forth via email to find a suitable date and time, and – if you want to give it a trial – you can get the basic plan free.
Lists, lists and more lists
I use Asana to manage almost everything related to my business, but – as with any project management system – it only works if you keep on top of it. Work has been piling up so much recently that I’ve just been actioning stuff as it came in and I’d been a bit slack with updating Asana recently, but a big refresh of my lists and tasks helped me to get back on track.
I’m now using a combination of storing and tracking everything in Asana, as well as writing a to-do list down on paper each evening for the following day.
I love using digital tools to manage and oversee my workload, but you can’t beat an old-fashioned handwritten list that sits within reach and can be ticked off as you go along. (Or is that just me being a stationery nerd?)
I finally made the switch to Google Calendar (a little late to the party, I know!).
I’ve synced it with my husband’s calendar, too, which makes it easier for me to plan ahead when it comes to those solo bedtimes or the days when I can work late if I need (or want) to.
Keeping on top of things at home
When we’re really busy in one area of our lives it’s easy to let other things slip. Rather than getting behind on things like cleaning, food shopping and laundry, though, I find it’s best to keep on top. Whenever I get too far behind, I always find life far more stressful until I’m caught up.
By doing little things every day to help me stay on top (such as getting mine and the boys’ outfits ready the night before, packing lunches every evening and dealing with preschool admin as soon as it comes in), I feel a lot calmer each day and I’m able to concentrate more on my work.
Make the most of opportunities to outsource the things that either don’t need to be done by you, that take you too long, or that suck the joy out of your day.
For me, that’s the food shop and the cleaning. (Because it doesn’t just have to be the work stuff that you outsource – you can do it in your home life, too).
When I think about how my time is best spent, there’s no question that I have better things to be doing than traipsing around a supermarket or bleaching bathrooms. Instead, I use that time to focus on my business, support my clients and help pay the bills!
It’s just common sense, really, isn’t it? And we shouldn’t ever be afraid or ashamed when it comes to asking for help.
How do you cope when things get busy? Have you got other ideas for getting things back under control?
Tips, suggestions and confessions welcome: