Starting Out

How Can You Find Your Most Productive Hours as a Freelancer?

Being a freelancer isn’t easy.

It’s true, you can set your own schedule, and that’s one of the greatest advantages of being a freelancer. But it’s also true that creating your own schedule and keeping it are some of the most challenging tasks around. You know what I’m talking about, right?

How Can You Find Your Most Productive Hours as a Freelancer?

Being a freelancer isn’t easy.

Most people know when their peak energy hours are. But that doesn’t mean they always have time to work during those hours. If your peak hours are when you’ve got class, you’re stuck. And if they’re between 6-9pm, and you have kids, you’re bound to use that energy on bedtime instead of work.

Don’t call it quits yet. Let’s see what we can do to make your day more productive. Grab a pen and paper (or open a Word document, if you prefer).

Look at Your Schedule

Take a hard look at your daily schedule. Write everything down. See anything that can be rearranged? Mark it with an asterisk.

Think about how well you work. Do you work best in chunks of 30 minutes, or 3 hours? Make a note on the side of the paper.

Now, on a separate paper (or document), make two lists. One list should include the aspects of your business that need to be done when you feel refreshed and energized. The other should list everything that can be done later on.

Now the Hard Part…..

Make a chart, with the days of the week across the top row, and the hours in each day down the first column.

Color your peak energy hours yellow, mid-energy hours green, and low energy hours blue.

Over that, write your schedule – what time you wake up, when you finish class (or work, if you’ve got a day job), and when you have time to work. If there’s travel time (such as after drop-offs) add it to the other activities, not your freelance work.

Make Decisions

Now look at the yellow squares more carefully. Any yellow squares that are still empty are precious.

They’re your peak productivity hours, and they’ve got nothing scheduled. Use them for the tough stuff. Is there anything taking up a yellow square that can be moved to the blue or green squares? Move what you can, and leave the rest. You’ll find a way to make it work. You always do.

After you’ve planted the toughest and most critical tasks firmly into your yellow squares, repeat the process for the rest of your tasks.

Start with the green squares, which will receive the important tasks that need thinking skills. The blue squares are for everything else: sweeping, shopping, filing papers, and anything that must be done at some point, doesn’t require mental energy, and has the tendency to be pushed off.

Warning: Potential Pitfall

If you get too frustrated with the tough stuff, you may lose your energy. Don’t let that happen.

Instead, do something you’re confident about, and if you get stuck, do the bare minimum and save the rest for tomorrow. The rest of your productive hours can be used to accomplish more of the “fun” tasks. They won’t be wasted, and you’ll get a sense of accomplishment.

Remember: energy + quiet – other obligations = your most productive hours

Create Your Chart and Stick to It

When are you most productive? Do you have a conflict between peak hours and schedule? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Chana Roberts is an experienced freelance writer and blogger. As both a mother and writer, she is motivated and passionate. Chana currently lives in the beautiful land of Israel.

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Chana, Managing my schedule is tough for me. I have twins and I have to really work hard on balancing it all. I don’t want to spend too much answering emails or researching when I can be outside planting seeds with my twins. The biggest thing for me is getting down to work WHEN it’s time to work. I put the twins down for their nap, grab my water, put on my headphones and get to work. But often times, my twins call me, want something from me, and it just gets hard to get back in the swing of things. I also know my schedule will change, probably this summer, when my twins drop their day nap. Yikes!Reply to Elna
Elna, I totally get you. It really does feel like a waste of time to answer emails or do research when you want to play with your kids. And after all, that’s why you’re freelancing – so you can be a “present” mom. I find that keeping a flow is an issue of mindset. So if I’m called off to refill a water bottle, I keep my mind working on the next sentence/ next pitch/ the research I’m doing. Then, when I sit back down, I’ve gained instead of lost. The flip side is that I wasn’t with my kids mentally when I helped them out physically, and that makes me feel really guilty. Ouch! I can just imagine what will happen when they give up their naps. Maybe you can have them do “quiet time” or “reading time”? Or, find a high school student who can play with them for a few hours in the afternoon. How many hours a day do you work?Reply to Chana