Being a freelancer requires a lot of self-evaluating, planning and routine building. Without the rule of working from 9-5, you have to try and plan your time so you actually get the work done and be as productive as possible throughout the day.
Over the last six months I’ve been honing in on a routine, and although I still miss parts of the routine each day, the planning aspects have now been built as a habit and are working.
Although I have always hated working on Sundays, I have found planning to be quite relaxing and easy going. I spend about 2-3 hours looking back on the last week and planning the tasks I need to do in the coming week. This has a number of steps, and a number of different products I use to organise myself.
My favourite part though, the pen and paper. All my ideas, tasks, little bits of information I need to jot down are put onto the small notebook in front of me each day. I do use Evernote quite a lot, but I find it much easier to scribble down notes on a pad, as I can then doodle and use arrows, sticky notes etc. to organise them all.
I find it isn’t a good idea to use for the long-term however, so on Sunday the first aspect of planning the week is to look through my notebook in front of me and write down anything important in its ideal location.
I use trello to manage each of my projects (at the time of writing I have 12 active boards). Each project is split into the SCRUM model, with a Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Implementation, Implementation Done, Testing, Ready and Released board.
Through Trello I add any important tasks for a project, they are all added to the Product Backlog. Once I have gone through all of my notebook I go back to Trello and decide upon which Project will be undertaken in the next week. As I usually prefer to only concentrate on a maximum of three projects a week, it depends a lot on whether I am working on Client work or my own personal projects.
Once I have decided which projects are going to be done in the following week, I decide which tasks should move from the Product backlog to the Sprint Backlog. I keep in mind here that each of my sprints is only 1 week, so I can’t add too much to the sprint backlog!
This is where Evernote comes in. I may have written down all the actual tasks I want to get done, but I also store all my ideas and general thoughts in my notebook. These ideas and thoughts get added to my Evernote, as I can then quickly refer to them wherever I am. For example, whenever I’m on a train I like to go back over some ideas and see whether they are worth making them into a full blown project.
Now that I have everything out of my notebook and everything which needs to be done in the following week into Trello, it is time to see when each task will be done on which day. This is done through my Daily Goals.
I can’t remember where I read about writing down Daily Goals and Lessons Learnt each evening, but it has always stuck with me and I am now in the habit of doing them. Each evening, or in this case, anytime Sunday, I sit down and decide which three tasks are the most important the next day.
For example if the two main projects I am working on next week are a clients website and then SoPlayNice, then the three main tasks for the Monday would be;
I choose three tasks as It always be to split it up into good chunks over the day, which is where Google Calendar comes in!
With the three main tasks for the day sorted, it is time to work out when to do those tasks based upon when my most productive hours are.
I try and wake up at 6am every day, I say try as that habit isn’t going to well currently. That gives me a couple of hours to do my general writing and catching up tasks, as there is complete silence. I then walk the dog, eat and get ready for the day. By 9am I have a four hour chunk before lunch and walking the dog again to allow me to tick one of the three tasks off.
Come 2pm after lunch and walking I have another 3 hours to schedule another task into. Food and exercise done, I then fit in my final task before I settle down in the evening.
Google Calendar isn’t essential here, but I like having a visual representation of what I want to do that day, and it can be used to look back on and see how much time I spent on SoPlayNice each month etc. Obviously it isn’t always accurate, as if a client calls when I’m working on something else, I may have to switch over and I wouldn’t update the calendar, but it works as that visual representation.
I do my Daily Goals each night, either when I finish work or just before I go to bed and quickly schedule it on Google Calendar.
It sounds like an awful lot to do to plan my weeks and days, but in reality it only takes me that couple of hours on Sunday and then about 15mins each day in the week. You may think that working for those 15mins would increase productivity, but the great thing about having everything planned before the week and days begin, is that when it hits 9am I can get to work straight away without having to mess about with what to do that day and then by the end, I can tick off the most important tasks and be done with the day. Of course sometimes a task will be left at the end of the day, but you just schedule that in for the next day.
Planning isn’t the answer to everything, but it helps.
Have a project idea? Feel free to contact me and find out how we can work together.