Back when I worked full time I used to be pretty organised when it came to calendar planning and my schedule, but now that I'm freelancing, I have to be on top of it all the time. Keeping track of various clients, appointments and deadlines as well as a social life (hopefully!) can become extremely complicated. Even nail painting time (procrastination) is booked in (jokes!)
There are lots of productivity assistants out there and I've tried many of them. The one thing I can rely on myself to check regularly and keep up to date with is my google calendar. It's not perfect, but I have a few tips that make it work just that little bit better for what I need.
I try to make each block on the calendar and accurate representation of the time required for the task. That way I have a realistic plan for each day. Colour coding is also really helpful. At a glance I can see if I'm designing, blogging, going out for a social event or doing housework. Appointments have their own colour and I even go so far to highlight my commute in another shade so that I know that time is pretty much lost (except for reading, and today, writing a blog post!)
Like most people, I just slot in my work days into the daily schedule. It makes it really easy when I get a call or email from a prospective client to glance at my calendar and see if Im booked with work, or if it's something more flexible like my blog plans. Big orange blocks say "no way, I'm busy on that day!" In addition to work, I add in any commuting that I might need to do, meetings, lunch/dinner breaks and chores. With everything having a time, I'm theoretically less likely to spend a whole day folding socks.
This is my own personal system, I wonder if anyone else does this? I have a section at the top of my calendar that has "all day" items, though for me, the items aren't related to a particular day. I just have seven bonus chunks of information to work with. These sections are split into:
- Someday (things with no deadline that I'd like to do)
- Design // To-Do (for current tasks)
- Design // Waiting (waiting on client feedback)
- Design // Me (personal work)
- Recipe Ideas
- Post To-Do
I repeat the tasks each week, so they are always there until I cross them off (delete them). It's perfect for long-term projects, ideas for blog posts and my wish list of things to-do. They're always on my calendar so I don't forget about them. I also might add notes into the item "description". If I have notes, I * the item so I know there are notes inside.
One thing I like about google calendar is the collapsible tasks bar. You can use it as a to-do list for the day so that if you have, say 4 hours blocked out on "blog design for Kitty & Buck", you can expand in more detail on the to-do list, and check off items as they are completed. I don't always use this, but it's handy.
My biggest piece of advice for you is to be realistic about how long things take and don't overfill your calendar. I read somewhere the other day to plan for 4-5 hours of work a day and the other few hours will fill up naturally. It's so true! When I try to plan a 12 hour day (it happens) I could end up working 16 hours and not finishing everything.
An old rule for estimating on design jobs is to work out your estimate and times it by 3. So if you think something will take one hour, allow three hours. It seems excessive, but after years of experience, it definitely works! I'm sure the rule applies to other kinds of work too. Any time left over is a bonus! I generally block out the time in my calendar so I'm not tempted to fill it with other things, and then plan for the 5 hours of work in the 8 hour block (and inevitably fill it up through the day).
I'd love to hear about how you schedule your time, and any tools that you use. I've tried to streamline my scheduling process into one place to save me forgetting to update apps here and there, or keep track of tasks on a million post-it notes. What's your technique?