Over the years, I’ve come to find that time management can be an intensely personal thing. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person. However, I have also found that when it comes to certain types of people, the same things work for them, even if they do not work for other types of people. If you are the kind of freelancer who needs a flexible time management system, but find that winging it just doesn’t work for you, then this might be just the kind of time management strategy for freelance writers you are looking for.
30/30 and Pomodoro for Freelance Writers
Even if you have already heard of 30/30 or Pomodoro before, hear me out before you decide this isn’t for you. If you haven’t heard of these things before, let me give you the short-short version.
30/30 and Pomodoro are similar in that they define a time management system based upon the concept of working on a single task for a certain amount of time and then taking a defined break for a certain amount of time. In the case of 30/30, it is that you work one something for 30 minutes and then take a 30 minute break. In the case of Pomodoro, you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break.
Here is why this basic concept works brilliantly for work from home freelance writers and other independent freelancers. First, without the constraints of a boss or a schedule that involves staff meetings and the like, it can be tough to know how to structure and break up your day. Second, when you work for yourself, motivation can be tricky, as can its cousin procrastination. Finally, as a freelancer, it is actually very possible to work too hard, too long, and yet feel like you aren’t doing enough. The freelance writer twist on the 30/30 and Pomodoro time management system can help with all of these issues.
Blocks of Time
Whether you go with 25 minute working blocks or 30 minute working blocks is irrelevant. In fact, you can choose any size of working block that fits your needs. I’ve seen some systems that even suggest something like 15 minute blocks. The trick is to use the right block for your needs.
For me, I find the 30 minute block to be just about right. For me, 15 minutes is often too short to get into the zone on anything. Furthermore, I think it is important to feel like you are actually completing some tasks in a single block of time, or it feels artificial. Thirty minutes is a pretty solid chunk of time. You can easily complete some tasks in 30 minutes. However, it is also a reasonably short time period. A half-hour doesn’t represent a big commitment of time. It’s easy to see the end of it coming.
Using Your Blocks
Now, carve your workday up into 30 minute blocks. First, you’ll need to determine how long you plan to work. Then, that will tell you how many 30 minute blocks you have. For example, if you plan to work 6 hours, then you have 12 30 minutes blocks minus 12 5 minute break blocks, or 10 working blocks.
Go through your to do list and give everything a block. When you are out of blocks, you are out of time. You cannot do anything more on that day.
This is one of the major benefits of setting up your day like this. First, you have to prioritize to get the right things in on that day. One of the big problems I have is working on something like blog posts in the morning only to realize I didn’t leave enough time to do something in the afternoon. With this system, you actually can see the choices you are making. If I do these 10 things, then I am not doing these different 10 things.
Just as important, is that after doing this, you know that you did “enough.” One of the major issues I have is knowing that I have more things to do. If you are ambitious at all, there are always more things to be done. However, there is a point where you are running yourself into the ground, or ignoring other things you care about like friends, family and hobbies. When you fill out a full-day of 30 minute work blocks, you can feel good at the end that you did a full-day of work and there is no need to drag yourself back to your home office for another two hours.
One of the problems I’ve had with other time management systems is that there is no flexibility for the fact that in real life, our days seldom go as planned. In fact, today I spent an hour trying to fix my piece of junk, I’ll never by another Brother printer again, all-in-one because even though I can print to it, and the Brother monitor can tell me how much ink there is, the scanning app couldn’t find it. My kid’s school needed that document today, however.
Using this task management system, I have some choices. I can pause the timer. This bumps back the end of my workday, but has the advantage of changing nothing. I can move the missed slots to another day. I can move the bump something later. Either way, I’m just moving around 30 minute blocks, an easy correction to make.
To make it all work, you’ll need a timer, or an app. There are plenty of them out there that you can use. Just search for Pomodoro or 30/30, or even task timer. I know some people who just use the alarm on their phone, or even the oven timer. The oven timer has the advantage of forcing you to actually get up and shut it off.
While there are a lot of options, I think I have finally really nailed down the best time management app for freelance writers. It’s actually called 30/30. Unfortunately, it’s only for iOS. I’ll have to find an Android one to work on my phone. For now, I have the iPad up next to my PC running the 30/30 app.
Next up, I’ll show you how to use the 30/30 app to get maximum productivity out of your freelance writing day.