If you opened this post hoping that we would give you the ideal freelance schedule to follow, we’re sorry. The truth is, there is no single best schedule for every freelancer.
Instead, we are going to offer you four questions to answer in order to create the most efficient, most productive freelance schedule for YOU.
This is going to be a working blog post. With each question, we’ll also provide action steps for you to take as you read. So get yourself in a productive frame of mind, grab a pen and paper, and let’s get to work.
How Do You Want To Keep Yourself On Track?
The first question to tackle is just about your preferred scheduling method. Do you keep everything on your Google calendar? An old-fashioned day planner? A whiteboard?
Or maybe you employ a combination of methods. You use your electronic calendar to track important meetings with other people, but you write out your daily freelance schedule on a whiteboard every morning.
If you aren’t a scheduler, we encourage you to pick a method that seems to mesh with you and at least give it a chance.
The benefit to writing down your schedule is that you are cutting down on decision fatigue. You won’t have to continually decide what to do next with your day. You’ve already determined it ahead of time.
- Decide what type of schedule you are going to keep and where you are going to do it.
- If necessary, buy/order/download any required materials or technology (planner, scheduling app, whiteboard, etc).
What Outside Responsibilities Influence Your Freelance Schedule?
We don’t live in a vacuum. Every freelancer has responsibilities vying for their attention outside of their freelance work. Whether it’s another job, family duties, or just leisure activity, you probably have some sort of life that you need to tend to.
It’s good to keep all these things in mind before you actively start planning out your freelance work schedule. That way you won’t find yourself struggling to fit everything.
- Write down a list of the outside responsibilities that you have. Think about all the various aspects of your life: family, friends, hobbies, other jobs, etc.
- For each responsibility, estimate how many hours you think you’ll devote to it every week.
How Does Your Weekly Energy Curve Move?
It can be helpful to first think of your freelance schedule in terms of weeks. Most of us have some sort of internal weekly calendar. Maybe you are sluggish on Mondays, for example, and hit your peak productivity on Thursdays and Fridays.
As a freelancer, you have the benefit of scheduling your work week around your energy curve rather than forcing yourself into the societal “working for the weekend” mentality.
So with this question, we want you to decide how the ebb and flow of your energy throughout the week will inform the way you schedule your work.
- Sketch a simple graph that estimates how your energy for getting work done changes throughout the week. It might be helpful to think about what day you function at 100% efficiency and work from there.
- Next, create a list of the tasks you want to focus on for each day. For example, your low energy days might be great for tackling the work that you find fun or easy. High energy days could be reserved for the more mentally taxing stuff.
What Is Your Chronotype?
Your chronotype dictates the way your internal clock functions on a day-to-day basis. You might classify yourself as a morning person or an evening person, for example.
Some research breaks chronotypes down into 4 categories named after animals that follow particular sleep patterns: bear, lion, wolf, and dolphin.
Bears are the standard that most people fall into. You are a bear if your schedule pretty much follows the sun. You wake easily enough in the morning and fall asleep at night, with your productivity peaking before noon and tapering off between 2:00 and 4:00 PM.
Lions are morning people. They tend to rise before the sun and have a burst of energy throughout the first half of the day. Evening work is often very unproductive for this chronotype.
Wolves are decidedly not morning people. If you could sleep in till noon without batting an eye, odds are good that you’re a wolf. Wolves are pretty productive in the afternoon and often get their peak energy burst in the evening when other chronotypes are winding down for the day.
Dolphins tend to have very irregular sleep schedules. If you find yourself rising early one day and sleeping in the next, you might be a dolphin. The dolphin chronotype tends to be most productive between the hours of 10:00 and 2:00 PM. They are the kings and queens of the working lunch.
Understanding your chronotype helps for everything from knowing what your morning routine should look like to deciding when you should hit the hay every night.
- Decide, based on your general sleep tendencies, which chronotype best fits you.
- Based on your usual daily energy and productivity levels, write yourself out a “standard” daily schedule. It is going to change from time-to-time. But the idea is to plan, on average, what your ideal day looks like.
- Be sure to include both your freelance and non-freelance activities, as well as scheduling in time for sleep.
Stick To Your Freelance Schedule For At Least One Month
The goal of scheduling is to create a pattern of success that helps you stay focused and give all of your competing responsibilities their fair share of time.
If you find yourself regularly procrastinating or struggling to maintain a balance between your freelance work and your life, the best thing you can do for yourself is to create a schedule and stick to it as much as humanly possible.
We recommend dedicating yourself to staying on track with your new work schedule for at least one month. This is enough time to see how it works out for you, without feeling like you are running a marathon.
After your month is over, it’s time to assess what’s working and what’s not—and then revise as necessary until you find the best freelance schedule to maximize your productivity.