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5 Steps to Better Time Management as an Independent Contractor

Time management is an essential soft skill that all professionals need to develop, but it’s perhaps more critical for independent contractors and other self-employed individuals.

Having the flexibility of setting your own hours and choosing which projects to work on requires tighter self-control, since failing to deliver will mean directly losing income.

Thankfully, there are many ways to improve your time management, which in turn will let you beat deadlines, avoid extra work hours and fully enjoy the perks of working for yourself.

1. Prioritise what you need to do.

Because you’re likely to be working on several projects for different clients, you’ll need to ensure that you have enough time to complete each one before or on their deadlines.

While it’s common sense to start on whatever’s due earlier, also consider the amount of time/work you’ll need per project. For example, if you have a small one due early in the week and a bigger one due on the weekend, you might still find yourself pressed for time if you end up working too long on the former. In this case, making some leeway into the larger project prior to beginning and finishing the smaller one can help you complete both on time.

2. Start easier tasks first.

By working on easier or smaller tasks first at the start of your day, you’ll find that you end up finishing more things by day’s end. For larger tasks, chop it up into bite-sized segments that you can work on one at a time. Better yet, if you know you can finish something soon, perhaps in a few hours, do that first before you start something else.

Getting done with a task early on in the day rewards you wih a sense of accomplishment that’ll help motivate you as you tackle the next things on your to-do list.

3. Focus on one thing at a time.

You might say that you’re comfortable or even good at multitasking, but devoting your attention into finishing one task at a time will do wonders for your productivity. You can be more efficient with your time and accomplish more with 10 minutes of focused work compared to even an hour of unfocused work.

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Of course, distractions will no doubt pop up when you’re trying to focus so you’ll also have to take steps to limit them. Put your phone on silent mode and close your emails until after you’re done with what you’re working at. If you suddenly think of something that you need to work on that isn’t related to what you’re currently doing, just make a note of it then go back to what you were doing.

4. Take breaks.

It might sound counterintuitive but breaks are actually critical to productivity. Working in short bursts with enough rest in between will make you more time efficient, as going on too long without a break erodes your focus and builds up stress.

Try taking five-ten minute breaks every half-hour, but make sure you’re not simply doing other work during that break. Use this time to clear your head for a bit so you feel refreshed when you get back into it.

5. Set your limits.

It’s sometimes easy to get carried away and work long hours when you don’t have a regular schedule to follow like most employees. In addition, you might also take on more projects than you can handle, either because you misgauge the amount of work they’ll take or you simply don’t want to turn down opportunities.

Either scenario will result in being overworked, which will affect the quality of your output. Avoid this preventable risk, and maintain your work-life balance, by setting realistic expectations both for your clients and yourself. Allow for margins of error in your estimates and make sure to communicate this properly.

Time to Work

Being your own boss means there’s no one looking over your shoulder but there are still plenty of distractions that can take away your attention from the task at hand. A lack of focus and prioritisation will also result in taking longer hours to complete projects, and you’ll find yourself not having enough time to spend with your family and for other activities.

Learning to manage your time better is a prerequisite to being successful as an independent contractor. Apply these steps and begin improving your time management skills.

Certica® has provided compliant independent contracting solutions to Australian companies for over 16 years and we pride ourselves on finding solutions for our clients who want the freedom that compliant and fair contracting arrangements provide. If you engage contractors and you have a concern about managing your workforce, please contact us immediately for a no-obligation risk assessment and practical tips to ensure you’re always a step ahead.

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