When you are working on a degree or working freelance it can be hard to manage your time effectively. In this sense, I don’t mean being able to get everything done in a timely manner but to prevent yourself from overbooking.
There are a limited number of hours in a day, and, as such, a limited number of tasks you are going to be able to complete. Pulling late nights is acceptable for some days when it just needs to happen—when deadlines and due dates are looming—but this should not become a regular occurrence.
When I moved from working on my degree to working freelance I found it difficult to turn down hours or projects. You just never know what might come up the next week or what opportunities this one project or chunk of hours might lead to. But, if you overbook yourself, consistently say “yes” to the extra hours. without realistically considering them you can dig yourself into a hole.
There is a time and a place to put in the extra hours—to say yes—but once you have found your footing: you’re making progress and finding some stability, it is time to consider just how much more time you have to give away. There needs to be some balance, some evenings off to recharge.
To manage my time I have been using an app to track my hours. I also use this to create invoices at the end of the month, but I even track contracted hours (rather than billable hours) so I can make sure I am not going too far over the agreed upon “set” hours. I also use it to understand where my time is going and how many hours in the week I might have to commit elsewhere. Without this tracking, it would be difficult to know just where the time was going and where I might be able to add more.
Being mindful of your time is vital for you to understand what time you have left, where you need to tighten things up, and where you can expand. But it is also vital to understand just how many hours you are putting in. If you have put in an 11 hour day, then you know it is time to step away for a few hours.
By tracking my time, I am mindful of how many hours I am putting in and can use this information to prevent burn out. I can understand, quickly, how many extra hours I have in a week to dedicate to a new project (or if I have any). I am becoming more mindful of where my time is going, which projects I am overextending myself on, and which I should be putting more time into.
The time tracking app that I use is “HoursTracker Pro”, the only difference between the free version and the pro is the number of projects and days you can track. But it is simple, effective, and it is easy to change the information displayed to see days/weeks/months for where the time is spent. This small change has been extremely helpful for myself in minding my time effectively and managing my workload.