Using Wunderlist to Keep Track of Client Tasks

Staying organized is one of the most important keys to success for freelancers. You need a task management system that ensures that nothing falls between the cracks. The best system will be the one that works for you.

I’ve known people who write everything on post-it notes and others who prefer to digitally record all of their tasks.

I do a mix of both. I keep all tasks online, using the free app Wunderlist, and I also write up a to-do list on paper each morning.

Tracking tasks with Wunderlist

I use Wunderlist to keep track of all client and personal tasks.

When I receive a task in my email, I read it over and then copy/paste into Wunderlist. I save these tasks individually in the client’s list.

If a due date is provided, I add it. My standard turnaround time is 48 hours unless a different deadline was agreed upon.

I set a reminder on each task for the day before it’s due.

When the deadline approaches, Wunderlist will display a pop-up reminder and send an email about the task.

How I organize Wunderlist

To set up Wunderlist, I created two main folders – Clients and Inactive Clients.

In those folders, I create a new list for each client labeled with the client’s name.

In those lists, I add all of the daily tasks for the client.

I also keep my personal to-dos in Wunderlist under categories such as “Housework, Admin, and Things to Buy.” I also record tasks for this blog and The Sturm Agency in Wunderlist.

Other features of Wunderlist

The free version of Wunderlist has numerous other features including:

  • Subtasks, notes, files, and comments. You can add these components to each task.
  • Setting recurring tasks. I have numerous recurring tasks, usually involving invoicing or doing some specific task each week or month.
  • Starring. This allows you to prioritize or distinguish a specific task.
  • Sharing. You can share lists with another person.
  • Emailing and printing list

Paid plans include even more features like:

  • Unlimited subtasks
  • Unlimited files
  • Unlimited assigning/delegating tasks
  • More backgrounds

The pro plan makes collaborating with teammates on Wunderlist streamlined and simple.

Using a paper to-do list

I prefer to be a little old school in my daily approach. Each morning I look at Wunderlist to determine which tasks are due that day then I write up a to-do list on paper. I previously used a small notebook from Amazon ($10), but am now using Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year to-do list that came with her 2017 planners.

I write down my to-do list items in order of importance. Typically the first 1-3 tasks must be done that day while the others have some leeway.

I enjoy both crossing something off a tangible list as well as clicking on a checkbox online. My system works for me because it allows me to keep everything in place while focusing on what I need to do today.

Finding a system that works for you will ensure that you never miss a deadline again. 

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Using Wunderlist to Keep Track of Client Tasks

How to Use Time Blocking to Organize Your Day

As a freelancer, you must be organized. I use time blocking to manage my day and stay on track. Time blocking is the process of dividing your day into chunks of time designated for specific activities or tasks.

When you’re just starting out, you may not see the value in time blocking, but once you’re managing multiple clients and their demands, you will find it very useful.

Here are two ways that I’ve used time blocking to plan my day.

Option 1: Time blocking by client

Time blocking by client involves setting specific times each day to work on client’s projects.

Time blocking by client would look something like this:

Monday

9 – 11 am: Client A

11 – 1 pm: Client B

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 4 pm: Client C

If you only had three clients, this would repeat each day. If you had more than three clients then the second day would look like this:

Tuesday

9 – 11 am: Client D

11 – 1 pm: Client E

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 4 pm: Client F

Monday’s schedule would repeat on Wednesday and Friday and Tuesday’s schedule would repeat on Thursday.

You should strategically schedule your clients depending on their workload and personalities. ‘High touch’ clients that need more frequent communication should be placed on Monday’s schedule so you’ll interact with them three times per week. Clients with smaller workloads or infrequent communication could be placed on Tuesday’s schedule.

If a client did not have work for you to do on their day, you could move to the next client on your list. You could also use the time to work on a side hustle or take a break. Here are 10 things you could do for your business with 30 spare minutes.

If you think that this schedule would not work for you then you can try using shorter blocks of time each day. This way you’d interact with each client every day.

Monday

9 – 10 am: Client A

10 – 11 am: Client B

11 – 12 pm: Client C

12 – 1 pm: Client D

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 3 pm: Client E

3 – 4 pm: Client F

The same idea applies, you can skip to the next client if you have no tasks from a particular client that day. With this schedule, you could potentially be finished working at 3 pm if one client had no tasks or 2 pm if two clients were not requesting anything.

Depending on how many clients you have, you can experiment with making the time blocks longer or shorter.

I would warn against scheduling less than 30 minutes per client because it will not give you enough time to start a task, make progress, or complete it.

Option 2: Time blocking by task

Another way you can time block your calendar is by task. This method involves taking similar tasks and scheduling them throughout your day. This method is similar to batching your work.

You can time block by task in two ways:

Single focus day

In this option, each day of the week would have a specific focus.

Monday – Administrative work including expenses

Tuesday – Research and writing

Wednesday – Social media work

Thursday – Phone calls, meetings and emails

Friday – Housekeeping and tying up loose ends

If you have the same types of tasks for each client, you may want to separate your days by what you are doing. That way you can get all of one type of work done on a specific day. Once you’re done with that work, you’re done for the day.

In this scenario, you would be less likely to interact with all of your clients each working day.

One possible negative of this set-up is that it could lead to some very inconsistent working days. Monday you might work for two hours and Tuesday could be 8-10 hours.

Multi-focus day

In this option, you would work on each category every day.

Monday – Friday

9 – 11 am: Administrative work and expenses

11 – 12 pm: Research and writing

12 – 1 pm: Social media work

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 3 pm: Phone calls, meetings and emails

3 – 4 pm: Housekeeping

Figuring out the best way to time block your calendar is a learning process. Time blocking should make you feel more organized, not frazzled. If one method isn’t working for you, try another approach.

Ultimately, your clients should see no change in service while you decide how to best structure your day. You want to make sure you are still reliable, available, and providing high-quality services. Ideally, your client should notice an improvement in productivity and responsiveness!

How to use time blocking to organize your day

Which Bird Are You: Lark, Owl, or Hummingbird?

Your brain works at an optimum level at some point during the day, categorizing you as either a lark, owl, or hummingbird. The main difference between the bird types are when they feel energized to work. Larks are raring to go from the moment their eyes open in the morning. Owls feel their creative juice flowing when the sun goes down. Hummingbirds are ready for action at any time of the day. Figuring out which type of bird you are will improve your productivity. At different times in my life, I’ve been each type.

Owl in College

In college, I was a night owl. I had classes throughout the day and worked two jobs. The only time I had left for homework was either very early in the morning or after my shift ended at 10 pm. I never liked getting up early, so I did my work at night and went to sleep around 3 or 4 am. This schedule was hard on me physically and mentally. I got sick more frequently than usual and didn’t feel like anything was my “best work”. I often thought I would have enjoyed the material more if I’d had more time. After college, I learned I didn’t need more time, but that I needed to work at a different time.

Lark in the Office

In my corporate position, I started work at 8:30 am each day. I felt most productive from around 9 am – 12 pm. I developed the routine of doing my most creative work, a newsletter and website content, first thing in the morning. I quickly figured out that after lunch, I was more easily distracted. The room was louder, people were chattier, and I found it harder to concentrate. As my attention span waned, I’d work on things that required less brain power like copying & pasting information and answering emails.

Hummingbird at Home

Working from home, I’ve had to adopt a more flexible schedule which has transformed me into a hummingbird. I’m able to work whenever I have the time and usually feel just as creative and motivated at 6 am as I do at 1 pm.

On weekdays, I work before my daughter wakes up. I get up around 5:45 each day and work until Norah wakes sometime around 8. Since I typically have more than two hours of things to do each day, I use her afternoon nap as another working session. Norah consistently naps from 12 – 1:30 each day. Sometimes, she sleeps in, or takes a supersized nap, and I get a ton done; other times she’s up at 6 am and I have to adjust my schedule and my expectations for the day. I also work in the evenings while my husband does the nighttime routine and on weekends. For the most part, I feel sharp and inspired throughout the day with my only major energy dip occurring around 2 – 3 pm. A soda usually fixes the problem!

I prefer to do my creative writing, like this blog, in the early mornings. My ideas flow more freely and my concentration level is at its peak. I play ambient music like Soundrown or Brain.fm while I write. I leave administrative work for the afternoon and return to creative work at night. I use the time when I’m mentally depleted to get things done around the house, return calls and texts, and schedule social media posts.

If you told me in college that I’d be intentionally waking up before 6 am to work, I would have laughed hysterically at you. Had you told me even two years ago, I would have scoffed. However, necessity is the mother of invention. When you have to do something, you find yourself more willing to do it, and even growing to like it, as time goes on.

If you need to transition from one type of bird to another, how should you go about rewiring your brain? Here are some tips that have helped me make the transition.

Make a Tiny Change

One of the best ways to change your routine is to incorporate small changes in your daily life. BJ Fogg offers free week-long email programs on adding tiny habits to your life. I used his system to start each day with a positive affirmation and to make flossing a habit. BJ suggests that you create new habits that connect to existing habits. This can help you slowly put together a routine that moves you from one type of bird to another.

Create a Morning or Evening Routine

It can be helpful to add a five minute morning routine to the beginning of your days. A morning routine can be as simple as brushing your teeth, making coffee, and spending five minutes listing your goals for the day or it can be a 15 step process; it’s up to you. My morning routine varies, but I like to start with a short meditation session, have my first of two coffees, read blogs and the Medium digest, then work on personal writings for at least 20 minutes.

An evening routine for winding down and getting ready for bed is also a good idea no matter what type of bird you are. Many studies have shown that blue light is terrible for sleep. My husband and I both use f.lux on our devices. We also try to spend 10-20 minutes reading (paper books) in bed before turning out the lights. This helps me decompress and make steady progress towards my reading goals for the year.

Go With Your Strengths

Ultimately, you should go with your strengths. It’s always easier to do what feels natural and make small, gradual changes. Organize your day so that your most creative work is done at the time when you are at peak performance. Time blocking your schedule on Google calendar is a good way of managing your day. Save your administrative tasks, busy work, and email responses for points in the day when you feel less sharp.

Whether you are in a traditional career path or are a freelancer, discovering your bird type and doing your most important work when you are in the zone will make a huge difference to your success. Figuring out when you should work will improve the quality of your work and increase the enjoyment you get from it.