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

Freelancers & Mamas, Work When You Can

As a freelancing mama, it’s hard to find time to get everything done. During my first year freelancing, I struggled to find a balance. I was working when I should have been doing other things like cleaning, exercising, relaxing, or spending time with my family. I didn’t get to enjoy my self-made schedule.

I thought that working from home meant I needed to be working every moment that I was at home. This was exhausting because I’m home 95% of the week. I couldn’t possibly work during all of my waking hours. That wouldn’t be fair to my husband, daughter, or myself.

After a year, I got into a better routine and became more comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need to constantly work. I realized work was always going to be there. I wasn’t ever going to reach a point where I completed absolutely everything, emptied the 4-6 inboxes I manage, and wrapped up all of my personal projects and goals.

Instead of worrying about working all the time, I started working when I could.

I used these methods to find a better work/life balance.

Wake up earlier

One way to I was able to get things done without feeling the panic of needing to do other things was by waking up earlier. Sleep is very important and I make sure to get at least 7 hours per night, but I didn’t need to get 9-10 hours every day. Instead, I would wake up before my daughter and get some work done in complete silence.

I found that 1-2 hours of concentrated work, without my daughter, was often more productive than 3-4 hours of work with my daughter around.

I don’t particularly like getting up earlier, but I know that I always have the option especially when my workload is heavy.

Dedicate one evening per week to working

Thursdays are usually my working nights. I go down in my office around 7 pm and stay there until 10 or 11. I don’t do this any other day of the week (unless there’s an urgent request or emergency).

Only doing it one night per week makes it tolerable. If I did this every night, I wouldn’t have any time with my husband. I chose Thursdays because my husband and I stay up later on Fridays and spend time together. Even if I’ve had a frustrating night working, I always go to bed thinking “It’s OK, tomorrow night I’ll relax.”

I also sneak in a little more office time when my husband travels. He travels for work anywhere from 2-10 days per month. When he’s gone, I typically spend the evenings working after I put my daughter to sleep.

Do a little work on the weekends

Most weekend days, I go downstairs and shut myself in my office for two hours. I typically do this as soon as I wake up.

I do my 30 minutes of writing and then tackle client work for 90 minutes. I can get a surprising amount of stuff done in that time because I’m 100% focused on completing tasks. When I come back upstairs at 10:30 or 11 am, I don’t feel like I’ve missed any of the day and my stress levels are decreased because I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Work in spurts

It will be years before I can work for an uninterrupted eight hours again. I plan on continuing to grow my business and work for myself for the rest of my life. This means that I probably won’t be working eight hour days until my daughter goes into kindergarten in three years. At that point, I hope to have more children that would still be home. With the amount of children I’d like, I estimate 3 – 10 years from now before I would work full-time hours again.

Instead of worrying about how much I’m working, I grab 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. My daughter can entertain herself long enough for me to respond to a few emails or jot down some thoughts for a future project or blog.

My brain has learned to run on spurts. I’ve gotten so much better at getting focused immediately. In college, I would sit at my desk for hours before I began writing a paper. Now, it’s do or die. I use the 10 minutes or I waste it. And I don’t want to waste it.

Take on less

At some point, you may realize that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. As my daughter has gotten older, I had to become comfortable with taking on less. This has many perks. I’m able to take my daughter to lessons, mom’s groups, playdates or the library in the middle of the day without worrying about not being able to finish my work.

Having a decreased workload means that I only take on high paying, quality work. I’m no longer pitching for things on Upwork or accepting content mill jobs because it’s not worth my time.

It’s hard balancing a business and a family. Much like running a side hustle when you’re a full-time employee, you just have to find the time where you can.

You won’t always work a consistent schedule each week. Some weeks you’ll find more time and other weeks will be so packed with personal obligations that you may feel like you’re getting nothing done.

When you look at your accomplishments, try to take the long view. It doesn’t matter if today was unproductive if the past two weeks have been great. One of the greatest benefits of working for yourself is that you decide when you work – and you work when you can.

work-when-you-can

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Two Years in Business

On March 1, 2015, I made a life-changing decision. I started my business, The Sturm Agency. My first day, I had one virtual assistant client and two marketing clients. Two years later, the business has grown to support nine clients and numerous one-time projects.

Here are seven of the most important lessons I’ve learned from two years in business:

1) Get a contract

I did a few deals early on without any formal contracts. The end result was not good for my business.

Contracts keep you safe as a freelancer. They help add a small element of security into an otherwise insecure job.

Contracts should include the following:

  • Your payment schedule and what happens if a client pays late
  • Your cancellation policy and how much notice a client is required to give you when they want to move on
  • Your terms and agreed upon duties/tasks

2) Expect the best, prepare for the worst

One of the most challenging things about being a freelancer, or someone who owns a small business, is the unpredictability of income.

In a traditional workplace, you can lose your job at any time, but usually you’re spoken to about the status of the company or your performance before that happens.

I’ve had a few issues with clients who refused to pay me. One client owned a particularly large sum and was 2+ months late with payment over the holiday season. They eventually paid up, but it was a stressful situation.

This year, I lost my largest client due to restructuring in his business. I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared for this. I let myself have a few days to mourn the loss and then sprung into action. I began submitting proposals for new positions and created a pitch log in Google Drive. Even though I remained optimistic, the hits kept on coming and I lost another long-term client that same month!

I needed to make up a certain amount of income per month to match what the clients were providing. I knew this would be difficult as they were two of my largest clients. However, I had always known that it wasn’t a great idea to have one or two clients constituting around 45% of my monthly income. I wanted that number to be no higher than 30% for one client, going forward.

Preparing for the inevitable loss of income, or lean times, is something you should do as a business owner. You don’t want to be left surprised and unable to pay your bills.

3) Get your systems in place

  • Use a project management system

I use Wunderlist for keeping track of my client’s tasks. I copy and paste each task into their list and give it a due date. Each morning I look through my Wunderlist tasks and make a paper list of what I need to do for the day. This ensures that nothing gets overlooked. It also keeps me from using my inbox as a to-do list.

  • Have an onboarding process

I onboard my new clients with a 20-30 minute introductory phone call. I get to know their needs and how they like to work. From there, I send an email that says how I work best, how to get in contact with me, and what my hours and turnaround times are. I also send over an engagement contract.

  • Use an organization system

I keep everything in Google Drive. This frees up space on my computer and allows me to access my files anywhere, should I need to.

I organize my folders this way:

Main folder: Current Clients

Subfolder: Client Name

Subfolder(s): Documents, Projects, Contracts (all with their own folder)

I also keep a Former Clients folder and a Potential Clients folder for people who decided to go with another person for the job or put the job on hold for the time being. These connections may come in handy in the future.

4) Get help from professionals

Although I have an MBA and could do my taxes and accounting, I choose to hire this work out to a CPA. I want to use my time to further my talents, not do work that I dislike. This minimal expense saves me a lot of time and frustration.

If you don’t like marketing, hire someone out. If you don’t do graphics or images, find someone who does. Trying to do everything in your business will cause burn out. One person cannot do everything.

5) Ask for reviews/testimonials/referrals

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to ask for reviews or testimonials with my first few clients. I only recently started chasing people down for reviews after we completed work together.

Testimonials and reviews strengthen your brand and legitimize your business. The more you can get, the better. Start a reviews/testimonials page on your website and begin adding them as soon as you start working with clients.

6) Make it easy for people to find and contact you

You need a website. It should look good and be easy to navigate. You should have a place where people can easily find your contact information.

Recently, I added a contact form to my website. I should have done it a long time ago! Within one week of adding it, I had two clients contact me asking about my services. I can only assume it was because I made it very easy to work with me.

Create a separate page for contacting you titled “Hire me” or “Work with me” and have an easy-to-use form. People don’t want to have to copy your email address, open their email, and write up a message.

7) Stay grateful and humble

On a more philosophical note, I feel that having the right attitude does a lot for your business and your success.

There are a lot of people who are running their businesses with massive egos. These people are very difficult to work with. Often the biggest egos are the easiest to bruise.

I credit a lot of my success to staying grateful and humble. I am so thankful every time a new client reaches out to me. I think my appreciative attitude, both in my heart and outwardly to my clients, is something that sets me apart.

Running a business is no easy task and I’m proud to say that I’ve done it for two years. I hope to continue running my business for the rest of my working life.

Seven Lessons I've Learned From Two Years in Business