Pro Freelancer Fundamentals: Task Management
Years before I started working for myself, I spent some time volunteering in South America, and I quickly found myself overwhelmed with everything that needed to get done.
Back then (before the first iPhone hit the market), my go-to method for managing all my tasks was a little notebook I kept in my pocket.
Pretty soon, that thing became my lifeline. It was everything, the only thing that kept me sane some days.
Now, some 15 years later, my to-do list continues to grow as I build a family and a business.
I’m sure you experience the same love-hate relationship with a full task list. Juggling many balls at once is a signature mark of a talented freelancer.
On the one hand, you’re happy to have lots of work and a thriving business.
On the other hand, you have to remind yourself: “If I don’t get this task done, no one will.”
And so, you frequently add tasks to your to-do list, hoping you can stay organized enough to get everything done on time.
So in today’s Pro Freelancer Fundamentals article, we’re going to share a few critical task management strategies to help you get more done, on time, and in less time.
Getting More Done
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of freelance task management is getting more things done.
We often think to ourselves, if I can just get MORE done in my freelance business, I’ll start making more money, and life will be easier.
And while that’s partly true (particularly if you bill hourly), getting things done just for the sake of checking them off your to-do list isn’t always a “win.”
The key to getting more things done is to better prioritize your daily tasks.
Prioritizing your most important tasks
As David Allen puts it in his signature book, Getting Things Done, “You can do anything. But not everything.”
Not every task is created equal. And yet, if we use a rudimentary task management tool (like the notebook in my pocket I told you about earlier), then all tasks just get added to the same list with the same importance.
This can quickly overwhelm you and cause you to fall behind instead of making meaningful progress.
Instead, try using task management software to help you prioritize. Using a sophisticated solution will allow you to mark some tasks as “urgent” or “important” while others can be deferred to a later date.
You can use the AND.CO Task Manager to automatically prioritize your most critical tasks. Things that require urgent attention, like an unpaid invoice, get bumped to the top and not buried somewhere in a static to-do list.
Of course, getting more done only matters if you’re also getting things done on time and hitting important deadlines.
That’s why you should do one of the following with every single task that comes into your ecosystem:
1. Just do it now (less than five mins)
If the task takes less than 5 minutes, just do it now. This will keep your task list lean and efficient.
Of course, if you find yourself frequently adding five-minute tasks to your “do now” list, you may need to group them into larger time blocks and add them to another option below. After all, 12 five-minute tasks are equal to a one-hour task.
2. Finish it today
If the task is urgent but takes more than five minutes to accomplish, add it to your list of must-dos for today.
Keep this list shorter than you think you need to at first since we tend to overestimate how much we can actually accomplish.
You should aim to have three to five items on your “do it today” list at any given time.
If you find you weren’t able to accomplish it today, after all, use a “snooze” feature or a “reschedule” feature to reassign a new completion date.
3. Add it to your calendar
Everything else that is less urgent (doesn’t have to happen today) and can’t be accomplished in less than five minutes should get added to your calendar.
Some task management apps have a calendar built-in. At a minimum, you should be able to add a date to every single task you take on.
If you use the AND.CO Task Manager, you can then sort your tasks by date to hit all your deadlines (and even get ahead of them).
You may also want to add your tasks to your actual calendar to physically set aside the time you’ll spend to accomplish the task.
Of course, developing the world’s best task management system for your business won’t do you any good if you spend double the time just managing the process.
To make your task management process work for you (instead of becoming a slave to it yourself), here are some critical things to keep in mind:
Start as simply as possible
When you’re revamping your task management process, start simple.
It can be tempting to fall prey to “shiny object syndrome” as you explore the many different productivity tools out there.
Instead, start with something that fulfills your most important and basic requirements. We’ve intentionally kept the AND.CO Task Manager simple yet powerful so you can get back to your most important work: actually growing your business—not managing your tasks.
Have one entry point
The easiest way to fall behind on your important tasks is to get overwhelmed and overloaded through dozens of different sources.
If your clients send you to-dos via email, text message, messenger, or your Fiverr profile, consider finding a way to consolidate. For example, encourage clients to only communicate via one singular channel.
From there, develop quick and repeatable ways to get tasks from your communication point to your task manager.
Automate task creation
The last thing you want to do is spend hours each week just creating tasks in your Task Management software.
And while you often need to manually create a task, some project management software can help with this.
For example, the AND.CO Task Manager automatically creates tasks based on your deadlines, projects, and contract terms.
If you’ve got new invoices to send, contracts to sign, or expenses to file, we’ll put them directly on your task list, where you can organize and prioritize for later.
Don’t lose sight of “why”
Above all, as you’re working on developing a powerful to-do list system for your business, don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it:
To get more done in less time and enjoy more freedom.
If you develop a process that ultimately requires an extra hour every day just to manage your tasks, it may not be worth it. Keep working on finding a good solution.
When you feel your task management tool getting OUT of your way more than it slows you down, you know you’re in a good place.