As freelancers, time is our most precious resource. I know I am always looking for the best way to manage it, save it, or just keep track of it. A simple timer can be a freelancer’s best friend. Whether a kitchen timer, phone app, or web-based service, a timer is essential to managing your time.
Put Yourself on a Deadline
Parkinson’s law states that the length of time needed to complete a task will expand to fill the amount of time available to complete it. I’m sure there are some highly focused, well-disciplined people out there that are immune to this law of nature, but I’m not one of them. Give me four hours to write a simple blog post, and it will take me four hours; give me 40 minutes to write the same post, and it will get done in 40 minutes. Recognizing that I have this problem, I get pretty strict with how much time I allow myself to get things done. I set a timer to go off when my time is up. It’s amazing how much more efficient I am when I know the clock is ticking.
Don’t Get Lost “In the Zone”
Sometimes I can’t fully concentrate when I know I have an appointment coming up. It nags at my subconscious. I’m afraid I’ll lose track of time — yeah, it’s happened — and the worry keeps me from focusing on what I’m doing now. I use a timer to alert me when it’s time to stop working and move on to something else. The simple act of setting that alarm strips away the stress and allows me to totally immerse myself in the project at hand — no nagging voices in the back of my mind!
Keep Track of Billable Hours
Even if you don’t charge by the hour — and I don’t — you still need to keep track of the amount of time you are spending on each project. I need to know how long it takes to complete my work — from researching to writing to editing. When I first started out, and was charging significantly less than I do now, timing my billable hours made me realize that my per hour rate was turning out to less than minimum wage. I had been writing for over a year (part-time) for less than my teenager made serving up fast-food. Having a timer running while you work will let you know whether your per project rates are where they should be, or if certain types of assignments take more time and should be quoted for a higher price.