May 24, 2022
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Choosing the right thing to work on next is more complicated than simply picking the first thing off the top of your task list. This is particularly important for freelancers, where you have a wide variety of tasks from working on creative problem solving tasks, routine admin tasks, or client calls and presentations.
Selecting the right task to work on in any given situation depends on a number of complicated factors, including the specific context you find yourself in. But it’s incredibly difficult when your tasks are so completely different from each other.
Here is what a typical week might look like for a freelancer:
It’s Monday morning and you’ve got an important call with a potential new client at 11am. You’ve already prepared the presentation and your notes, but you’ve got a couple of hours before the meeting begins.
You’re already feeling anxious about the call, it’s going to be a very formal final stage with the CEO and board of directors before the final decision is made. With that in mind, it’s probably best to focus on tasks that are simple and quick to complete.
You’ve got a couple hours to get stuff done and so you don’t want to waste the time feeling anxious about the call, but you probably don’t want to get into something too serious either.
Tasks such as reviewing a report, finishing off a presentation, or providing feedback on a design are good candidates. These types of tasks require a medium amount of concentration and effort, and a good chunk of time to complete, but they aren’t intensive tasks that require a long period of deep work.
It’s Tuesday and you’ve got a free calendar all day. This is the perfect opportunity to dedicate the time to deep work.
Tasks that are highly creative, or require long periods of concentration should be prioritised when you’ve got the opportunity to spend a dedicated amount of time. The most productive time of the day is different for everyone, some people are most productive in the morning, whereas others are most productive at night.
However as a general rule, it’s a good idea to get started early in the morning so you can have a dedicated couple of hours before lunch. If you can get in two dedicated sessions, split by a lunch break, you’re doing really well.
When you find yourself with the opportunity to dedicate large chunks of time to creative tasks, you need to make the most of it and pick tasks that require deep work. You should avoid routine or simple tasks that can be taken care of at a more appropriate time.
It’s Wednesday and you’ve got a client meeting that you have to attend in person in the city. You’ve decided to skip the early commuter rush but you will need to spend the majority of the day in the city so as to not lose most of the day travelling to and from home.
It’s best to combine tasks that have to be completed at that specific location to make the most of the opportunity.
For example, popping into see your existing clients that are also located within a short distance. You could also use this opportunity to complete any personal errands such as going to the bank or the post office. Most people already blur the lines between their work and personal lives.
Working for a different location can also be a really great way of sparking creativity. We often get stuck in a rut during the same old routine, so it might be a good opportunity to take on some of those creative tasks at a local coffee shop.
However, you will probably have more distractions due to the hustle and bustle of what’s going on around you, and you will have to work from a small laptop screen, rather than your dedicated setup in the office or at home.
It’s Thursday and you’ve offered to help a friend with their presentation to apply for a startup accelerator. You’re going to dedicate a couple of hours to helping your friend brainstorm, write, and practise the presentation.
You need to find a good opportunity in both of your calendars that can fit a dedicated period of time so that you can work together.
For the remaining time in the day you have, it’s best to focus on tasks that you can do asynchronously. You don’t want to get into a situation where both you and your friend can’t manage to fit dedicated time together because you’ve both already made commitments to other people.
The tasks you do in this time really depend on what else you’ve got going on. Helping your friend will use a lot of creative energy, but because you’re collaborating with them on their idea, you could probably work on some of your own creative tasks before you meet your friend.
It’s Friday afternoon and it’s been a hard week. You’ve got a call up until 3pm and then you’re going out for drinks straight from the office with some old friends.
You’ve got 2 hours before you’re going out, and it’s time you’d rather not waste scrolling through Twitter.
This is a good opportunity to tackle some low effort, routine tasks that don’t require a lot of energy. Tasks such as paying invoices, submitting expenses, or replying to emails are good candidates for this situation. If you try to start a creative task that requires a lot of concentration you probably aren’t going to make a lot of progress.