Watch out for intellect, because it knows so much it knows nothing.Anne Sexton
It’s easy to organize a single project, but what about working on four client projects at the same time? It’s tempting to always be on the hunt for the latest project management app, but unless you’re an agency with 10+ employees, you can skip those. The best tool is one that you’ll actually use—a very, very basic spreadsheet could do the trick. If you’re like me, you want a zoomed-out overview that keeps you on top of the big picture. Something like this.
Looks pretty rudimentary, huh? It is. I’ll share a secret with you—for a freelance operation, complex tools and systems are mostly BS.
I’m currently operating an executive recruiting business with six open projects, editing this book and outlining the next one, planning two product drops, and making a business plan for next year. How do I stay on top of it all? Mostly, I use the apps that came with my phone. Calendar, Reminders, Mail, iChat. I wrote this book in Evernote and then I saved it in Dropbox.
I am a person of average intelligence, if that. I get overwhelmed easily. If I want to manage my self-imposed workload and have energy left over for friends, family, and hobbies, I must have a simple system for managing my time and energy. For me, it’s leaving tomorrow’s to-do list on my desk at the end of each day, laying out my clothes, and having a cold brew waiting in the fridge right next to my desk. Why? So that at 6am, there are as few steps as possible between my sleepy ass and my goals.
Your routine might be the exact opposite of mine, and that’s cool, as long as you have one.
Perhaps you have a high mental capacity for complexity, learning new apps, and constantly refining your process. Great, but I might suggest channeling that energy into your art. The more tricky systems you use, the more excuses you can give yourself for not getting the job done.
I’ll wrap up with two key encouragements:
What seems overwhelming to you right now will be a breeze one year from now. It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.
Writing down your priorities regularly (digitally, on paper, on a whiteboard, whatever) and looking at them is powerful. Just look at them. Maybe once a day. When I keep a tidy overview of my top priorities in my subconscious mind, I’m much less likely to get pulled into tangential minutiae.
Freelance success is about consistent behavior, not being smarter or more technologically advanced than everyone else.