Time. It’s a valuable asset that most freelancers and business owners never seem to have enough of. When I started working for myself, I had no idea how much time I’d spend on work-related tasks so I focused on tracking time for the entire first month.

Here’s what I found out.

1. It’s Difficult to Be Productive for a Full 40 Hours Each Week

During my first month of self-employment, I was grateful to have plenty of client work. My initial plan was to work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I’m most productive in the mornings and I love the feeling of having all my work done for the day in the afternoon instead of having to take a break and come back to a task in the evening.

However, to my surprise, I found myself working more like a 6 a.m.-4 p.m. schedule or even 6 a.m.-6 p.m. some days and I wasn’t happy about it.

What’s worse, is that I wasn’t being productive during the entire extended work day even though I was completing all my tasks. To be honest, I don’t know if anyone is productive during every minute of a 40+ work week.

Productivity comes in waves depending on when you feel most motivated to work. Thus, small breaks in the day are necessary along with being able to choose which tasks are most important to get out of the way as opposed to mindless tasks that are a waste of time.

Some days, I caught myself spending a ton of time on a task that just didn’t seem worth it and didn’t help my bottom line at all. For me, it’s important to avoid those time sucks.

Now, I spend about 6-7 hours Monday-Thursday working on client work and I spend about 5 hours on Friday working on other areas of my business. Anything more and I’ll feel pretty burnt out.

2. Making a List Really Does Work

I’ve always been a list person, but when I started freelancing I saw how using a planner and creating to-do lists or ‘done lists’ really helped me stay organized and on track.

If you want to use your time wisely, I think there’s no way around creating a list of tasks you need to complete during the day or by the end of the week. Plus it feels so satisfying to check each item off when you’ve completed it.

I like handwriting my list of what I’m going to tackle each day for the entire week and I also use online scheduling tools like Asana to stay organized.

Another thing I do is track my earnings each day. I know how much I want to earn in order to reach my income goal so I write down how much each project will earn me and it helps me stay on track throughout the day/week.

3. Sticking to One Task Until It’s Complete is Not Always the Best Practice

I feel like there’s this myth out there that in order to make the most of your time and be productive, you need to completely finish one task before moving on to the next.

However, I’ve found that forcing myself to do a task that I’m not motivated to do only makes the process drag on longer.

I’m a freelance writer which means that almost every day I need to write something in order to make a living. It can get stressful sometimes especially if I don’t feel like writing one day.

I make it a habit of staying at least a day or two (minimum) ahead of my deadlines so when I’m feeling unmotivated or uninspired to write something, I can just skip it and come back to it later.

I break up larger projects into 2-3 day stints in order to ease the pressure off myself. I work very efficiently when I’m motivated to do the work and since I’m self-employed, I like to take advantage of the fact that I can create my own schedule and work when it’s convenient for me.

I see no reason to waste time dealing with writer’s block by trying to force myself to work on a piece that I don’t feel like working on at the moment when I could be working on something that comes easier to me.

Summary: Track Your Time and Figure Out What Works Best for You

The three things I learned from tracking my time spent on my business helped me better understand how to manage my time so I’m not stuck working every waking minute.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to start tracking your time spent doing productive work and see if you can find any trends or come to a new realization about how you should change or maintain your process.

At the end of the day, how you prioritize your time should be based on strategies that work best for you and your specific situation.

Choncé Maddox is a professional writer who recently left her job in the web design industry to produce killer content and manage her own writing business full time. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs be more productive and create a life they love by doing fulfilling work. On the side, she runs a podcast and blogs about getting out of debt at MyDebtEpiphany.com.

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