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Time Management For Freelancers | Back To Basics

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Hey, you… The one out there juggling a thousand tasks, feeling overwhelmed by how much needs to be done, all while trying to meet client expectations — let's chat.
You've probably heard a topic as mundane sounding as “time management” and just tuned out. That's fair because this topic is usually boring as hell.
“Time management” can feel like something invented by spreadsheet nerds who want to crush your creativity. There's some truth to that.
The problem is is, what seems boring is usually the medicine you need.
This is my attempt at discussing time management in a way that won't crush your soul.
So let's start with the basics. How did you get to this place of overwhelm in the first place?
Two things:
1. The Emotional Tug-of-War
Creatives, like you and me, we're in a unique dilemma. On one hand, our emotions drive our art. We can channel passion, sadness, or elation into something magical. But here’s the downside: sometimes, our emotions run us instead of the other way around.
Think about that task you've been putting off just because you “don't feel like it.” Yep, I’ve been there. Procrastinating on this very podcast, to be exact.
But here's the thing: by letting our fleeting feelings decide our to-do list, we end up sidelining those high-priority tasks.
2. The Ping of Doom
While being led by emotions is one pitfall, the other, equally treacherous one is becoming a puppet to others' whims.
Picture this: You're deep into a project, and ping — an email arrives. A client needs revisions, and suddenly you're derailed. Sound familiar?
Freelancers, admit it. We suck at this. I do too.
There's this urge to leap at every client request. While it might give them instant gratification, it leaves our personal and professional needs in the dust.
This frantic jumping between tasks, known as context switching, doesn’t just break our rhythm; it exhausts us. And trying to refocus afterward? A time-wasting task.
Mastering Your Day with a Simple Hack
Now that we've painted a pretty bleak picture, let’s flip the script. The secret? A strategy I've been leaning on for years: Plan tomorrow today.
It’s not just about jotting down tasks. It's about proactively designing a day that balances what you want and what others need from you.
In this week's episode of 6 Figure Creative, I give you the full framework I've been using for years to set up my day for success.
This works in any industry for any service.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Why freelancers struggle with time management
  • How to control our own time, rather than letting others dictate our schedule
  • People making requests aren't trying to hurt you
  • Blocking out your daily schedule
  • Big brain vs. small brain
  • Batching your tasks or sticking to a routine
  • The benefits of using Do Not Disturb on your devices

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[00:00:00] Brian: hello. Welcome to the six figure creative podcast. I'm your host, Brian Hood. If it's your first time listening to the show, first of all, hi. Hey, hello. Welcome. So glad to have you here. This podcast is for you. If you are a creative freelancer, you offer freelance services and you want to earn more money from your creative skills without selling your soul.

[00:00:14] Brian: That sounds like you, you are in the right spot. For my returning listeners, we are going back to the basics again. This is a series I did back on episode like two 50 to like two 60, something like that. And it was kind of a limited run of just going back to the things at the beginning of our careers.

[00:00:28] Brian: A lot of times we just. Either miss completely for advanced people, they miss some of the things that they should have known because they're self taught and just sometimes we don't know the basics of certain things and there's a whole great series again somewhere between 250 and 260 go back and look there for those past back to basics episodes awesome to review that if you are experienced or a beginner and then for our beginning listeners this stuff is great to know because you have to know this stuff in order to be I wouldn't say you have to know this stuff.

[00:00:52] Brian: It is in your best interest to know this stuff if you want to become a successful freelancer. and in today's episode, we're going to talk about time management basics, which sounds [00:01:00] really mundane and plain, but I promise you it's not.

[00:01:01] Brian: And it's actually comes from a really great discussion we had in our coaching community week or so ago. And instead of pulling from the call, which is kind of got private information in it, I wanted to just have a dedicated episode to this discussion of how do we manage our time so that we can get more done.

[00:01:15] Brian: in the specific strategy I'm going to talk about today, I can almost guarantee you're not doing, whether you're a beginner or advanced, you're probably not doing this. And it's such basic stuff. And I think the mistake most freelancers make when they're trying to manage their schedule or they have this big, long list of tasks they have to get done in their business, whether it's all the things you learn from this podcast or it's.

[00:01:32] Brian: The long list of revisions your clients gave you or all the projects you have coming up or something in between all of that, the mistake we make is we allow ourselves to either be led by feelings or led by others. And let me talk about each of those in turn because they're both detrimental to your career.

[00:01:45] Brian: first, let's talk about led by feelings. Creatives are wonderful. At tapping into their emotions and creating amazing art. But the side effect of that is we're really in tune with our emotions. And so we can tap into emotions to create great things. We also a lot of times are the [00:02:00] slave to our own emotions, meaning that when we have task list of things that we know we should be doing because we don't feel like doing something, we don't do that thing.

[00:02:07] Brian: And instead we tend to hyper focus or spend too much time on the things that we are naturally drawn towards. And

[00:02:13] Brian: and it all stems from the same thing. I don't feel like doing this, That sounds like you nod your head, say, yeah, right. you got me. To be honest, the truth is everyone struggles with this to some capacity. There's still things right now that you are ignoring because you don't feel like doing it. podcast today, this one I'm doing right now, I almost didn't do because I didn't feel like doing it.

[00:02:29] Brian: So I can even fall victim to this as well.

[00:02:32] Brian: And because we don't do things because we don't feel like it. We constantly habitually ignore those things we need to get done and we neglect those things

[00:02:40] Brian: so that's one time management mistake is just being led by your feelings all day every day We just do what we feel like doing The other thing, and to me just as damaging, is being led by others.

[00:02:49] Brian: And here's what I mean.

[00:02:50] Brian: You ever gotten that text or that email from that client with revisions or them asking to do something and you immediately jump on it? That's the example of being led by others. It's that thing in your inbox or your [00:03:00] DM all of a sudden that changed your direction for that specific moment in time.

[00:03:04] Brian: freelancers are horrible at this. And I can be a victim of this myself. Again, I am not immune to these same mistakes, I can promise you that, but it's where we get that text or get that email and we immediately feel like we have to get it done.

[00:03:15] Brian: And while that can make the client happy and make them feel like they're being taken care of, what that does is completely neglects your needs and what you need to have done in your life, in your business, whether it's personal, professional business,

[00:03:26] Brian: you end up making everyone else happy at the detriment of yourself.

[00:03:29] Brian: If you've never heard of something called context switching, this is the reason why we can't allow others to dictate our schedule for the day. Context switching is the thing where we're doing deep work, focused work, and then all of a sudden that text message comes up, or that email comes up, and it completely throws us out of it.

[00:03:44] Brian: It could be some, like an emotional response, we get a bunch revisions back from a project, all of a sudden just ruins our day because they're like, how could they ever ask for that many revisions on this project? I crushed it, and now your day's ruined, and you feel like you have to do that thing because you want to keep the client happy.

[00:03:57] Brian: Context switching means that you were pulled out from the thing that [00:04:00] you were focused on. To then read the email, even whether or not you do the work next, you're still pulled out from that thing. Meaning if you're trying to get back into that deep focus work, not only is your mind in a different place, but you're also emotionally in a different place.

[00:04:10] Brian: And it takes a lot of time to get back to where you were before you were distracted.

[00:04:15] Brian: So I'm gonna talk about how to handle this later in this episode, but just know that people, they don't mean anything bad when they're reaching out to you asking for something. They generally only care about their needs and they don't care about your needs.

[00:04:27] Brian: So it is your responsibility to set up your day to manage your time in your productivity and your emotions in a way that allows you to take care of both your client. And yourself. So what is my advice to you? There's a strategy that I picked up a few years ago. Man, probably longer than a few years ago. I don't even know how long I've been doing this, but it's, something called plan tomorrow today. It's very basic concept.

[00:04:46] Brian: And there's some nuance to this because it's not just planning tomorrow today. There's a few things along with this that I'll go into details on, but this allows you to be more proactive for your day versus reactive. Being proactive means I am being intentional about what I will do [00:05:00] tomorrow versus reactive, which is I am going to react based on my feelings.

[00:05:03] Brian: I'm going to react based on the inputs from the world and other people and what their needs are, what their desires are for me. Instead of being proactive and planning out a good headspace, what I am dictating is the best possible day for myself. in the best possible day for yourself, by the way, is one that takes care of you and your clients both equally.

[00:05:21] Brian: And the end result of all of this is you simply just get more done. Those two things I talked about being led by emotions and led by others. Letting those two things dictate your schedule for the day. Those two things will crush your productivity. and eat up your time. It's how you can work all day.

[00:05:34] Brian: And then at the end of the day, you cannot point to one meaningful thing you did for your business. And I know this because I've done this so many times and I'm assuming that you have as well if you're still listening to this episode or still watching us on YouTube.

[00:05:45] Brian: So let's talk about how to do this in your business. First of all, Plan tomorrow today. It sounds straightforward today. I'm going to plan for what I'll do tomorrow.

[00:05:52] Brian: on the surface. This looks very simple We just block out chunks of time to commit to certain things in my business that I know I need to do ahead of time Everyone knows what they [00:06:00] should be doing. Very few people actually do it. But here's where as creatives we have to do something called Creativity and emotional management or even brain management or just energy management.

[00:06:09] Brian: There's two kind of tasks and I jokingly on the coaching call I had last week with clients. talk like a caveman. big brain task or small brain task. I have two chunks of, meaningful time in my day. big brain time.

[00:06:20] Brian: That's where I am. My most energetic, my most creative. I have the most energy and capacity to do those big brain tasks. for me, big brain time is generally between 8 AM and around lunch. So 11 or 12, I can sometimes get a second breath of fresh air from after lunch to about one or two, but even that's pressing it sometimes.

[00:06:38] Brian: Small brain time is any time after that initial like post lunch spurt that I might get.

[00:06:45] Brian: so when I'm planning tomorrow today, I'm looking at all the things I need to get done and I'm using the big brain time and small brain time to map out where I need to put those certain tasks.

[00:06:55] Brian: For example, this podcast is big brain time. So I generally put these episodes [00:07:00] early in the morning because I have to have that big brain to be able to do these episodes and given this full justice. Truth be told it is 3 p. m. In a small brain time right now So if you notice a detrimental drop in quality for this episode It's because I'm doing big brain task with small brain Brian That's hard to say small brain Brian And the reason i'm doing big brain task during small brain brian time is because plans can change plans have to adapt and shift sometimes We have to be willing to shift occasionally and forgive ourselves.

[00:07:27] Brian: however, generally. I will save those big brain tasks and schedule them in the morning, and I will physically put those times on my calendar blocked off to do those things so that in the afternoon I can do those tasks that don't take up any sort of real creativity or emotion.

[00:07:41] Brian: Generally speaking, if I have to do anything finances, spreadsheets, honestly, if I have to do calls or meetings, I try to push those in the afternoon because I don't have to necessarily. Be big brain, Brian. I can generally be small brain, Brian, for those tasks. And I just love that concept of big brain versus small brain because everyone has and their business whether you're a freelancer or not, you have [00:08:00] those tasks, you know, you need to do. And some of them take your big brain and your full focus and your full attention. you block off what I call your sacred work hours. Those are those early hour times where I don't allow anyone to interrupt me I don't veer from the path. And then we have those small brain tasks. Where you're able to maybe context switch in that time or knock out revisions or something that's easier and generally less mentally demanding.

[00:08:21] Brian: And that was the case for my client when we were talking through his time management issues He had a lot of brain work that he was trying to put after his small brain work He would get revisions from a client and try to knock those out and wanted to get him back to his client Really really fast because he wanted his client to be impressed But then when it came to doing the big brain work He was already fried at the end of the day Because he had done all of these things and he hadn't got any of his big tasks done and now he's scrambling to do Those tasks and they take longer Whereas if you'd have just flipped his day around and did the big brain stuff first, and then the small brain stuff, would have gotten everything done faster.

[00:08:53] Brian: So if you're going to start setting up your day like this, there's two ways you can do it. You can either use a calendar app, which is what I, personally do. The [00:09:00] second way is to just write it down in a piece of paper and you just have a list of things and then just put times next to it. I've also done that for years.

[00:09:06] Brian: It doesn't really matter as long as you pick a method that works for you. Some people like digital. Some people like actually writing it out by hand and having a piece of paper to refer to and that satisfaction of crossing off something when you're done with it.

[00:09:16] Brian: But there's also one more thing to consider here. And everyone is different when it comes to tasks. some people, they like to create a routine around certain tasks. Like this podcast is more of a routine for me. And then for other people, they like to batch things where you do a lot of some sort of thing in a row.

[00:09:32] Brian: For example, if part of your marketing strategy is cold outreach then you could either do batching where you do a thousand outreach messages in a day, and you set aside your entire day to do it. Or you could do routine where you just do a hundred every single day.

[00:09:46] Brian: And if you understand which one of those kind of ways you lean, whether you like to batch things and just do it once a month, or you like to keep it as part of just a daily or weekly routine, you have to know which one you lean towards. Because if you try to force yourself into one that you're not [00:10:00] naturally leaning towards, you're going to be fighting an uphill battle.

[00:10:02] Brian: For example, I can't do batching. I suck at batching. If I had to do multiple podcast episodes in a day, I would be too brain dead to be able to put out the quality I need to put out and the energy and the emotion I need to put into things and the planning. All of this drains me. I love this podcast this is episode 275.

[00:10:19] Brian: I'm not stopping anytime soon, but it is just one of those. Energy draining things that if I had to batch it back to back to back, there's no way I could do it. honestly, that goes for most things. I can't think of anything that I love doing that I can batch back to back to back to back to back doing the same exact thing. And I think I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I think it's because I just love and crave variety in my day.

[00:10:38] Brian: I love getting into a rhythm and routine where I know what's, coming up and I can anticipate it and I can plan for it. That's just how I like to do things. And it keeps my day fresh Whereas when I'm batching something, That's all I'm doing all day every day. I hate that. Some people love it though.

[00:10:51] Brian: So if you understand yourself and how you like to do things, this can help a ton when it comes to setting up or planning for tomorrow today. Now you can also take this same concept plan for [00:11:00] tomorrow today and zoom it out a level and plan next week this week.

[00:11:03] Brian: I know people that love to do that. this is why this is back to basics because I have never been an advanced person when it comes to time management and project management, all these things. keep it very basic plan tomorrow, today. And I have a lot of big projects that I just chip away at every single day until they're done.

[00:11:18] Brian: I couldn't project when it's going to be done. I don't have any sort of, Technical or crazy algorithms to plan out and segment milestones when it comes to project management. I just know these are the things I want to do. I'm going to block out chunks of time every day, every week until that's done.

[00:11:31] Brian: And I have projects that have taken me years to complete literal years because they're so massive. and things that are just now starting to come to fruition today. For example, this coaching program that I've started promoting more and more, you may have noticed if you've been around for a while, Clients By Design, this coaching program has been in the works for years because so much has gone on behind the scenes as I've chipped away little by little by little by doing this exact same concept.

[00:11:53] Brian: Plan tomorrow, today. I know what I need to do. I can't control my emotions. The only thing I can control is my actions. So I try not to [00:12:00] let the emotions dictate my day. And then I will try my best. I'm not always perfect at this, but I'll try my best to not be reactive and not allow people to

[00:12:07] Brian: dictate what I do today. One thing that helps with that a lot, by the way, is just keeping all your devices on do not disturb. That still doesn't always work because. If you're like me, you'll just get in the habit of picking up your phone and you don't even realize you did it. So sometimes you just keep your phone in the other room, but whatever you do, as long as you're just at least, at the very least, planning what you will do tomorrow, today, you will get more done.

[00:12:27] Brian: I promise you. you even, if you hate routine, just make that the one routine you need to do is At the end of today or whatever time makes the most sense, I will plan out tomorrow and I will be very, very thoughtful before I allow anyone to change what's on that schedule. end, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you when it comes to doing any of this is to just give yourself forgiveness.

[00:12:48] Brian: this episode right now, I think I mentioned earlier where this is actually small brain time for me, and this is a big brain activity, it's because I messed up last week, and I was supposed to do this Friday, and I didn't do this Friday [00:13:00] because I didn't feel like it. I was brain dead.

[00:13:02] Brian: I have to give myself forgiveness in this and I highly encourage you to give yourself forgiveness if you mess any of this up Because no one is perfect

[00:13:08] Brian: even me with my wonderful lighting and my nice camera and my microphone and my platform of this podcast I'm not perfect. I mess this stuff up a ton, but I still give myself forgiveness

[00:13:18] Brian: so my challenge to you for this episode is plan tomorrow right now You're listening this episodes good time Pull over if you're in a car or at least mentally think through what your tomorrow will look like and eventually when you get a chance and you're pulled over in your safe spot or you're back from your walk, open a calendar or open up your, notepad and write out what you will do tomorrow and at what times.

[00:13:38] Brian: And see how good you can get at accurately predicting what you can get done tomorrow. It won't be perfect. actually, if you listen to last week's episode, the dare to suck episode, if you suck at this long enough, the planning tomorrow, you'll eventually get better and better and better and better where you know how to pace yourself.

[00:13:52] Brian: You know, the appropriate amount of work to give yourself for tomorrow where it's challenging, but not impossible.

[00:13:57] Brian: and part of it comes down to learning. When [00:14:00] is your big brain time and when is your small brain time and what are the big brain tasks and what are the small brain tasks? If you leave with nothing else, just that concept alone is worth this episode.

[00:14:09] Brian: So thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Again, if you haven't already, go back to episode two 50 to two 60 ish for the back to basic series. There's a lot of great stuff there. Until next time, thank you so much for listening to the six figure creative podcast. If you're on YouTube, leave me a comment.

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