Daily routine and how it can help your freelance career

Read on to find out the benefits of having a daily routine, rather than winging it.

I’m not a morning person. Every day I have to coax, persuade or downright trick myself out of bed to start the day. Whether it’s good coffee, bacon or an hour of gaming before I start work I sometimes have to get creative to escape the duvet. Once I’m out of bed, it takes a couple of hours to warm up enough that I can work effectively. Trying to start too quickly results in mistakes and frustration.

A good routine is vital to my productivity, as is setting a focus for the day and working towards medium term goals like the website redesign projects I often do. We get tired and distracted as the day goes on, so working on important things first makes it more likely they get done. Getting my thoughts in order is vital before I start work so I can focus.

After some experimenting and some mentoring, I settled on the following for my freelance life:

8am – Alarm, quick walk, breakfast, shower, get dressed in proper clothes
9am – Meditate and journal, set priorities for the day
10am – Begin focused, scheduled work
11.15 – Short break, move around
1pm – Lunch
2pm – Check emails and phone messages, admin, meetings, smaller tasks
4pm – Short break, move around
5-6pm – Finish work, log time and go to gym/run/socialise
10pm – Stop using screens
11pm – Sleep

Weekends off

This routine ensures enough sleep, gets everything done and has space for exercise and socialising. Sitting down all day means I need to make sure I move around during the day and get runs or workouts in regularly to keep some kind of fitness. Working from home a lot of the time can be lonely, so planning social things in is vital. It also focuses me on paid, priority work instead of opening my emails first thing and getting waylaid with bitty tasks (more on email management here).

Some of us might tend towards being night owls. I’m curious if that could work – it’s tempting but there are definite benefits to sleeping when it’s dark and being awake when everyone else is too.

We all have fluctuating energy and focus levels during the day, so being freelance can be a great chance to work at our best times rather than when our boss says so. Being able to enjoy the sun/daylight in the UK (especially during winter) could result in a different routine that allow you to be outside during the short day and get your work done around that. If you’re an early riser, you could have a few hours racked up before us night people are even out of bed!

What does your daily routine look like? Let me know in the comments below…

Nick

Free Download: Daily Planner for Freelancers

I’ve used a variety of to-do lists and productivity tools over the years, and having a clear idea of what I’m going to be working on during the day keeps me focused and helps me achieve my goals. Winging it usually results in wasted time and rushing to meet deadlines.

While there are great diaries like the Passion Planner and Panda Planner available, I settled on this simple A4 daily planner that I printed myself until I went travelling and needed something virtual (Things for Mac).

The Most Important Task

Once you’ve got your priorities straight you’ll have a good idea of what you need to do first – your Most Important Task. Having this written down can focus you and make sure you do this before getting distracted or doing the fun things first. There are spaces for the name of the task, a box to tick when you’ve completed it, and if you are selling services, a box to enter how much this task has made for you.

This is also a gentle reminder of what you’ve set as your most important priority for the day should you get distracted.

Other Daily Tasks

The next box has lines for all the other tasks you have to do today. More than 3-4 additional tasks and you’re probably going to get frazzled and suffer from the Cognitive Switching Penalty which will slow you down. As before, there are boxes for the name of the task, a tickbox to celebrate finishing it and a box for how much it earned you.

At the end of the day you can then tot up how much you made, if your business works like that. You probably know how much you need or want to make a day and this keeps you focused on earning towards this target.

Checking Banks and Updating Invoices

You’ll need to keep an eye on incoming payments and update your invoices or billing system (depending on what kind of business you run) and this is a reminder to do so daily.

Contact List

You’ll probably have a list of clients to contact every day, so here’s a space to list them. Extra points for doing Deep Work including your Most Important Task in the morning and making calls etc in the afternoon. Any missed calls can go on this list too.

Notes

If you’re anything like me you have a variety of unconnected thoughts throughout the day which can easily distract you. This area is a parking place for all those thoughts and reminders for yourself. Writing them down can get them out of your head, stop you forgetting them and allow you to return to them later once you’ve done your Most Important Task and hit your target.

Download the Daily Planner for Freelancers

Click here to download the planner in PDF format.

Summary

In this article we’ve outlined a free daily planner for freelancers, describing how it can help keep you focused on tasks that will help you reach your creative and financial goals.

Do you use a different daily planner? Tell us what you think of it in the comments below.