Managing Time as a Freelancer

9/13/2020

Time is a precious thing. Managing the little time we have in a day, week or month is hard. The busier we are, the less time we seem to have. I struggle managing my time, more so now, than ever. I don’t only have a day job and a fairly busy personal life, but I am also mixing in my freelance creative agency and side passion projects. Since a lack of time is no stranger to me, I have searched for a set of tools that is effective at helping me accomplish my tasks during my busy days. I have tried basically all of the reminder apps, project management tools, document suites, and messaging services. I have found a combination that not only works really well, it is also the most affordable.

Since starting this article over 6 months ago, I have changed tools a few times. Minimalism has been a huge focus of mine, so I streamlined and removed tons of unnecessary tools from my life. After months of testing this is the best solution for me.

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I have already written an article about Notion and how it is My Minimalist Productivity Dream, if you want all the details on it. Mainly, Notion is my hub and go-to for pretty much anything productivity. Specifically for time management, I use Notion as a todo list with different views I have built to complete goals. I have one master todo list for all of my spaces and projects. I then embed this list as a linked database with filters and sort in subprojects. This gives me a high level and granular control over my todos. The main view I am in is past due, database view. In this view I can see the task, status, due date, tags, priority and assignee. The past due filter includes today and previous incomplete todos. In each todo there might be nothing, or there may be comments, full articles, research or even more relational databases, such as more todos from my master todo list. These can be seen as subtasks or related tasks, such as dependencies. The great thing about Notion and specifically using it as a todo list/project management tool, there are basically no limitations, like most other tools out there.

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I have been using G Suite for 5+ years, since it was Google Apps. I signed up with the main intention of just having an email with my domain attached, but it has evolved to more for me. My biggest use beyond the general email, calendar and docs is Google Drive storage. Yes, I know, I said I use Notion for docs, and that I do. I am actually writing this in Notion. Google Docs is used for that more traditional doc, something that needs to be emailed, turned into a PDF or printed. I also find it easier for collaboration, since most people don't have a Notion account or ever intend to. Back to storage. I also already wrote an article about this, File Management for a Creative in 2019. This was uploaded to my creative agency's blog. This goes over how and why I use G Suite for this. The system is a little hacked, not exactly what it was meant for, but it works adequately for my needs. Currently, I am sitting at a little over 14 tb of usage.

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As for managing my time with G Suite, look no further than Google Calendar. In the modern day and age, Google Calendar is my favorite for appointments, meetings, etc. It picks up where Microsoft Outlook was too hesitant to go, bridging the gap between personal and professional, with no design or complexity difference. Admittedly, I don't use the website calendar.google.com often, mainly because it doesn't support multiple calendars. Yes, I can do some behind the scenes changes with permissions to configure something and I have tried, but it is too sloppy and inconvenient. I use Apple Calendar to aggregate my personal Google Calendars and my G Suite instances. This way I have a full view of what is really on my plate. I do hope there will be an API for extending todos from Notion to Google Calendar, but as of right now there is not. Most of my day is time blocked. This way I have full visibility of what is on my plate for the day/week/month. This is not a revolutionary process, but effective so I can plan tasks more concisely.

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In the past I have used a ton of third party apps for things like reminders and notes, but in the mission to simplify my life and minimize my toolset I have started to use default Apple apps. The main thing behind this is that I want 90% of my productivity to live in Notion. So my choice of tools for lighter todo's, personal recurring todos and notes are Apple's Reminder and Notes apps. Over the last few years Apple has greatly improved these experiences, making them fairly powerful. My main reason for choosing these is that they work with Siri and sync seamlessly across my devices of choice. I also share a lot of these reminders and notes with my wife who is also deep into Apple's ecosystem.

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Collectively, I pay under $30 monthly for my current solution. If you don't mind having a regular Gmail account and don't need the storage that comes with G Suite, then it can be as low as $4 a month. Either route, these are super affordable for what you get. If you would like a 100% free solution and you don't want to stick with Apple's apps, I would recommend a combination of Microsoft Todo and OneNote. These are great solutions for most, they just don't integrate enough for my liking, so it is going against my focus of building a second brain. For me, my solution is minimal and simple. It mainly stays out of my way and lets me focus on the more enjoyable things, like creating thought-felt work. If you are a freelancer or a small team, this solution could work nicely for most.