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So far, we've looked time as it relates to individual jobs and individual clients, but as soon as you have two clients, the whole picture changes, because you need to figure out when you to give each your attention. In any case, you're going to have to keep a calendar in order to meet deadlines, have meetings, and make long-term plans. Here are some tricks I've picked up. The main tool you'll need is a calendar. It doesn't matter what kind you use, as long as you use it consistently. You can even use a standard paper planner and I know lots of people who do that even though they're computer professionals.
I personally use iCal on my Mac, and I keep it synched to my pocket device. But a lot of people, like online systems, such as Google Calendar which has the advantage of letting multiple people plan their time together. But whatever system you use, keep track of at least the following: First are the time-specific items, such as appointments. Obviously, these have to take priority. I've set my own calendar to sound an alarm a half hour before every appointment.
The next items to put in your calendar are the deadlines. If I'm working on a big project, I'll often include several calendar items. One for the project's ultimate deadline and then I'll have many deadlines leading up to it, to make sure that I'm on schedule. That's easier to figure if you've already broken up the project into manageable tasks. I also include other kinds of reminders and warnings in my calendar. Finally, during very busy periods I'll sometimes plan out my entire day, hour by hour, in the calendar.
Some people find this helpful even during slow times. One question you'll probably ask yourself as you start out is "Should I keep separate calendars for business and personal stuff or should I just put everything in one?" That answer depends at least partly on how you work. If you keep your work hours completely separate from your personal hours, you'll be able to keep two calendars. My own approach doesn't allow that. One of the benefits I get from freelancing is that I can schedule personal time in the middle of the day and I need to make sure that my shopping trip doesn't conflict with the client meeting.
So for me, one calendar works best. I use a simple calendaring system for everything, but there are other tools out there for organizing and prioritizing projects and some of them aren't date-based at all. Certainly, try out different ones from time to time and adapt according to your preferences. Ultimately, you'll find the combination of tools that's right for you.
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