How to effectively manage your workload

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

Work can sometimes be overwhelming. One minute you think everything's in control and the next – you have too many deadlines.

Managing projects can be a challenge for any freelancer. The pressure can cause a lot of stress and sleepless nights, which isn't suitable for anyone. So how do you deal with a heavy workload? The following tips will give you a few pointers.

Assess your current situation

Firstly, sit down and go through your client list and projects. Identify problem areas and come up with ways to positively tackle them. If you're discovering that you have a particular client who's taking up too much time, it might be wise to ditch them. Or it could be that the phone keeps going and disrupting your productivity. Whatever it is, tackle it.

Set realistic deadlines

One of the main reasons why work can become a problem is when you don't give yourself enough time to complete a project. Clients can often demand a quick turnaround and put pressure on you to set unrealistic deadlines. Or it might be that you're putting too much pressure on yourself.

Don't be afraid to set realistic deadlines. You'll avoid making yourself look bad and disappointing the client in the long run. If the client complains, reiterate that you want to produce quality work and that means you need time.

Create a schedule

It might be an obvious tip, but you'd be surprised how many freelancers still don't bother to maintain a proper work calendar. That's whether you use a traditional diary, Excel spreadsheet, whiteboard or some task management – it's so important to schedule your work. Give yourself ample time to complete each project and allow contingencies for any inevitable obstacles.

Stick to the plan

No matter what you do – don't forget your work calendar and stick to it. Don't be scared of turning work down or delaying any new projects until there's more room in your schedule. You only have so many hours in each day, and you don't want to kill yourself. Taking on too much work will only stress you out and make you less productive. Your work will suffer also.

Take one step at a time

Break down each project into more manageable chunks, giving yourself little milestones to make the work more manageable. Spread out each milestone over realistic timescales and keep the client informed of your progress. Don't forget to allow a little extra time for any unhidden issues that may arise and stick to these smaller deadlines.

Iron out any distractions

If work is building up and you're not getting things done as fast as you'd like, then perhaps you're suffering from disturbances. Consider switching off your phone during busier times and avoid checking social media.

Boost your productivity

Being a freelancer means you only have yourself to rely upon. That means you have to look after yourself. Boost your productivity by sleeping and eating well, taking lots of breaks and enjoying lots of exercise to reduce stress.

Manage client expectations

Keep your clients happy by keeping them in the loop. Keep the communication channels open throughout any project, and your client will be satisfied that you're doing your best. If you think you're not able to deliver on time, it's much better to inform the client and be honest. They'll appreciate you letting them know.

Increase your rates

If work isn't becoming more manageable and you've tried all of the above, perhaps it's time to increase your rates. Because it could be that you're too affordable. By making yourself more expensive during busier times, you'll take on less work for more money.