9 Reasons Why WordPress Freelancers Need a Daily Schedule (and How to Make One)
Life as a WordPress freelancer is pretty awesome. You work with (what we all know to be) the best content management system. You set your own prices. You pick the clients you want to work with. And you get to flex your creative muscles all day. What’s not to love?
I think that if there is the one major drawback to working as a freelancer (WordPress or otherwise), it would be the temptation factor. The temptation to turn on your TV for 15 minutes while you eat a warmed-up burrito. That temptation to nap with your dog after a particularly difficult assignment. That temptation to stay in your jammies all day because they’re just so dang comfortable.
Let’s face it, when you work as a freelancer, it can be tempting to sink into a rut and get way too comfortable. Getting too lax can mean you miss deadlines and turn in poor quality work. And that’s bad for business.
My personal recommendation, which also happens to be supported by a number of experts, is that you create a schedule—and stick to it. Every day. Every week. For as long as it takes for it to become like second nature.
In today’s article, I’m going to cover some of the benefits of creating a routine for yourself as a WordPress freelancer. I’ve also put together a brief guide to help you create a schedule from-scratch, complete with stretch breaks.
What Can a Daily Schedule Do for Your WordPress Freelance Business?
I’m a big fan of scheduling everything in my life, from doctor’s appointments to the most granular tasks in my professional workflow. While you don’t need to be that much of a stickler for scheduling, I do believe that bringing more organization and structure to your professional life can truly be beneficial to your WordPress business in the long run.
Here are some of the reasons why:
Reason #1: Time Savings
Success expert Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson says, “Routines remove the need to deliberate over what you should do and when (which takes time and energy) because once you’ve established a routine you’ve already made those decisions.”
Think about how much time you could take back if you no longer have to stop to think about your next move.
Reason #2: Less Stress
More time to work on top of the freedom of working at home (or away from a workplace)? If that doesn’t sound like a winning recipe for less stress in your life, I don’t know what does.
Reason #3: Stay Focused
Without a schedule, you’re probably more likely to allow for random interruptions to disrupt your workflow. Those disruptions might not even come from the outside either.
Consider how many times you’ve rationalized an unplanned jaunt for lunch, only to have it turn into a few hours of drinks and catching up with a friend because it’s Friday and you can work late to make up the time and oh wait… How is it 3:30 already?
Sticking to a firm schedule will keep you focused, ensuring deviations like these don’t get out of hand.
Reason #4: Maintain Control
I know you probably left the corporate world (or decided never to enter in the first place) because you hated feeling like you thinking under someone else’s thumb. You’re a freelancer now, so the control is yours. Just remember that scheduling your day doesn’t mean that you lose any bit of that freedom or control.
In fact, a daily schedule will help you gain more control over your structure and flow. Think about a time when you’ve forgotten about a client meeting or totally dropped the ball on a task due later in the day. You had to put everything else on hold and rush to get a handle on the missed responsibility. With schedules, you’ll never have to feel out of control again.
Reason #5: Greater Professionalism
Whether you speak to your clients over the phone or via email, there is some form of ongoing communication that occurs between you. And, if or when they should ask for an unexpected favor they want you to “squeeze” in or they want to know your availability two Fridays from now, how do you respond?
Without a well-managed calendar in front of you, there may be a lot of “umms” from your end as you struggle to figure out your availability. This is a no brainer. If you want to appear and be more professional with your clients, getting control over your day-to-day is a good way to do it.
Reason #6: Automation
Personal organizing expert Elizabeth Larkin says that schedules “save time in the short run by removing the need to deliberate, and time in the long run because they automate these actions.” Although this is self-driven automation that you’re responsible for staying on top of (instead of software that does it for you), the results are the same. More time for you to work instead of think about what to do next.
Reason #7: Optimal Results
Everyone works differently. Whether you’re an early bird, a night owl, or just really enjoy a solid three-hour workout in the middle of the workday, a schedule will help to optimize your workflow around how you work best.
Reason #8: Future Projections
Much like how reason #5 enables you to more quickly and confidently inform clients about your availability, scheduling also allows you to better foresee your business’s revenue.
Are you one of those people who typically tries to ballpark this (“Well, if I have three clients a month and charge X amount of dollars per project, I can end up in the black by year’s end… probably.”)? If so, give scheduling a try. You’ll have a definitive record of all your current and ongoing projects, and you can use it to pencil in tentative work as well.
Reason #9: Better Sleep
Consistency in your day—including the times when you go to bed and wake up—help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm. As you create a consistent rhythm for your body, you’re apt to get better quality sleep, too. Who doesn’t work better after they’ve had a fantastic night’s sleep?
How to Create the Ideal Daily Schedule as a WordPress Freelancer
As I mentioned already, everyone is different. What works for you might not work for Jane Smith in Seattle (especially with those darker winter days). When reading through the following tips, keep in mind that the ideal daily schedule should be ideal for you. These are 10 of my favorite best practices, so feel free to pick and choose the ones that align with your personal preferences and needs.
#1. Establish a Wake-Up Ritual
Whether you start work at 11 a.m. or 11 p.m., find a wake-up time that works best for you and keep it the same every day. You should also have a “morning” ritual to go with it. Get dressed. Get ready. Eat. And start up that computer. Train your body to know when it’s time to work.
#2. Allot Time to Check Messages
Inbox Zero. It’s something we all want, which is why email can become a major source of distraction and stress throughout the workday. I suggest you set aside an allotted time every morning (no more than an hour) to check all open messages and reconcile as much as you can. Anything that remains can be dealt with later.
#3. Find a Reliable Task Manager
There are so many project and task management software out there that it may feel overwhelming trying to find one to start with. Go with something that fits your budget, has an intuitive interface, and aligns well with your preferred work style, whether that be Kanban boards, checklists, calendar notifications, or something else entirely.
Regardless of which task manager you choose, put everything in there. Personal appointments. Professional meetings. Client profiles. Client-specific projects. Project-specific tasks. Everything. Then keep it updated and to use it religiously.
#4. Create Your Schedule
How many hours a day do you want to work and how many hours a day do you need to work? Schedules should strike a balance between the two. Think about when you’re typically the most productive. Doing an 8-to-5 might not be the most realistic schedule for you, and that’s fine. Just find your ideal schedule and add it to your task manager tool.
#5. Account for Breaks
Your task manager tool and schedule should also account for breaks and they should occur at the same time every day.
The Pomodoro technique seems to be popular right now and suggests you work in short 25-minute increments before breaking. I don’t know if that’s ideal for web developers or designers, however, who may find those short stretches of work too disruptive to more time-consuming tasks. If you’re not sure what sort of break style will work best for you, use a timer app to get a sense for your natural ebb and flow.
#6. Schedule Logically
The key to successful scheduling isn’t just about having a schedule and sticking to it; you should also tackle tasks in a logical manner. For instance, if you’re more alert at the start of your day, that’s the best time to schedule more difficult and energy-consuming tasks. If you have a bunch of meetings or calls scheduled on a single day, it would be best to group them so you’re not constantly doing the stop-and-start when each one pops up.
Client requests and priorities should also factor in. Some of your clients or project schedules may be more flexible than others. Don’t put a flexible task ahead of something you know is due by end-of-day, leaving you to scramble and do a less-than-stellar job or miss a deadline altogether.
#7. Go Dark
Shut down all unnecessary devices, social media, and other non-essential distractors during work hours. If you don’t have self-control in restraining yourself from using technology, use a distraction-blocking app. When it comes to your family and friends, this may be harder to do, but you’ve got to block them out, too. Don’t be afraid to tell them “no” or “later.”
#8. Go Outside
As with other breaks, plan to schedule lunch for an hour at the same time every day. Weather permitting, try to get out for at least 15 minutes or head to the gym. Just keep yourself away from your screens and give your brain a break.
#9. Establish a Hard Stop
Emergency reworks and last-minute requests are bound to come in. While it’s near impossible to plan for these unexpected hiccups, you can build in some flexibility to your hard stop each day. For example, you could put your official closed-for-business time as 8 pm, but plan to stop by 7 pm every day. That hard stop can just be there to protect yourself from going overboard. This also gives you time to unwind and review the next day’s schedule to ensure you’re prepared for it.
#10. Schedule Professional Improvement Time
Working hours should be dedicated to generating revenue. As you know, though, revenue generation activities don’t necessarily always pay. Like meeting with prospective clients.
So, when considering your daily and weekly schedule, don’t forget about those activities that help you make money in the long run. You might not get paid for that hour or so you dedicate to searching for new clients or listening to a podcast on web design now, but you will eventually. I’d suggest dedicating no more than an hour or two to this each week.
What’s the most important thing to take away from this? I think there are two good lessons here. One is that scheduling can make you a better business owner or employee, in general. Greater control, higher levels of efficiency, and a stronger structure from which to work. Then there’s also this idea that balance matters. That you can’t expect to power through 24/7 and expect there to be no negative consequences.
Once you’ve finished creating your ideal daily work schedule, start thinking about how to maximize time with your friends, family, and for other non-work commitments. This’ll keep you feeling balanced and make the time you spend at work more fruitful.