Diana Kelly Levey

8 Time Management Tips for Freelancers from Ridiculously Busy Teens

calendar and day planner for productivity

October 2, 2020

Think you’ve got a jam-packed schedule and a mile-long to-do list? Try stepping into the shoes of a high school athlete for a week and you might pause before complaining about all of your responsibilities once you discover what they’re juggling.

In this feature article I wrote for ESPN RISE’s Girl magazine a few years ago, I interviewed teen athletes about their busy schedules and a time management expert, Dave Crenshaw, who lent time management expertise for busy schedules. These female teen athletes not only attend practice for their high school teams, but some play on club teams, take AP classes, volunteer in their communities, work part-time jobs, and take part in a ton of extracurriculars while maintaining friendships and family obligations. I distinctly remember feeling exhausted and lazy while talking to them. Then, I channeled that into motivation into being more organized in my own life.

Rather than bang out a freelance writing blog post on productivity tips from CEOs and well-known writers and authors, I’m sharing some of the best tips I culled from these impressive teen athletes who manage crazy schedules that you can steal.

Read the full article here.

8 Productivity Tips for Freelancers

  1. When you’re overwhelmed, take a break away from your desk.

Student-athlete Lydia told me she would go running or take a yoga class when schoolwork stresses her out. Here’s how I take breaks away from my computer. 

2. Figure out what works for you.

Understanding your own personal productivity rhythm is the best way to manage stress, said organizational expert, Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking. Some people might be best working in 20-minute time blocks, while others do better locking down for three or four hours at a time, he said. I like working in 45-minute time blocks, but, I can also say there are a volume of things freelancers can complete in 15-minute bursts.

3.  Budget and schedule your downtime.

Crenshaw suggests sitting down and calculating how many hours you spend on fun things and blocking them out in your calendar. While scheduling in fun sounds quite dull, with everyone’s busy schedules, it’s necessary.  This ensures that no matter how busy you get with work and personal life obligations, you’ll still check off calling your best friend on Wednesday night, having a date night with your partner, having coffee with a former coworker, and hitting up a class at the gym that’s just for you.

4.  Ask for help.

These athletes reminded their peers to ask teachers, coaches, and teammates for help. Heed these wise words from teens and look to your network to see who can help you with tasks that don’t require your time and attention. I use transcribing services to help me type up notes and hired a Wordpress designer to help me with my website when I got stuck with coding issues. Freelance content marketer Jennifer Gregory outsources certain tasks to a virtual assistant so she can concentrate on larger projects. This could also be translated into asking for help from your partner or family with chores, dividing up the kids carpool with another parent, or delegating tasks to your assistant so you can concentrate on specific higher-level tasks.

5.  Make time for your family and friends.

The athletes I spoke to incorporated their families into their schedules by supporting siblings in their games and activities, whether that was shooting hoops together or inviting their crew over for a dip in the family pool in the summer.

6. Remember rest and recovery.

Not just for athletes, we all need to find healthy ways to relieve stress, prioritize sleep, and pay attention to our bodies so we don’t get sick. (Is your binge-watching habit the reason you can’t sleep?)

7. Work smarter, not harder.

The teens I talked to understood that they needed to beware of social networking black holes. Take a lesson from their notebooks and manage your time better if you turn off text messaging and social media notifications, Slack, email pings and pop-ups about the latest celebrity news on your browser.

8.  Set aside skill development time.

Whitney is a teen athlete who played soccer for two teams and worked on speed training, conditioning, and techniques for an hour or two a day. She knew that developing those skills was paramount to building a strong foundation so she was prepared and conditioned for games. This is great advice to apply to your career as well—you’re never too old to hone your skills and learn something new.

What productivity advice have you received from unlikely mentors?

Enroll in my freelance writing online course “Get Paid to Write” today so that you’ll learn new skills and tools to improve your writing career.

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