Time management tips, tales, truths.
"If a freelancer tells you they are up against a deadline, then you know that it’s time to back off and give them some space so that they can get your work done."
And yet… sometimes deadlines are missed.
"Nearly all freelancers miss a deadline sooner or later. It may be due to a family emergency, an unforeseen circumstance like an extended power outage, poor estimating, or even personal illness. Whatever the cause, you need to take some immediate steps to try and preserve your client relationship. Here’s what you should do:
If you’ve been reliable in the past (or if you have an excellent reputation), most clients will understand the rare emergency and you won’t lose the work. After all, your client is a person too. They understand that things beyond your control sometimes happen.”
It’s December 30th. By now we’ve seen a lot of awesome year-end summaries. I’m not talking about best-of lists. I’m talking about those individuals who are able to account for what happened in their lives or businesses or projects every month of the year.
I’m not sure I think people who do this do more than those of us who don’t. But it just feels more present in some way. What I’m saying is… I’m jealous. I cannot list which month many of my major moments or accomplishments or… setbacks happened unless there was an invoice attached or a hospital bill (I kid!).
Now… being able document is not the same as being able to plan or even prioritize. I’m not suggesting and meticulous annual summaries mean you’re doing what’s important to you or even something good.
But if reading these summaries makes you feel good, imagine what writing them feels like.
Attention freelancers. The virtual-office-snack experience is almost over. Here is some sort of giant cookie feast from Fast Company’s office. What do you think? Of course… on the one hand, I cannot pretend the cookies look great. But on the other… they look too even and perfect and… right out of a package? Too judgey?
The Fast Company cookie swap. Lunch is served! Chocolate chip not allowed. See those cookies in the foreground on the left? They have bacon bits on top!
Cookie swap at work. I love the holidays.
"…That simple tip is the difference between freelancers who simply do their work and freelancers who excel at their work. It’s not about you, it’s not about your ego, it’s not about your skills or experience. It’s always about making the client look good.”
"… Self-improvement needn’t be a sad homework assignment demanding prudence and sacrifice. Perhaps we’d be more inclined to follow through if we resolved to be kinder to ourselves, to make our lives easier, to lighten our load…
…Identify the areas/endeavors in life that mean the most, and work for the “A-plus” there. In the other areas, let a “B” or even “C” work for you. Sometimes “good enough” is indeed just that. Get back to basics and figure out what you love to do, and commit to bringing that passion forward in any way you can…”
In your business, it’s easy to carry over everything you did last year just the same. The same Holiday sales? The same spring blog series? The same conferences. But it’s always nice to remember you don’t have to do all that stuff the same way every year. Think about why you do certain stuff, especially if you’re feeling external pressure from the rest of your industry/peers.
“Are we doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or because ‘it’s the way we’ve always done it’?”
As savvy time-managers we’re always vigilant about getting distracted by tools. But this one is irresistible and worth your time- ifttt. You can link up various apps (like twitter, tumblr, Google Reader, Buffer, pinboard…) and automate behaviors like tweeting, saving, backing up, publishing… We could go on, but just give them a shot!
Today marks one year since we humbly launched ifttt into private beta and it’s been a wild ride to say the least! We dropped the ‘private’ in ‘private beta,’ introduced Recipes and built new Channels/Triggers/Actions like mad.
Though ifttt is still in its early stages, people continue to surprise us with new and incredibly useful tasks every day. Just yesterday, we saw our four hundred and thirty thousandth task created.
It is a fantastic start and we can’t wait to add new Channels and shape up Recipes to help more people discover useful connections that fit their digital needs and behaviors.
There are vast swaths of unexplored territory and lots left to design and build, including mobile apps, premium features and channels, and APIs. To get us there, we’re excited to start growing a team of adventurous and creative people focused on building a revolutionary product. If you’re game, check out our jobs page.
More to come
Our mission is to enable everyone to create valuable connections between the services and devices they use everyday. Even though we are over a year in, it still feels like ifttt is just getting warmed up!
The ifttt Team
“At Facebook, there was a cultural resistance to process, to the point where the pattern around introducing process typically went “new process is reluctantly introduced only right before the point where things tip into chaos.” Push this point as far as humanly possible, and then some, because what you receive in return is high organizational speed. If your organization has less process than another one of equivalent size, you will innovate and execute faster, taking ideas from conception to market more rapidly. Managers may need to psychologically contend with more chaos than they are comfortable with, but there is a huge difference between chaos that makes one uncomfortable and chaos that actually threatens the business. Stepping as close to the latter as possible confers one of the greatest advantages in the technology business: execution speed.”
With all that setup, here’s the money quote:
"There is a huge difference between chaos that makes one uncomfortable and chaos that actually threatens the business."
Would-be time management ninjas — like us — live and die on that razor thin edge.
"Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator." -Robert Orben
"…Tablets were designed to be consumption devices, for the most part, so it’s easy to get distracted when you have a bunch of games staring back at you from a beautiful, glossy screen. Additionally, if you mix your productivity apps in with everything else you’ll have a hard time locating the app that you need. For these reasons, it’s helpful to have an entire page on your home screen dedicated to getting things done. This way you can flick over to that page during the work day and flick back when you’re done.”
“It looks like a human was involved in choosing what went where,” Marissa told them. “It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They’re created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That’s what makes our products great.”
Marissa Mayer addressing Google designers, as quoted in “In The Plex” by Steven Levy.
Call us crazy, but we believe humans are way better at designing than machines. And this explains a looooot about Google. And why folks like us are driven crazy over their decline.
Time-management wisdom/ confession- If I get descriptive about my calendar (not prescriptive), I admit that the things I feel most obligated to schedule are things for other people.
"Meetings may be toxic, but calendars are the superfund sites that allow that toxicity to thrive. All calendars suck. And they all suck in the same way. Calendars are a record of interruptions. And quite often they’re a battlefield over who owns whose time.
In my experience, most people don’t schedule their work. They schedule the interruptions that prevent their work from happening. In the case of a business like ours, what clients pay us to make and do happens in the cracks between meetings, or worse, after business hours.
I’ve yet to see a résumé—and I hope I never do— that lists “attends meetings well” as a skill. Yet attending meetings ends up being a key component of many jobs. And it’s stupid.”
-Mike Monteiro, The Chokehold of Calendars
Managing time often means managing communications:
"Organize Your Daily Communication. Your workspace isn’t the only thing that requires organization. If you’re not organizing your communication to utilize speed-appropriate channels, you’re wasting valuable time. Sometimes writing an email is the best way to handle an issue, but other times you can be more effective on something more concise like Twitter/text messaging or something more live like instant messaging. You may be able to talk through an issue much faster by actually talking about it in person. Before choosing to communicate using your default means, think about what the fastest and most effective method would be. Once you start sorting your communication effectively, you’ll free up much more of your time to do the work you need to get done."
Spending time hunting down Internet is part of the modern independent’s life. Incidental, but worth documenting are the expressive names given to networks we see every day.
"“People are taking it to the next level in terms of being able to be really cryptic and send a message,” she said. Her site is a treasury of passive-aggressive messages to neighbors (Stop Cooking Indian!!!), self-promotion (FutureLawyersofCharlieSheen), flirtation (*~*~cOuGaRviLLe~*~*), and frustration (We can hear you having sex). Some of the names are poetry (Dumpling Manor, More Cowbell). Some of them are mere description (taco breath 2). Janelli says that wireless names can act as welcome mats, luring their beholder into a store or a discussion, or as gargoyles, patrolling a patch of virtual turf. A certain genre of befuddling names are meant to send a wireless poacher scrambling to Google, and then to Urban Dictionary, to learn something he wishes he hadn’t. “You also find really creepy ones, like I Eat Babies,” Janelli said. “There’s weird stuff. I could see an amazing ‘Law & Order’ episode coming from this.”
Like other forms of self-expression, wireless names are subject to trends. For a few months last year, Janelli kept seeing Pretty Fly for a WiFi; then it was FBI Surveillance Van. Like architecture and restaurants, wireless names suggest the character of a neighborhood. “You cruise through all the streets, and there are certainly some areas that are much more affluent, I guess, in WiFi names,” Janelli said. “The Lower East Side has funny ones”—for example, DieTrustFundersDie—“as opposed to uptown, where it will be much more like Robinson Family. You also get, like, Empty Sighs and Wine,” evoking “the really lonely person on the Upper West Side.” Janelli’s favorite name is one that she found in 2009, in the financial district: fat man on 7fl is douche.”
Time management may not be a strength of mobile workers if this is true: "mobile workers put in 240 more hours a year than non-mobile employees. One in four mobile employees sleep less than six hours a night…"
But there are pros and cons.
The iPass survey revealed that mobile workers put in 240 more hours a year than non-mobile employees. One in four mobile employees sleep less than six hours a night with one in three claiming less sleep because of work. 60 percent also blame work for not getting as much exercise as they should.
Check out the infographic below and let us know what you think.
Are mobile workers really working hard or hardly working?
"…Of course, even estimating the amount of billable hours you will work can be difficult. A year is a long time, and a lot of unexpected things can happen.
An inherent benefit to the customer for hiring a freelance worker is accessibility. If they need something completed ASAP, they are not confined to the regular nine to five working hours of a company. Most freelancers quickly accessible through personal cell phones or personal email. While getting phone calls at 10 pm may sound like a bit of an inconvenience to you, you can charge the client more because it is an additional convenience to them.
Most freelancers who succeed don’t go working for themselves without having a bit of experience. When a client hires you as a freelancer or consultant, they are expecting someone in the know. When a client takes on a large company to do work for them, they can’t really know what to expect. For all they know, the person responsible for their account just graduated college yesterday.
Oftentimes, employees working for companies have to follow company policies and guidelines. But is there really a one-size-fits-all policy? I don’t think so…especially when it comes to business. A company policy may always be the most effective, efficient, or even correct way to accomplish a goal. Which leads to efficiency and flexibility!
4. Flexibility It’s pretty normal for a company to operate like a big bureaucracy. And the bigger the company, the bigger the bureaucracy! Individual freelancers can make alterations on the fly. A company hierarchy doesn’t lend itself to flexibility.
5. Efficiency When you are your own boss there is no hierarchy of decision making. You don’t have to ask your boss how to approach a certain problem. And your boss doesn’t have to ask their boss. You are the decision maker. And while this may be a little daunting at first, it provides that work is more efficient. More efficient work means jobs get done faster. Which means you will probably bill the client less hours than a large company would. Which means you can charge them more per hour!
6. Income Sharing If you’ve ever had a job doing work for a client through a company, then you know that the company you work for is making a lot more off of you than you are getting paid. This makes sense. The company has to make a lot of money off of you so that they can cover operating expenses and still make a profit when all is said and done. A friend of mine works as an electrical engineer. He gets paid pretty well…in the mid 50,000s. On top of that, the company pays for the gas for his car, and covers his cell phone bill. Not a bad deal! Taking all of those benefits into account, we can be generous and round up his overall earnings to 65k/year. In a regular work year that comes out to be around $32.50/hour. Pretty solid. Until you consider that his company charges over $300/hour to send him out to some clients. Of course, the company does leverage its contacts and perform all the marketing duties. And then they have to cover their expenses and send some of the profits upstream to pay higher-level employees. There is a lot of profit-sharing going on! But as a freelance worker, you don’t have to share your income with anyone. An independent electrical engineer could charge over $200/hour and still save the client money in comparison to hiring a larger company!
7. Benefits When faced with a decision of where to work, many individuals take benefits like medical insurance into account. This, of course, is very important. Companies have the upper hand over individual freelancers in terms of affordable benefits because they get group rates. That doesn’t mean that you, as a freelancer, don’t need medical insurance! It only stands to reason that if you are going to be paying more for the benefits yourself, that you should be charging the client more to cover your expenses.
8. Signaling There are a lot of psychological games in play when money is involved. And with that said, charging too little can actually be dangerous to your business. Money is a signal of value. When you pay more for a Lamborghini, you expect that it’ll be better quality than a cheaper Kia. Charging too little can alert a potential client of a couple things: lack of expertise or lack of confidence and uncertainty. One More Thing… Have you ever tried negotiating with someone only to have your first offer accepted? That leaves you walking away thinking “I should have offered less!” It’s much easier to negotiate your rates down, then to negotiate them up once the client agrees. And as a freelance worker, you are always in the position to negotiate!”