Freelance Scheduling Advice

In the past 6 years, my freelancing work day (on the weekends, when I was working fulltime) has always gone something like this:

Wake up at noon
Goof off for an hour or so
Play eenie meenie miney mo to pick a client project to start working on for the day
Goof off for another hour
Actually get started on the job picked earlier
Get tired of staring at the that project
Decide to start working on another client project
Goof off for another hour or so
Finally get started on the project
Get sick of looking at it
Go back to the first project
Lather, rinse, repeat for a few hours
Go to bed at 6am

That’s hardly productive. Looking at that list, I’m amazed I can even tie my own shoe laces! So starting today, I’m trying a different method.

The quest for software

I’ve been looking for a task management solution for weeks now, but everything I’ve come across was either not free or geared toward group/multi-user projects. I didn’t need that.

Since I use Google Apps for my domain email, I thought I’d try out their new Tasks addon in gmail. But that was to limited, and didn’t provide the reminder functionalities I so desperately needed.

I liked Outlook’s calendar and task functionality, but there’s one problem with it: I don’t like Outlook 2007 (which is what I have), so it’s never running, anymore.

Enter Windows Calendar

Windows Calendar comes as part of Windows Vista. It’s like Outlook Calendar Lite. I’ve tried it in the past, but I didn’t like that it wouldn’t notify me of new events if the program wasn’t open. Since it didn’t have a minimize to task tray option, it just got in the way.

However, I thought I’d take a look at it again this weekend.

Apparently, in the last year, Microsoft has added the functionality to add task reminders for Windows Calendar to the system task scheduler. This means that even if you close the program, it’ll popup reminder notifications for tasks and appointments.

Setting appointments with myself

Because I wanted to try a whole new approach to working, I decided to combine having a task checklist with an appointment schedule.

For this week’s workload, I created 4 tasks. Each task has notes on the job and a reminder is set for the due date (which I set for myself since the clients all want it ASAP).

For each task, I scheduled blocks of “working hours” as appointments throughout the day, making sure I have break times in between projects. A reminder is set on each “appointment” for 15 minutes beforehand.

Since I spend most of my time at the computer, this works out well because the reminder opens up on top of all other windows and annoys the hell out of me until I acknowledge it.

Annoyance is a good way to get my attention…although, it’s also a good way to lose my attention, so I’m not sure how well this will work out. With any luck, technology will actually help me be more productive.

Will report back on progress…