Clock gears

Over-farming time: a freelance practice needs room to breathe

This tip is coming at you from the immediately useful School of Learned Experience. You know, the place where they give the tests first, and then provide you with the lessons.

Freelancers know (or think we know)the value of time. It's a finite and scarce resource each freelancer has to manage well in order to earn what they need for themselves and their families.

The time we spend is kind of like the soil in a garden. If you've ever planted a garden, you know that the soil can only handle so much plant growth. You need to give each plant its space. If you over-plant the garden beyond what it will support, the plants will either be stunted or not grow at all. Seasonally you also replenish the soil's nutrients with fertilizer, mulch, or compost. Farms, who are harder on the land, need to rotate their crops and leave fields idle for periods of time to avoid permanent damage to the land.

The time we have available is just like that: there's only so much productive time in a day. It's less than you think. An ideal day only provides about five hours of productive time. How often do you have an ideal day? Even with removing distractions and staying focused, typical knowledge work can be 50% waste.

Most freelancers will look at this and say they just need to work more hours in a day to get more billable hours out. But working more hours doesn't produce the results you want. In fact, it hurts both your productivity and your ability to make good decisions.

Making sure you have downtime in your week is one of the best things you can do for your practice. Get some into your routine, and protect it. You'll be glad that you did.