When you have so much to do that you don’t know where to begin, you’re doing something wrong

As a freelancer, you may fall into the “can’t say no” trap, accepting all projects, customer requests, urgent calls, or collaboration proposals.

Before you realize, you have so much on your plate that you feel you need to clone yourself to complete everything on time.

How to approach the feast period and find balance when it gets busy?

Is sleeping less and working more the only possible solution?

 

1. Say no

When you are up to your ears in work and keep rushing off your feet…

You’re probably doing something wrong.

You either can’t manage your time effectively or you tend to say yes too often.

When it gets too busy, there’s only one thing you can do.

Stop.

Running faster, doing more in less time, multitasking, cutting down on sleep—all these methods will lead nowhere.

Sure. You might manage to tick off more items, deliver more projects, earn more money, meet more needs of your customers, but at what cost? If you keep squeezing in countless assignments into your limited time, the quality of your work may drop. If you keep working without rest, your health will eventually deteriorate.

Instead of desperately looking for ways to manage your work overload, learn to say no. That’s how you can avoid those extremely busy days when you don’t even have time to eat or go to the bathroom.

Saying no doesn’t have to be painful or impolite.

There’s nothing wrong with rejecting someone else’s request. Especially, if it’s not in sync with your priorities. Dare to say no and do it in a polite manner. You can also refer your client or colleague to someone else. Alternatively, indicate when you’ll have more time and respond to the request later.

Saying yes to everything and everyone will make you turn away from your own priorities. So, protect your boundaries to avoid burnout and exhaustion.

 

But what if it’s too late and you’ve already accepted too many projects and proposals? Well, your only solution is to…

 

2. Get some help

When your schedule is packed and you’re buried in work, it’s OK to ask for help. Don’t just delegate your housework to others to be able to free up more time. Try to subcontract some business tasks as well.

To do it, you’ll need a trustworthy network of freelancers who could collaborate with you when it gets busy. Just make sure it doesn’t breach the contract with your customer. Some tasks will have to be completed specifically by you, but there might be certain processes that you can outsource.

For example, if you’re a photographer, you can ask someone else to edit your pictures when you’re too busy shooting on location. If you’re a translator, you can send some of your projects to your colleagues with similar language combination and specialization. In any case, outsource your accounting or administrative tasks to focus on your core activities.

Finally, don’t forget about tools that can help you speed up or automate your work. That’s a great help as well.

For example, you might be able to work faster if you boost your computer, add an extra screen, invest in an ergonomic seat and comfortable desk. Your processes will run smoother if you use the right software. Maybe it’s time to quit manual invoicing and use an automated tool? Maybe it’s time to upgrade your old tools to gain more features that will help you work smarter?

When you’re overwhelmed with your work, stop and analyze your agenda to decide what tasks can be automated or outsourced to others. And when you do it, don’t forget to…

 

 

3. Do what’s important first

 

When you’re stuck in the feast period, everything seems urgent. Every call, project, and request. But if you take a closer look, you’ll quickly notice that there are only a few tasks that need your immediate attention. The urgent items on your list are usually those that are imposed on you by others: family, colleagues, customers. These tasks are related to someone else’s goals, so if you keep focusing on that category only, you’ll easily forget about your own priorities.

That’s why it’s so important to focus on what’s important.

Your goals.

If you tick off only the urgent tasks from your list, you may spend the whole day working and still feel like you haven’t achieved anything. That social media marketing campaign that you’ve been trying to launch for ages? Still not set up. That blog article you’ve been planning to write for weeks? Still inexistent. That online course you once wanted to create to generate passive income? Still only in your mind.

Your plans and goals matter.  

Define what’s important to you and your business. Then start your day from working on that category of tasks. Even if it’s just one hour, even if it’s only 30 minutes. Your mindset and workflow will change, once you know that you’re one step closer to achieving your goal instead of constantly prioritizing someone else’s goals.

 

 

Over to you

What is your best method to deal with the busy time? How do you approach the feast period in your freelance business?

 

P.S. I share more tips on establishing the right approach to work in my free e-book “How to make the best use of your time”.

And if you’re looking for advice on how to juggle your work and motherhood, have a look at my book “You’ve got this: How to continue your freelance career when you become a mother”.

 

Dorota helps businesses and individuals to communicate successfully across cultures in the online and offline world. She is a qualified translator and an entrepreneur supporting other self-employed professionals on their path towards building a more successful business.