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Freelancing and GTD

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  • Freelancing and GTD

    I'm interested in hearing about how other freelancers who practice GTD structure their work time. I need a high degree of structure to be productive during the hours I have set aside for work (usually the time my son is in school) and often find myself "reverting" to a scheduled to-do list sort of thing to give myself direction for the day. I work solo from home and have few interruptions, so in many ways my time is mine to do with as I please (deadlines notwithstanding).

    I would appreciate any insights or advice! Many thanks.

  • #2
    Freelancing and GTD

    I have no suggestions. As a freelancer who works from home, it's very difficult to divide my actions into contexts as I have so few of them. What ends up happening is one massive and overwhelming next action list in my "Office" context.


    • #3
      Despite loving GTD, I don't use contexts at all. Like Dean, 99% of mine would be "office" or "computer". However, I have a lot of "projects" to keep track of things. I use three primary tools to keep things organized:

      1 -- Nozbe for my main list of projects and actions. I work directly off of it.
      2 -- Dropbox for storing files/images that I might need to use. If I have a task that involves a file, I simply mention that it's "in dropbox" in the task name and I'm good.
      3 -- Evernote. Code snippets, login information for various client sites, etc. All just a quick search away.

      I use Gmail for mail (and LOVE it), but all of that mail that needs to be a task ends up in Nozbe, with supporting material in either Dropbox or Evernote (if necessary).

      The great thing is that all of those are fully synced between my desktop, laptop and netbook, so I can be up and running from any of the three machines (home with desktop, lunch with netbook, vacation with laptop, etc). It works quite well.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Beth View Post
        I'm interested in hearing about how other freelancers who practice GTD structure their work time. ....I work solo from home and have few interruptions,
        I work from home and can generally choose what context to be in. For me having enough separate contexts is critical. Not because I can't do stuff almost anywhere but because I need the structure to stay in one frame of mind or one pattern to get a lot done.

        Some of my contexts are specific, if I am outside I can't do things on the inside list but because I live and work in the same place I can almost always choose to go into any specific context at any time.

        So what I'd do is really separate your work into many contexts, by software package or by location or by how much energy they will take, whatever works for you and try to stay in a single context for at least 45 minutes before changing. I find that if I can stick to a context for 45-50 minutes, then take a 10-15 minute break, I get a lot more done compared to flipping in and out of SW or in and outside. I also use the break to drink some water, get up and move if I have been inside and so on.

        If a long list is overwhelming you really need more contexts.

        I hear the argument "but I have all the tools all the time so why are contexts necessary for me?" My answer is the mental energy it takes to switch contexts is a lot more than you imagine. Doing things in chunks is a lot more efficient and less stressful.


        • #5
          Oogie -- I hadn't considered that angle before. Good food for thought. Thanks!


          • #6
            Mental Contexts

            So it looks like we really have to work at how we define our mental "contexts" and be ready to decide what context we are in (or need to be in.)

            Should we schedule our "Contexts"?


            • #7
              As a freelancer, I have total control of my time and 90% of my actions are executable on my computer.

              I struggled initially with a massive NA list called computer and I started to resist getting started because I never could define when I was done for the day.

              Then I read about the Pomodoro technique via another thread on this forum.
              Now I aim to do three solid 2 hour Pomodoro sessions in the day, plus the various extras such as processing my inbox and answering external queries and then I declare myself done for the day.

              I also have split my computer action list into computer-5, computer-25 and computer-100, indicating minutes of concentration needed to complete an action. This fits nicely with the Pomodoro technique so I always know where to go for tasks to fit the bursts of concentration. I like to get one computer-100 task done per day, as that will be something requiring lots of concentration, then I fill from the 25s, then finally, as i get more tired, from the 5's. I also find the 5s are nice when you have something small going on like waiting for a meal to heat up or for someone else to get ready.

              For people with no external structure I recommend looking up the 'Pomodoro Technique' thread in this forum and checking out the 20-page PDF which explains how it works. Simple but effective.
              Last edited by pxt; 11-02-2010, 12:50 PM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Dean_IconWeb View Post
                So it looks like we really have to work at how we define our mental "contexts" and be ready to decide what context we are in (or need to be in.)

                Should we schedule our "Contexts"?
                This is a very interesting view of contexts.

                A couple that come to mind are Quick Wins and then also Frogs - from the book Eat that Frog which is about how to avoid procrastinating by starting the day with your least favorite task.

                Maybe also Sitting Down versus Stretching Your Legs or Get Out of the House.

                These are the things that occupy me as a freelancer.


                • #9
                  You can try Leo Babauta's "Zen To Done" approach.

                  You can try Leo Babauta's "Zen To Done" approach.


                  • #10
                    This thread

                    This thread has helped me more than almost any other in the forum. Thank you. I've actually combined the "mental context idea and the pomodro idea and have been working in for a while. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

                    Thank you!

                    I share your joy (and pain) in freelancing.


                    • #11

                      I work from home for the David Allen Company and use my personal Mac for work, and of course, my home is my office. So it's similar to freelancing in some respects.

                      I have "personal-Mac" and "work-Mac" contexts, because I don't want to get distracted by the former when I should be doing the latter. I have a "Longjump" context, which is our web-based sales/CRM database: frequently I have a lot of data entry and form-filling to do, and I hate doing it, and like to do it in batches every 1-2 days.

                      I have an Online+Anything, which is stuff to do online where I don't need a keyboard: my iPad and iPhone would suffice.

                      I have a Reading context, which is just stuff that read online; and a someday/maybe (SDM) listen/watch, for online audio and podcasts.

                      I have a couple of others, but I think you get the point: that the contexts are not physical resources, but -- as others have said -- more aligned to my mental state, what I want to do at a given time, etc.


                      • #12
                        The 'personal Mac' and 'Work Mac' seems to be a really good idea for me. I haven't thought of that.

                        In my case, I just use one computer for everything. Although, whenever I'm working I make sure I focus by using a tracking tool where I list all my daily tasks and priorities. Aside from tracking my time, it serves as my task management tool.

                        That method works for me.


                        • #13
                          As a freelacing, time management and self-control are both important. You may not have "personal Mac" and "work Mac", but you need a schedule or plan for your job. And if nesessary, also can use the online time management app as your personal secretary.


                          • #14
                            There are so many ways to slice and dice your workday it can be overwhelming. You can work off a your master list or block time. You can do a combination like the Pomodoro technique (ie work off a list but block time for each task.) You can make a daily list. You can make a daily list and block time for some tasks but not others. Of course, are you blocking time for actions, projects, AOF, goals?

                            I'm not really freelancer but I have a creative job with a lot of autonomy, so I'm kind of like an internal freelancer. Right now I'm picking my top 3 tasks for the day and blocking them if they are "maker" tasks and just leaving unblocked time to do the "manager" tasks, where I might bump out a few in a batch like a context. (More on maker/manager tasks here: )

                            One thing I think applies for all freelancers is be sure to decide when your workday begins and ends and stick to it. It will keep you focused when you're working and let you relax when you aren't.

                            Last edited by ero213; 12-05-2011, 09:08 PM.


                            • #15
                              More on blocking time: