How to manage your working time if you’re a freelancer?

Article / 01 March 2019

I often hear stories about how freelance artists work many hours per day. Is it real?

For the last 5 years I have been working from home and all this time I have been engaged in dealing with time management for my projects. This topic is hard, like everyone I've tried many methods, and I would like to share my experience and thoughts.

A bit of theory. Each person has their own biological rhythms. During the day, we experience a wave-like series of ups and downs. There are 2-3 peaks of activity per day and their duration is not more than 2 hours. At this time, you feel a surge of energy and your concentration is on a very high level. Your productivity reaches its maximum, which means that at this time you become most effective in carrying out your tasks.

Similarly, on the peaks of a recession, you will be like a vegetable, aimlessly rotating a model in a viewport, again and again, doing nothing. Any minor task will take a lot of time and the result will be mediocre. Based on this information, we can conclude that the main advice is to do the right things at the right time according to our biological rhythm. Let's move to practice and look at how this works on my example.


I have two peaks of productivity during the working day. The first one is between 11.00-14.00 and the second one is between 16.00-19.00. At each peak, I have to work 2 hours on my tasks. (Try to monitor your condition every day for a week and you’ll discover your own ups and downs).

 At the beginning of work, I think over tasks I need to do, then set a timer and work for half an hour. Then a 2-minute break and another half an hour of work. After that, I take a long break of 20 minutes (during which I can go outside, have a bit of rest, answer messages etc.) and then I work for another two periods of half an hour. I borrowed this approach from Tomato technique and adjusted it a little for myself. The key point is that during these half-hour periods you should not absolutely be distracted by anything and have to be focused solely on the task. 

The second peak is exactly the same as the first one and I work 4 hours a day in total, but these are not the usual 4 hours, these are smart 4 hours and they will give odds to any office 8-10.

At the same time, I prefer to deal with minor tasks during periods of recession, for it practically does not require energy but takes some time (e.g. housework, a grocery hike, messaging and of course some rest). So, I’m trying to use energy downs as wisely as possible.


An additional tip, if you feel that your concentration is at a low level, then a 15-minute nap (not a minute more!) can be a great helper. Do not be afraid if you don’t fall asleep, you can just lie down with your eyes closed. I usually do this before starting the second peak of activity to make an extra energy boost.


So, is it possible to work 10-12 hours a day? No! You can stare bluntly at the computer doing ineffective work, you can even do it for 14 hours - it is not difficult. However the limit of productive work is still 4 hours per day, and other 10 hours out of 14 will be wasted. Also, you can use medications to expand this limit, but it has more cons than pros. 

In total with such a 20-hour smart week, at the end of the day, you will have more time and energy for your projects and family. I promise that it will seem to you that you are not working enough, and conscience will torment you for this. But in fact, you will do as much as you did with a 40-60 hour working week or even more. 

Yes, our life is not perfect and nobody cancels deadlines, but try to be conscious while working, value your time and use wisely your energy peaks. Thanks for reading, I will be glad to discuss this topic in the comments!