As a freelancer and solopreneur, you are the proud founder and CEO of your own small business. If you’re anything like me, then chances are that you have a total employee count of one: just you. What this means is that you are responsible for everything from office management to accounting, marketing to social media management. It all falls on your shoulders.
In this way, you may come to assume that solutions designed and targeted more at teams are largely irrelevant for your purposes. That simply is not the case. By leveraging the right Kanban project management tools and using them in tandem with the Pomodoro technique, you can be more organized, more productive, and hopefully more fulfilled and profitable too.
Here are seven reasons why you should be using Kanban boards and Pomodoro timers in your day-to-day work as a freelancer, consultant or solopreneur.
Write It Down
Surprise! When you are the wearer of many hats and you’re trying to juggle multiple balls in the air, it’s easy for thoughts, ideas and details to get lost in the mix. It’s easy to forget that Project X for Client Y is due tomorrow and you still need to complete Task Z before you can submit it. When you have everything laid out in front of you on a Kanban board, you can assess the situation and see the forest for the trees. Human memory is terribly unreliable, so don’t rely on it.
Track How You Spend Your Time
A number of different online (and mobile-based) Kanban boards have Pomodoro timers integrated into them. What’s more, as is the case with a tool like KanbanFlow, you can define what time is being spent on what project or task. This way, when you do submit Project X to Client Y, you’ll know that you’ve spent exactly 6 hours on it. Meanwhile, you might notice that you spent 12 hours on a different project for a different client, but for the same amount of money. This offers insight into where your time is best spent for maximum profit and effectiveness.
Avoid Getting Overwhelmed
One of the fundamental principles of using Kanban boards is that you want to move items from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen. However, the column for items currently “in progress” is restricted by default to no more than three tasks at a time. This not only forces you to prioritize, but it forces you to focus on no more than three tasks at a time too. Juggling three balls is way easier than juggling twelve.
Tackle Projects in Bite-Sized Tasks
Avoid treating each item or note on your Kanban boards as single, isolated tasks. It makes more sense if these items are used for a whole project or, in the case of larger projects, a particular segment or part of the project. That’s because you can further break things down into sub-tasks for each item/project. You don’t have to wait until you complete the project before you can enjoy that satisfying “tick” in a checkbox. You can enjoy it with the completion of each sub-task and that’s a great motivator to keep moving forward.
Recognize Your Accomplishments and Completions
The very mechanics of the Kanban method deliver specific benefits to individuals and teams alike. The restriction of how many items you can keep “in progress” is one such benefit. Another benefit is there is the far right column for “completed” items that you’ve done. When you look back at the end of the month or quarter, you can see just how much you’ve managed to accomplish. The satisfaction of a to-do list that’s been done is self-inspiring.
Calculate Your Effective Hourly Rate
Let’s say you charged $500 for Project X. Let’s say that you tracked yourself spending six hours to complete that project, end to end. With some simple math, that works out to an effective hourly rate of $83. Taking our example a little further up, the other $500 project took 12 hours, working out to a rate of about $42. Taken together, that’s an average hourly rate of about $55. This can help give you a much better sense of what to charge future clients for future projects.
Kill Distractions 25 Minutes at a Time
By default, Pomodoro timers are configured for 25-minute work sessions, followed by 5-minute breaks. As a freelancer with no set schedule, the Pomodoro paradigm provides structure to your workflow, helping you stay on task for at least 25 minutes at a time. Of course, you will need to exercise your own willpower to avoid the allures of Facebook and YouTube during that (almost) half hour. You’ve got the “free” in “freelancer” and with great freedom comes greater responsibility.
Image credit: Kanban Tool / Flickr