6 Essential Steps for Multitasking and Getting Things Done

In my last article, we talked about Essential Steps of Handling Web Design Projects. In this article I am going to cover what happens after you sent out several emails pitching for jobs (and by several let's say 10 emails) and you receive a positive response on 6 out of the 10. What's your first reaction? Panic? No! Don't let that get to you! Let me share with you some essential pointers on how I get things done within a tight schedule.

6 Essential Steps for Multitasking and Getting Things Done

Essential Steps for Multitasking

1. Schedule Everything

After the initial "Yes" you need to send the contract. Did you remember that? Good… But before you send it over for the client to sign, you need to fill out the time frame that you'll take to complete the work. You should ask a simple but very important question: When do you need this project completed by?

Schedule
Image credit: Dru Bloomfield

Once you have that answer, pull up your calendar app (I'm an all Apple girl, so I use iCal, but you can use your favorite app or a desk calendar) and start looking at your next two working months. Mark the due dates for each project. Some of the projects may be able to wait a week or two, even a month. You'll be surprised on how one simple question makes things easier on you and your schedule.

2. Break them up into Tasks

You most likely have other projects already going on. So, instead of thinking big, try to break them into tasks and milestones. This will make it much easier to achieve success. Just like in my previous article, I have a suggestion of an app I use and find a perfect fit to keep track of it all. For breaking projects down into tasks, I use Things for both Mac and the iPhone (iPad version available too). You can find a very extensive review of the Mac app here.

Things
Image credit: Cultured Code

“Things” helps me to organize my projects. You can split them into Projects and Areas of Responsibility. For example, I have several Areas of Responsibility: Home, Work, Studies and Non-Profits. Then inside each “Area” I have each project. For me, each project is a different Business or Group of Tasks. Under Projects you can group them into Active or Inactive. I know… It's a lot to take in! But trust me, the more you break things down into smaller tasks and get them organized, the quicker you complete the projects and the easier it is for you to reach the big picture.

3. Outsourcing

Sometimes multitasking projects by yourself can be overwhelming. It is important to know your industry, network and find designers, coders, photographers who have the same idea of business that you have and connect with them. What should you do if you have more work than you can handle? Or something that is out of the range of your expertise? First, take a step back and figure out what you may need to have completed by some one else. Yes, you read right. Sometimes as freelancers we forget that we can go to other freelancers and collaborate to complete a project.

Outsource
Image credit: woodleywonderworks

For example, I am not a flash animator, but I know some pretty cool designers that would give me great results if I sent a project their way. Make sure to network and get to know the industry professionals in your area, the strengths of each group and you'll have plenty of help when you need it. It goes both ways though.

Be ready to step up and help a fellow freelancer when the opportunity presents itself. Pay it forward. It is all about working together and helping each other.

4. Group them into Milestones

The entire purpose of breaking down big projects into smaller tasks is to create milestones. This is how you really know you are getting things done. So let's look at one of your 6 new clients. For this client it is actually 3 projects: Logo, Business Cards and a site.

Milestones
Image credit: beadingvera

You might think that everything is for next week but in reality it is not. You need to first develop a general understanding of the business so you can develop the logo, then create a "Coming soon" splash page on the site, followed by business cards and finally the site. See what I mean? This client has several steps or “Milestones” that need to be completed.

You need to date them all… Why? So you can keep a tight schedule and still be able to handle more than one client, not just more than one project.

5. Arrange and Meet the Deadline

The most important aspect of being a freelancer is meeting the deadlines you and your client set for each project. One of the most common mistakes of the Freelancing community is not meeting them, hence the client is dissatisfied and thinks all freelancers are unreliable. By meeting your deadlines and possibly beating them, you create a much better relationship with your client. This can lead to referrals and more work for you.

Deadline
Image credit: Darrren Hester

All around, the most important thing is that you set up everything on a calendar so you can keep track and still have balance time for family and friends. Writing things down makes them more real and it will help you to keep in mind what you need to do, even if you don't look at the calendar that often (though you should).

6. When You Miss the Deadline

Not everything goes as planned. The day will come and you will have to face it. You will miss a deadline. The most important thing here is that you keep your client updated on where you stand with meeting the milestones.

Miss
Image credit: alia.m

When something (big) gets off track, make sure you are upfront and honest with your client. You will be surprised at how understanding clients can be when something gets pushed back because of elements out of your control.

Additional Resources

You can find a very comprehensive list of GTD Software Tools for PC & Mac at Jeff Sandquist's site. Among my favorites to check out:

Conclusion

The beauty of multitasking is that you can complete several projects during the same time frame. The secret, like I mentioned earlier in this article, is breaking them down into tasks and milestones. Don't be afraid of asking for help or a deadline extension. There's nothing wrong with this and if it will help you get the job done - that is what is most important! Especially when you have those clients saying yes to your proposals!