The Way We Work
July 13, 2011 by Stephanie Gonzaga

Keeping productivity at a maximum has long been a big problem for freelancers. There’s just so much going on the Internet that we’re thrown into an abyss of noise and activity, often leaving us wondering what we should (or shouldn’t) do next.

But with the right productivity tools, you can manage and organize yourself without feeling stressed and lost under a large pile of work. In this post, let’s tackle five different types of productivity tools and how each can help you work more in less time.

1. Note-taking

Note-taking is important for freelancers because it helps gather and save important information that we may need in the future. With notes, you can write down instructions from your client, save log-in information, web clippings, and the like.

Most freelancers can already work with a notepad and pen, but if you’d like to create, save, and sync virtual notes, you can use note-taking apps like Evernote, Simplenote, and Springpad. The advantage is that you can share notes and collaborate with teammates easily, plus you won’t have to worry about losing an important note in the trash bin.

2. Task Management

A project is broken down into several tasks, and handling several tasks or to-dos all at once can be quite daunting for the average freelancer. That’s where task management comes in.

Creating handmade checklists or using a task management app can help you manage your everyday to-dos. You can use a feature-rich or minimal task management app to help you slowly complete projects. I suggest Teuxdeux, Remember the Milk, and Wunderlist.

3. Calendars/Schedulers

A calendar or scheduler helps by scheduling and organizing your important appointments, events, and meetings easily. It keeps you organized and makes sure you don’t forget next week’s Skype meeting through built-in notifications.

Traditionally, you’d have a planner or a wall calendar to mark important dates down. But for freelancers who use the computer everyday, you can use Google Calendar or your computer’s built-in calendar to schedule events and meetings with clients, teammates, etc.

4. Time Tracking

time-tracking Time tracking is a kind of tool that tracks the amount of time spent on a particular activity. The oDesk Team application is a good example of a time tracker, since it records how many minutes are spent on a particular project and the description of that activity, and guarantees you payment for the time tracked in the application.

If you prefer to use a time tracker other than the oDesk Team, you can use a stopwatch or try out a purely time tracking app like Freckle and Klok. You can then use the data to see the average amount of time it takes for you to do a particular task. How you become more productive through time tracking depends on how you use the data — and may require some math skills!

5. Project Management

Project management is actually a collection of all these tools summed up into one interface. You can use project management apps to manage tasks, schedule activities, attach and share files, track time, and much more. Some of the more feature-packed apps even have CRM and invoicing built into the system.

Although these apps are a bit pricey (usually under paid plans), project management tools are great for businesses and big teams who need to work efficiently with others. If you belong to a remote team and manage so many people, emails, files, and activities, subscribing to a project management app can definitely make things easier for you.

With the right set of productivity tools that fit your needs as a freelancer, you can sustain your productivity levels, free up more time, and complete projects on target.

Keep in mind though that no matter how advanced or innovative the productivity tool may be, its effectiveness depends on how you do your work, how focused you are in getting things done, and how you use these tools to your advantage.

As a freelancer, what other productivity tool has helped you finish more work in less time (and under less stress)? Do you use an particular productivity app that you’d like to suggest or recommend to the community?

Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancer, Blogger, and Creative Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk and blogger of The Freelance Pinoy, a freelancing blog for the Pinoy solo professional.