Oh, the life of freelancers and creatives. At one moment, we may be putting together a dynamic social strategy for a client who we’re building a community for, and the next minute we’re knee deep in an InDesign branding project. As beautiful, exciting and fulfilling as our work is, it’s safe to say that falling victim to mismanaged time has impacted each of our workflows at least once.

However, fear not – with intentional practice and planning, you can win back your time and set reasonable boundaries. After some trial and error, here are my three top key tips that will change the way you work and manage your time once and for all.

1) Assign days to tasks

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to minimize overwhelm and to amplify productivity is by assigning certain tasks to specific days of the week. Sure, it’s not realistic to ignore email on the daily, but what about other tasks, like blogging?

The way that I currently segment out my week looks a bit like this, with my non-negotiable tasks spread out throughout the week:

  • Monday: schedule out all social media updates for all clients in Buffer; record all client social media metrics for the week prior
  • Tuesday: content creation and social media graphic design day
  • Wednesday: social strategy planning day for the next week; all content is sent out for client review
  • Thursday: revise content as feedback is received; influencer outreach day
  • Friday: organization day; set up all meetings and calls for the next week

Of course, your schedule may look drastically different, depending on your field of work. The point here is to bring routine to your schedule, so that when the unexpected work emergency does pop up (because it will!) your week and your time won’t completely be thrown for a loop.

2) Make your scope of work crystal clear

After chatting with several of my freelancer friends who are dealing with overwhelm and disarray in their workweek (think 12+ hour days that run well into the wee hours of the night), I noticed a common theme: their scope of work was not clearly communicated to their client.

If you’re fortunate like I am to work with some amazing brands, then you, too, want to go above and beyond for your client to make them happy and to win them over as a permanent source of work.

One of the first steps in respecting yourself, your client and your boundaries is to clearly communicate your scope of work. If you’re a community manager, high-level coding or graphic design requests shouldn’t be coming across your desk. Although it may seem scary at first to speak up for yourself, your schedule and sanity will thank you later.

Do this by always including a clear, bulleted list of contractual obligations on your side as a freelancer in your agreement with your client. If a request comes through that you’re feeling iffy about or blatantly falls outside of your contractual agreement, send your client a friendly reminder that the request is not covered by your contract. This way, you have the option to charge an additional fee should you decide to take on the extra project, or you can refer them to a freelancer in your network who’s an expert in the area they need help in. It’s a win-win for both sides!

3) Learn how to say ‘no’

This has always been a tough one for me. I’ve always equated saying “no” to being negative, but after a lot of thinking lately, I’ve switched up my mindset to equate “no” with power. The power to serve my clients better. The power to take control of my schedule. The power to spend my time creating meaningful work.

Whether it’s saying “no” to hitting the snooze button one more time or saying “no” to a request that is outside of your scope of work, learning how to take control of your work and steer your days toward success is conducive to a fulfilling freelance lifestyle and career.

Remember: we’re always going to have those days that simply slip us by while we’re chugging away at work. However, winning your time back and setting clear boundaries takes practice, but it’s absolutely worth it! Have any other great tips for work and time management? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet us at @cloudpeeps.

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Lindsay Shoemake is the founder and editor of career-lifestyle site That Working Girl, which was founded in 2012.

 She's been featured for her expertise in PR, marketing and branding by notable media outlets like USA Today, JEZEBEL Magazine and Huffington Post Live.

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  • Lauren Jewell

    Personally timely post for me! We all have the same amount of time (technically) and should feel empowered by how we use it. Thank you for taking such a tricky subject and making it super approachable.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lauren! It’s true. A struggle, but important for us to take control of time best spent.