Set up structures to stay in control of your freelance business.

Ever have too many things on your task list that people keep following up with you and you’re always on the back foot? Happens to the best of us.

I run three businesses — my B2B content firm, my film writing adventures and of course, The Whole Works. There are always a million things that are going on. Three email inboxes, phone calls, WhatsApp messages, Hangouts messages, Twitter DMs etc. means that I can’t possibly manage this with memory and the ‘keep unread’ feature.

How do I stay on top of it? (Confession: Sometimes, I don’t.)

System set up

I have two things that control most of my day: A calendar and a project management system (Flow). Calendar is where the events go. Flow is where projects and tasks go — every event is logged as a task on Flow as well.

Weekly set up

Every Sunday, I make sure all of next week’s tasks are on Flow and look at its calendar view (a bit like below). It’ll tell me what I have planned for each day and how much free time I might have. I commit to meetings or urgent tasks only if the day is free. And resist moving things around as much as I can.


I don’t choose the colours, mate!

Daily set up

Every morning, I look at my calendar and Flow and make a list of that day’s goals in my daily diary. Flow gives me a weekly view. My diary is for the day alone — helps me stay in the present without panicking about a big deliverable later that week.


Yes, I also journal in it. Why do you ask?

Daily distractions

Every day, I keep a notebook open at all times. Whatever incoming message there is, I write it down — like “Twitter DM from A” or “B called asking for a 15% discount”. At the end of the day, I look through this list, go back to Twitter / email / wherever the message is from and sort it into Flow. This does two things for me: Not take me away from the task I’m doing in the moment, and ensure I don’t miss out on messages.

If I’m not in control of my time, I ask people to call me. I say, “My day is a bit frazzled. I might lose track of time. Would you please call me, if you don’t mind?” I’ve never had a customer who didn’t understand.

Hail Mary

On bad days, I put up physical stickie notes on my wall. When each task is done, I move it to another wall throughout the week. This is only when I feel completely out of control.


Remember that I also have horrible days and periods when nothing goes my way. At which time, I either rest or bathe and watch a Vishal movie to live the day down. Shit happens, don’t be too hard on yourself.

But set up a system that enables you to return to your structure the next morning.