Working in freelance means being your own boss, having the freedom to set your own hours and work at your own pace. However, if you’re like me, you might feel you need someone to hover over you as sort of an omnipotent force, holding yourself accountable to work. Perhaps you have better self-management skills, but productivity is still a challenge we all face. The work still needs to get done and you don’t have the liberty to let it slide, so here are 10 proven tools to boost your freelancer productivity.
Clean the clutter
Working from home opens the door to countless distractions. You might find you have dishes in the sink, or clothes strewn on your floor. These messes will plague you and make you feel disorganized, translating into your work. Clean the clutter and reduce your stress! If you’re working in a pristine space, you’ll feel lighter and better prepared to address your workload.
Set a schedule for yourself
While setting a schedule is a major perk of freelance work, it doesn’t mean ‘having no schedule at all.’ Having a routine and some consistency are important towards staying productive. Human beings are creatures of habit, primarily because habits help hack your brain. Embrace rituals, like having a 9 am cup of coffee as you read through emails, or making calls at a particular time of day… your schedule will be unique to you, and should work best for you. While it will help in productivity, it will also hold you accountable to closing shop at an appropriate time- avoid overworking!
Set up a designated workspace. Maybe that’s a coworking space, but it’s more likely a corner at home with office tools. It should have seating that promotes good posture, a computer, and any other times that promote a good workflow. Your workspace should absolutely not be in bed. Studies show that working from bed makes the association in your mind that your bed is a ‘workspace,’ thus making it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
Set up an organizational method
A great way to stay on track is to use tools like planners, lists, or a task management tool. Having a visual reminder of the tasks at hand will keep you honest and attentive to your work. I like to have my time blocked out to visualize my work week. I also like to have a list of tasks to complete day-to-day that I can cross off in a self-satisfied manner. Familiarizing yourself with your organizational needs is a valuable trait that will benefit all aspects of your life.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Work hard for short bursts of time, and then reward your behavior with a walk, phone time, or reading a chapter of a good book. This will reduce the need to distract yourself in the middle of work, and you’ll feel like you earned time off. A great example of this is the Finnish educational system of working for 45 minutes and breaking for 15.
Do the big task first
In the past, I’ve been told by my mentors to ‘tackle the elephant in the room first.’ By this, they meant I should do my least favorite activity (or the largest one) at the start of the day and get it over with. If I don’t get it done early, I’ll find myself dreading it throughout my day, knowing it needs to be done. If the project’s size is daunting, consider time-blocking, which is the act of breaking it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
As impressive as it may feel, multi-tasking is not actually a more effective way to work. Rather than having your attention divided between 3 different priorities, focus entirely on one and get it out of the way. You’ll get ‘in the zone,’ and move through it more quickly. You’ll also reduce your likelihood of error.
Set a realistic to-do list a the start of the day
There are lots of things you might have on your plate, but strive to be kind to yourself and set realistic expectations of your daily capacity. You’re not going to have fun if you set yourself up for failure and end the day with a list of items you weren’t able to get to. Make sense of your pace and how long it takes you to move through certain activities. Give yourself some buffer time and you can work towards ending the day on a successful note.
Automate what you can
There are plenty of tools out there to streamline efficiency. Why waste time with repetitive actions like logging in, drafting the same emails, or editing your work? Textblaze is a great tool to automate common phrases you use and insert text blocks. LastPass is a lifesaver, in that it stores all of your passwords in one safe place, while generating high-security new password recommendations. Grammarly is another useful extension that quickly edits all of your messaging for spelling and grammatical errors, ensuring readability. These tools can quickly cut out unnecessary work and increase your efficiency, leaving you more time to apply yourself diligently to other matters.
Avoid social media
Lastly, while it may feel impossible, do your best to stay off social media. As a constantly regenerating beast with all of your friends on it, it’s rife with distraction. Further reducing your productivity, it has you scroll mindlessly - reducing your attention span to that of a goldfish. Let it be a reward for the end of the day, if you can hold off.