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work life balance as a freelancer

How Can You Stay Productive While Working from Home?

Eddie CarrilloEddie Carrillo
Eddie Carrillo
Eddie Carrillo

It’s November 2020. My guess is that just about anyone you talk with will have very strong opinions about working from home. Pre-pandemic, remote working full time was fairly unique to freelancers. Yes, many other people worked from home on occasion, but 40+ hours a week? That wasn’t normal.

We’re now learning what the new normal is. Freelance workers and full-time employees are sharing the joys and/or pains of what it means to spend an entire day of work moving between our bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms—all while muting and unmuting to speak to our colleagues or clients who are doing the exact same thing.

Remote work can be tough. Dealing with family members, work and life blending into one, Zoom fatigue, and having no home office are factors that can contribute towards a lack of productivity. However, while trying to get things done from home has its challenges, taking the proactive steps towards balancing personal and work life can make the difference between sinking and thriving. Check out five tips to help staying productive at home.

1. Make a Daily Schedule

Write your daily tasks down. When we go somewhere to work, our brains know that we’re about to go into work mode because we make a physical journey to our work destination. When you work from home, that journey’s not there.

Instead, every morning, you can start your day by making a list of each of the things you need to accomplish and by when. A comprehensive list (weekly, and/or monthly) might sit within your computer or a calendar. But I recommend writing out your daily tasks to begin the day on the right foot. It’s a game-changer, I promise. Psychologically, crossing things out on your to-do list has been proven to be a remarkably effective productivity tool.

2. Distinguish Between Your Work Space and Your Leisure Space

Regardless of your home situation, it’s important to mark off the spaces that you work and separate them from other parts of the house. Personally, I’ve found that sitting in my bed with my laptop results in me losing focus. But I’m much more productive at my desk or my kitchen table.

This also goes for time. Plan for work hours and for personal hours. If the former is always bleeding into the latter, you’ll have difficulty in being productive on projects and you’ll be distracted with work at times that you meant to be enjoying other things.

3. Take Breaks

The Draugiem Group conducted a study that showed that the “ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest.” Humans aren’t wired to spend an 8-hour workday of uninterrupted focus. We need intermissions. Moments of mindlessness. Walks. Snacks. Put these things into your schedule just as you do the work tasks. Working from home full-time requires that you not only take care of your work, but also yourself.

4. Avoid Procrastination

Being in an office with colleagues can help keep you accountable. Freelancers, on the other hand, must figure out how to do this on their own. Our work days may include calls and meetings, but working from home ultimately means a work environment of one. You.

If you’re a big fan of the task lists like I am, I recommend not settling with getting “most” of the work done. Thoughts like, “Ah, 90% is done; I’ll just add the other stuff for tomorrow’s list” will only set you up for risk of missing a deadline or project failure. Be proactive in limiting procrastination.

5. Track Your Time

When you know you’re wasting your time, you’ll be a lot more eager to get back on top of things. I recommend that all freelancers that they use time tracking software to gauge how quickly or slowly they’re completing their client work. It not only will increase your level of productivity, but it can help you create more accurate invoices, identify your limits, and even increase your profits.  

Achieving Work-Life Balance

The amount of time you want to work is up to you. But you want to find that sweet spot where you’re able to stay focused. As remote workers, we’re lucky to have the flexibility to make our own schedules. What’s key is putting the right strategies in place and achieving a healthy work-life balance.

Eddie Carrillo
Eddie began freelancing part-time in August 2020. He got a bachelor's degree in Economics, but working as a consultant taught him that his passion was not in finance, but in writing. Getting started with freelancing can come with a lot of question marks, so he loves writing for other freelancers to help them get their feet in the door and build their businesses. Eddie grew up near San Diego, California, but recently spent a couple years in Madrid, Spain. He's now headed to San Francisco, where he works for Strava as a copywriter.

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