Increasing your productivity as a freelancer

Jan 8, 2019 by

Freelancing is incredibly liberating in the sense that you’re free from the commute, the potentially annoying colleagues and, most importantly, free to make your own choices regarding work / life balance.

The freedom that comes with freelancing can be somewhat of a double-edged sword, though.

There’s always the risk that you won’t be able to be at your best, especially if deadlines are far away.

During my first months of freelancing, I’ve found it quite challenging to adapt to the new lifestyle.

Here are a few tips that have helped me to pull it off while maintaining high levels of productivity:

Find your own rhythm

Identify the moments of the day when you’re most productive. You’ll find lots of people stating that the best moment in the day for productivity is in the morning. Many great minds used to wake up during the early hours of the morning and make the most out of the calm vibe specific of those hours. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice for you, though it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.

We all have sluggish days from time to time… It’s only natural. I find it hard to write when I’m tired, but that doesn’t mean that I have to waste that day. I have certain tasks (sending e-mails or conducting research) that require a little less mental effort, which are better fitted for times like those.

I stress the importance of being adaptable and finding what works best for you in a certain moment.

Create a “ritual”

I would call it “routine”, but that’s a word freelancers usually don’t like J. Ritual, schedule… call it what you like, but make sure that you have a clear idea of what a typical work day looks like.

Working from home shouldn’t be viewed as a vacation and your work environment should be clearly defined. Some people enjoy working from bed, and that’s totally fine if it works for you… Just as long as you don’t get up at the end of the day with too few tasks that have been completed.

You should also stay organized by keeping track of your work and estimating the amount of time needed for future tasks. Use a physical agenda or a digital one where you write down the important tasks that need to be done.

Identify your distractions (and minimize them)

Is it social media? Do you enjoy working with your TV on? Maybe you’re chatting a lot with your significant other while working…

Sure, some tasks are boring, and having something “in the background” can make the activity a little less so. Still, you’re going to be a lot more effective if it’s just the task at hand in your visual and auditory field. It may be difficult at first, but it will be easier to shut down that Youtube video when you’ve already got used to getting rid of distractions.

Set yourself half-an-hour-long milestones

If you find it difficult to shift your focus away from certain distractions, consider using the Pomodoro Technique. If you don’t already know, this technique is about splitting your activities in 25-minute tasks, with 5-minute breaks in between. There’s also a plugin that will restrict access to websites such as Facebook or Youtube during the 25-minute time period.

Get enough sleep

It may seem obvious, but it’s actually a necessity if you want to maintain high levels of mental acuity. To put it simple, it’s not worth working long hours into the night if you know that the next day you’ll feel sluggish. Optimizing sleep means optimizing your key brain functions: focus, concentration and memory.

I admit… I’m a closet workaholic and I often stay up late working. It can be difficult to get things done the next day. I use a certain cognitive enhancer called Modalert when I really need to be on top of my game.

Don’t forget to socialize

And I don’t mean online socializing. It’s easy to spend days “trapped” in your house when you’re a freelancer. Doing so may actually be counterproductive, as human contact is one of many needs that must be fulfilled for us to be happy. Good mood equals higher productivity, so don’t forget about your friends and maintain an active social life.

Tidy up your workplace before going to bed

This may seem like a small thing, but having a tidy workplace minimizes distractions. Yes… even that empty cup of tea that’s just sitting there is an unnecessary object in your visual space.

If you clean your workplace at night, when the morning comes, you’ll find a more welcoming place to get started right away. Personally, I find this technique to be very effective, and it’s actually quite difficult to focus when you have “stuff” just lying around.

Break the rules

Every now and then, try something new when it comes to work. A change of scenery may be beneficial for your productivity. Personally, I enjoy the occasional day at the public library. Getting out of the house is just what I need from time to time, and I find the quiet atmosphere of a library to be ideal for difficult tasks when I need to be very focused.

An overlooked issue about freelancing is overworking due to freelancers usually having more than one client. This can easily lead to burn-out, and it’s your job to do your best to effectively manage levels of stress.

One of the things I enjoy most about freelancing is that I get to travel while working. The occasional city break is incredibly refreshing and beneficial for your mood and productivity.

Conclusions

You may have read a bunch of other productivity-related articles with authors giving all sorts of advice.

The truth is, there is no magic formula that will turn you into a productivity monster.

Don’t just blindly apply the tips, but rather find yourself your own system and develop your mindset according to what works best for you.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s loads of valuable pieces of advice that authors have shared across the web.

You know yourself best, and it’s up to you to test different methods and see which one fits you and which one doesn’t.

And don’t worry about certain days when nothing seems to work… you’re only human!

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