Freelancers, especially ones working from home, often tend to face a challenge whenever it comes to being productive. There just seem to be so many distractions all around that sometimes it becomes difficult to focus on what’s essential, your pending assignments.
I have now been freelancing for a little over two years. During this time, I experimented a lot with my work schedule, finally narrowing down the practices that helped transform my working environment into a highly productive one.
Now, no two people are precisely the same, and thus, in the end, it’s up to you to figure out what works best. Still, by developing a few habits, you can undoubtedly move towards achieving more without any extra effort.
Wake Up Early
I was never an early morning person until I started working as a freelancer. Even then, my initial freelancing days involved sitting down on the desk at night, once the kids were asleep, and then pulling an all-nighter.
I quickly realised this was not working. On the one hand, I was drinking too much coffee, had unfinished work on my mind for the most part of the day, and couldn’t spend quality time with my children once they returned from school.
So, I forced myself to take a few jobs that required me to wake up early. After about two weeks of cribbing about it, my body clock changed. As a result, these days I’m typically out of bed by 5:30 or 6:00 am and at work by 6:30.
Now, I manage to finish most of my work in the quiet morning hours, leaving me with time to do extra work during the day, like writing this very blog post. Best of all, I’m more awake and relaxed when it’s time to play with my kids in the evening.
Take Short Breaks
Taking breaks while working is essential for both mental and physical health. Unless I’m really in the flow of things, I make it a point to stand up and move around after every 45 minutes or so.
The said break can be to make a coffee, stretch, or just read a chapter of a book, as all of this helps rejuvenate and revitalise me in more ways than one.
Spend Time With Your Family
The good thing about freelancing from home is that my family is almost always around me. The bad thing about it, my family is almost always around me.
For better or worse, it is vital to create boundaries between work and family time. There are hours during the day when I’ve told my kids not to disturb me. But then I also take out time to spend with them.
Depending on my and their work schedule, it can be anything from watching MasterChef Australia together to playing a few rounds of cards before bed.
Seems obvious enough, but working from home means you are no longer in an office environment and the same set of rules don’t apply.
Creating a strict set of guidelines around your work schedule is important. As mentioned above, working from home and having the family in front of you is excellent, but can also be distracting.
I won’t lie in saying that I still spend a few minutes every day having to ask my kids to quiet down while I work. Sometimes it works, and at other times they completely ignore me.
However, it’s good to have a sit down with them and explain that just because you are home doesn’t mean that you can be disturbed.
On a more personal front, I am also working towards reducing other disturbances, especially the lure of social media. Picking up the phone every time a message or update pops up can break the rhythm of work, and that’s one thing I want to stop doing.
Have a Schedule
Being a freelancer means you are somewhat free to work as you please. It is, however, best to draft a schedule and stick to it.
Whether it is allotting a certain number of hours every day to writing, answering emails, contacting new clients, following up on payments, learning a new trade, or relaxing; having a fixed schedule lets you focus on all that is essential, one thing at a time.
Vacations are Important
Very much like the breaks you take during the day, vacation time is equally important. Most freelancers work with multiple clients at any given time. As a result, there is something or the other going on.
We also suffer from the fear and guilt of missing out on jobs. The very thought of a vacation means forgoing an opportunity to make more money.
No matter how important money is, and it is, a holiday is equally necessary. I’ve now reached a point that if I don’t take a few days off every few months, I start to feel bogged down.
That is also why I try and keep my Sundays completely free, partly for family time and also for any urgent work.
Give Yourself Extra Time
This tip goes for any work practice. An excellent way to not burden myself with work pressure and also keep my clients happy is to give them a deadline that is a good day or two more than what I need.
This way, I’m usually early when it comes to submitting work. In the rarest of cases when something urgent comes up, instead of asking my client for an extension, I already have a few days spare to finish the assignment.
Get a Whiteboard
I try and save paper as much as possible, but won’t take the holier than thou stance on it – I do occasionally waste it too. So, to save paper and be more productive, I recently invested in a desk whiteboard.
With so many payments pending, work deadlines, and things to do, I now have everything required in front of my eyes. Agreeably, you can make a list in your diary or calendar, but I found a whiteboard to be more visual and easier to update.
Keep Snacks Handy
Drinking hot tea and munching on snacks is surprisingly therapeutic when working. Now, it’s good to get up and take a break, and heading to the kitchen for a meal is always a good idea. But it is equally lovely to have a few items on your desk so you can continue working and thinking without having to go anywhere. My go-to “junk food” is mainly nuts, chips, and lots and lots of sweets.
Lastly, the best to improve your productivity is by continuing to learn. Whether it is a new trade, doing a social media course to help spread your wings, or even a photography class, the more you will educate yourself, the more doors, in terms of work, will open up for you.
Freelancing is amongst the most fun and exciting career options one can embark on, but it does come with its fair share of uncertainty.
The trick is to organise yourself and maximise your potential. Then, use all the free time you save on honing your skills, with your family, relaxing, or by re-investing some of it back into further establishing your career.
Photos – Pixabay