Freelancing offers a lot of freedom, but the only way to success is productivity. The liberty of freelancing can be very broad which can lead us down to a highly unproductive path.
As freelancers, we face many unique problems when it comes to productivity. Unlike traditional workers in traditional work settings, we have no one looking over our shoulders and no defined start and stop times. And as a result, it’s easy for us to get burned out.
One minute you are checking Facebook; another minute you’re sipping your favorite cup of coffee or tea as you check on your WhatsApp chats from your group of friends. The next thing you know; a week has gone by while you have nothing to show for the week.
You're not alone; it happens to the best of freelancers too. You need dedication and strong will to succeed, but with social media, a click away with your fingertips can be hard to stay focused.
So, how do we remain focused?
Productivity is the name of the game and the only way to succeed.
If you’re falling victim to the various distractions around you, get your time management back on track with these productivity tips for freelancers.
The problem of multitasking
Multitasking is a productivity killer. I know women are said to be the best multitaskers on the planet. They can be cooking, eating, and talking, attending to a baby all at the same time.
But, to maintain flow in your freelancing work, we must talk about the worst thing you can do. Multitasking. And here’s why.
Multitasking does not improve productivity. In fact, when you focus on more than one task, you cause a 40% drop in productivity. Once you’re distracted, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track.
The plain and simple truth is, everything you do besides the task at hand stops you from completing it.
Turn off your phone if unable to resist the urge to hop on social media and get rid of everything that keeps you from getting your job done.
The solution is to focus on a single task
Build momentum by focusing on a single job.
If you’re looking into accomplishing more, multitasking is not the answer. Instead, the solution lies in focusing on one task at a time.
At first, you will find it challenging, but the more you practice the “single-tasking,” the more you will get your job done.
Fostering workflow starts by scheduling fewer tasks and projects every day. And you start by taking control of your week. You do not achieve this by chance but, you need to create time for it proactively! Otherwise, you'll be continually interrupted and distracted.
Prioritize your week.
Working on the next item with the closest deadline will only leave you stressed and burnt out. Answering calls and emails are part of the trade but answering in the middle of a task impedes your productivity.
Instead, schedule a specific time to answer emails or make calls without interrupting your creative flow.
How to organize your week for optimum productivity
Do you struggle every Monday to allocate work or do you find yourself on Friday afternoon? Then, give the bucket system a shot.
It is all about organizing your week into three “buckets”: Focus Days. Buffer Days and Free Days.
Focus Days: These are days you focus on your client's work. Production. These are the days you write, research, mind map, edit your work, interviews and so on. My Focus days are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Choose what works for you.
Buffer Days: These are the days you can set aside to prepare, learn, delegate, practice and catch up with miscellaneous items. My buffer days are Mondays. The reason I chose Monday is that is can organize my week. I feel in control of my week when I do this.
Free Days: Free days are exactly that. Free days. It is the day you take time off to bond with family and friends. Rest, re-energize and clear your mind. My free days are Friday afternoon and weekends. These are the days I reflect on my successes and failure during the past week and re-strategize for the following week.
I started implementing the three-bucket system about nine weeks ago, and it's proving to be a lifesaver.
Why you should consider the three-bucket system
The three-bucket system helps you maintain discipline. It keeps you focused and productive on your focus days. Planning out everything for the week makes me feel organized and less overwhelmed.
Buffer days, help you plan and make smarter decisions. It also allows you to focus on learning and to get better at what you do. Free days, add balance to your week. You will focus on doing something just for yourself.
When you don’t create boundaries, every day becomes a workday, and you end up with zero margins.
How to Use The 50-Minute Focus Technique
To supplement the three-bucket system, let us look at the 50-minute focus technique. It is highly effective. It is a method for shutting out all destructions so you can create flow and get work done faster and efficiently.
The technique is also called the Pomodoro Technique.
Let me explain how it works.
- Close all your social media sites, email programs and turn off your phone ringer. In other words, eliminate all destruction. It is a MUST do.
- Set your timer for 50 minutes and work on one project for the entire 50 minutes.
- If in the middle of the session you remember something you have to do (such as making a phone call or replying to an email), do not stop the task instead, write it down on a notepad on your to-do list. Always keep a notebook close. Then get back to work.
- At the end of the 50-Minutes, stop what you’re doing and set the timer for 20 minutes. During the 20-Minute break, stretch, take a walk, step away from your desk.
- When the timer goes off, set another –Minutes and go back to the task you were working on (or another project) and work non-stop until it goes off again.
Here are some of the focus technique tools available to you.
We have the Focus Booster, PomoDone, Pomodoro Keeper, Marinara Timer, Pomodoro Time Pro. You can read a detailed overview of each method here.
I have found the technique to be a great motivator because, when I don't feel like working, I can say, Heck, I'll do a 50-Minute focus and then see how it feels. In most cases, I have ended up doing much more than I could imagine or think.
The Freedom App is a popular blocking app for the Internet, social media, and apps. It helps to remove distractions and temptations so you can focus on your work.
How to Make the 50-Minute Technique a Daily Habit
You do not have to overdo it. Two or three sessions a day are good enough. The technique is highly effective in boosting your mental and creative energy. You can use the method when you have larger projects which take few days or weeks to complete.
You can schedule them back to back with a 20 or 30-minute break in between or have one block in the morning and another in the afternoon. Opt for whichever works best for you.
Breaks are an essential aspect of productivity for freelancers. Your schedule should allow for a few minutes away from your computer screen every hour or so. During that time you should stretch, get a glass of water, or step outside to take a breath of fresh air.
Don’t forget to schedule longer breaks so you can eat. Pro tip: Skip the Hot Pocket and make yourself a dish that will provide sustained energy.
Align Energy with Activity
To develop and maintain periods of flow throughout the day, you need to have the mental, physical and creative energy to carry them out. Therefore, you need to learn about your own body's natural rhythms and how you can use those rhythms to your advantage.
- Be mindful of the type of energy you have during different periods of the day. Then schedule tasks that align with the energy you typically have during that time of the day.
- Adjust your diet and exercise to boost your energy levels. Pay attention to what you're doing and how it makes you feel.
What Works for You?
I’m curious. Do you have a similar approach? How does it work for you?
And if you don’t structure your week this way, are you willing to give it a try?
Let me know what works for you in the comments area below.