We all know how easy it is to get distracted at work, and this happens to freelancers as well! Whether it’s because we are busy day dreaming, having too many client meetings, or have tasks that we simply don’t want to do. But when you’re self-employed your income is usually tied to getting projects done on time, so it’s important to actually be productive from time-to-time 😉 Lately, I’ve been taking a closer look at my freelance business to determine where most of my time goes and how I can work smarter. In this blog post, I share my top productivity tips that help me stay focused during the day.
Make a to-do list for the day
This might sound overly simple, but it honestly helps! I keep track of my tasks in Asana and also have a notepad on my desk where I jot down my tasks for the day. I like using Asana because it let’s me share the tasks that need to be done with my team, making it very easy to delegate. However, tools like Trello and Monday are great tools as well, so definitely check them out to see which one works better for you. You might also find it helpful to keep a calendar or planner with the overall to-do’s for the week and then assigning them to each day. I love my Clever Fox planner because it uses the weekly overview and has a space to list the priorities for the week.
Block your time
I have recently started blocking my time in my calendar and have found it really helpful to stay focused. If you use Gmail or the Google Workspace, you can see the calendar on the right (just click the icon), which makes it easy if you – like me- always have your email open. I use my to-do list as a reference and then block the time in my calendar to work on the tasks. For example, “Client X from 10am-12pm” and then in the description I add what tasks need to be done. I found that just listing the client name wasn’t enough to keep me focused, so I added an extra procrastination blocker. This helps me stay productive, as I can always refer back to the tasks that need to be done at a given time.
Set up your workspace
We’re all different and have our preferences for how we like to work. Some people prefer working in a busy environment, while others need zero distractions. Think about how you like to work and set up your workspace accordingly, eliminating distractions. Personally, I work out of a shared office which helps me separate my home and office life. At home, I had no dedicated space to work and that led to me not getting anything done. Now, I have my monitor set up just the way I like it, and being in a shared space means I have to stay tidy so that I’m not disturbing my colleagues. If you work from home, make sure you keep your desk for office work so that your brain learns that you have to be productive when seated in that space.
Use productivity methods
Sometimes it’s just extra hard to get into the workflow, it happens. That’s when I use the pomodoro method to get into the flow. If you’re not familiar, this is a method of setting a timer for 25 minutes where you have to do focus work and after the time is up, you get a five minute break. There are apps that you can use on your laptop (I use one called “Be Focused”) which make it super easy. I like to also set my phone to “do not disturb” and lock it in my desk drawer so that I’m not tempted to procrastinate further. Usually, a few rounds of pomodoro get me out of the distraction mindset, so maybe this method will work for you as well.
Take a break
Make sure that you schedule your breaks! I block my lunch break in the calendar so that I have something to look forward to on those busy days. If you’re really not having a productive day, try going for a walk and getting some fresh air. If you’re still not feeling productive afterwards, take the day off. It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need rest and maybe this is your brain telling you that you need a break. Freelancing can be really mentally exhausting, so it’s important to prioritize your mental health as well. Sometimes the best remedy is just starting fresh tomorrow.
What are your favorite productivity tips? And how do you get over feeling unproductive? Let me know!