When you’re a freelancer, it’s easy to fall into a trap of complacence. After all, nobody is looking over your shoulder while you work. This, however, is one of the perks of freelancing that can quickly turn into a bane. But worry not!
We’ll state for the record that we think multitasking is a great skill that every person should cultivate. It can come in handy when you’re in a tight pinch and need to think on the fly.
Most of the time, however, doing more than what you should be doing is actually contrary to your goal of productivity. If you want to accomplish as many tasks as humanly possible in a day, the ability to focus is the key, and not the ability to switch from one task to another.
More often than not, freelancers multitask not because of work-related tasks, but because of unrelated ones. It is tempting to participate in social media because, why not? No one’s monitoring your Internet usage and access. Perhaps you’d also want to watch a movie on another screen while you work, claiming that “white noise” helps in your productivity.
Here’s the clinch – Celarity states specifically that not giving 100% of your attention to your current task can lead to a bottleneck. You’ll take up more time to finish one task, for example. If you’ve got a lot of tasks queued, you’ll end up trying to catch up on those the next day. Unfortunately, those tasks will accumulate and end up burning you out.
Next time you feel like doing two things at a time, why not focus on one of those jobs first and then move to the other? Remember, in freelancing, time management is key. If you want to keep a workday to within 8 hours, you’ll have to consume those 8 hours properly. That means less multitasking if you can help it.
Some freelancers are gifted with an extreme focus that helps them mow through their work in a day. These are the polar opposites of those who tend to multitask during their workday. Do you think they are productive and efficient?
You’d think that they are, but, when you force yourself to work without stopping, you’re running yourself to the ground. It’s only a matter of time before your productivity comes to a halt. Fatigue will catch up to you and render you inert. It’s like feeling that you have a lot to do ahead of you, but your body is not sharing the same opinion.
While it appears to be contracting with the previous advice, it’s actually healthy and helpful to your productivity to take some short breaks every once in a while. If you’ve finished one task, reward yourself by taking a bathroom break, or smoke break if you light up. Also, you might want to have a bite before you dive into your next task – your body will need the calories.
Another reason why you should take a break between tasks – your eyes’ health is very important. It is typical for freelancers like you to spend hours in front of a computer screen. Unfortunately, the screen emits harmful blue light that can damage the eyes in the long run.
Many people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy due to challenges with prioritizing their budgeting to reduce their debts. This is why freelancers may need a priority list.
To further streamline your workload for the day, you must create a priority list at the end of each day. Spend time before clocking out to go over your pending tasks for the next day, and group them according to urgency. When you know which tasks are more urgent, you can assign each of the items on your list a priority rating.
When you assemble a priority list, you can save some time at the start of each day. Without it, you’ll be going over all your emails, all your instant messages from your colleagues, just to find what your tasks are first thing in the morning.
You can’t just play it by ear, as they say. You will likely overlook a more urgent task, and be reminded about it later on in the day. This is yet another source of anxiety and stress and could mess up your workload.
On the other hand, your priority list will tell you exactly what you need to work on for the day and in what order. In other words, you have your day’s schedule already plotted out for you. Once more, this saves you a lot of time that you can then devote to doing your tasks. You might even get to have a longer break later on in the day because you’ve become so efficient at managing your time!
We all know how social media has helped us connect to a wider audience as well as link us up with old friends that we’ve lost touch with. For a freelancer who owns his or her time and enjoys no oversight from a boss, however, social media is but the biggest distraction you could encounter.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked by social media posts. There are many posts from friends and colleagues that can be undeniably entertaining. Also, you might have joined a discussion in a post that has piqued your attention and interest. Before you know it, you’re already spending more time in your social media account (particularly Facebook) than your list of tasks for the day.
If productivity is your priority, then you should make a conscious decision to turn off notifications from social media while you’re working. Close that tab where Facebook or Instagram is. Disconnect your phone from your Wi-Fi or, at the least, turn off all notifications from your device, including SMS and calls.
You should assert control over distractions by scheduling a break, later on, to check messages and return calls. You can also compose an “Away” message that will acknowledge receipt of any SMS sent to you and promise to get back to the sender later. Similarly, you can set up your voicemail account as well to receive voice messages from your callers for later access.
As for social media, it’s best to avoid logging in to your accounts during the workday, unless social media management is part of your work. There’ll be plenty of time later on to check your accounts.
We all live with email, freelancers more so than anyone else. In the corporate world, email and the ubiquitous meeting software are the bread-and-butter of team communications. Now, while you think that you should receive live email updates to be on top of things, the notifications can actually drive your productivity down.
Picture this out – you’re concentrating on a task, and then you get an email or Skype message from one of your immediate superiors. Instead of putting the message on the back burner until you finish your task, you instead open it and find a new task. You immediately scramble to get on this one instead of the one you’re currently working on, which means resetting your mindset and putting the other task on the back burner.
Entertaining emails and instant messages as they come not only distracts you from your own workflow. It also causes stress and anxiety. It can even get to the point that every email makes you feel scared of what it may contain. Sadly, these two emotions can negatively impact productivity.
In an office, this predicament is known to contribute to high employee attrition rates. For a freelancer, it is a path down to burnout. What you should do is to set aside certain times of the day to stop what you’re doing, check for messages and then respond accordingly. This will lessen the stress, as well as discourage any culture of impromptu requests from your clients that take you away from other existing tasks.
Stress and pressure may be normal in any kind of work, but there are always ways to lessen the amount that you actually experience. The secret to avoiding a lot of pressure from your work as a freelancer is to become as productive as possible every day. Of course, the key to becoming productive is to effectively allocate and manage your time between your tasks.
By taking all of the five tips above in mind, you’re certain to boost your productivity by more than 50%! As a freelancer, it takes a lot of willpower to practice time management, because, again, there’s no manager constantly watching over your shoulder. However, it’s not an impossible feat that you cannot achieve. All it takes is commitment and discipline.
Cheers to more productive days, and less stressful experiences as a freelancer!
Ben T. is the co-founder and CEO of Ascend, a platform to help people achieve self-improvement in the area of personal finance. He helps with items such as Celarity and 500 dollars quick loan. He also writes on topics such as Debt Collection and Chapter 13 bankruptcy to help people get out of debt and experience financial freedom.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.