Telling stories

How to be a productive freelancer without giving up Twitter or Starbucks

Posted by southwrite on July 27, 2009

Image by Flickr user tonx. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Image by Flickr user tonx. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Virtually every freelancer who was once an office drone knows that he’s getting more done on his own than he ever did in a cube. We were only too happy to say goodbye to the endless meetings and the talkative co-worker next door.

Yet, we also found that a home office has it own time wasting traps. How many of us have gotten to day’s end with little to show. Oh, sure, we tweeted on Twitter, we commented on a Facebook friend’s status, and we cruised Starbucks, but did we finish that assignment?  If not, then we need to look at how we work, what distracts us, and how we can make those distractions help us.

The secret to productivity is to always keep the big picture in mind. Ask yourself: what is my purpose? The bottom line is completing assignments – writing a feature article, finishing a newsletter design or other task. The productive freelancer doesn’t ask ‘what should I do today?’ Instead the question is ‘what do I accomplish?’ The next question is how can I use the tools at my disposal to get to those finished projects?

Fortunately the very things – like Twitter, e-mail, and the like –  that waste our time can also make us more productive. That is if we manage them rather than letting them control us and our time.

1. Restrict your social media calories. Schedule specific times during the day to log onto Twitter or Facebook rather than checking in constantly. Ask yourself what am I trying to get out of each session. Is it to find a source, or a new client? Is to learn more about a particular trend or company? Don’t log on if you don’t have a purpose in mind. 

2. Reset your e-mail clock. The Post Office doesn’t deliver mail every minute and you don’t need to see every message as soon as it arrives. Reset Outlook’s automatic send/receive option to a long interval – say an hour or more. And, turn off the funny sound and icon so they don’t disturb your concentration. If you just have to be available for client e-mail make sure that only true business messages are arriving in your primary mail account. Create a separate Hotmail or Yahoo account for all those newsletter, Facebook and Twitter announcements so they don’t become part of the work day.

3. Make working an appointment. Block out time in your Outlook calendar for work just as you do a client appointment. Set 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. as a “writing appointment.” Then maybe follow it with “Check Facebook 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

 4. Keep regular hours. I know most of us became freelancers so we could set our own hours. We all work best when we pay attention to our individual internal clock. Whether you’re up at 6 a.m. or just getting started at midnight, lock in specific hours that you’re at your desk doing what needs doing. Then stick to your work day/night — whatever those times are for you.

 5. Use technology that works for you – even if it’s not cool. Sure an iPhone is uber-neat technology, but do you really need one? Will a plain old cell phone work just as well? Letting others be trendsetters provides you with more opportunities to do real work. Do you really need a fancy time management program to record your billable hours or will a plain old legal pad do? Setting up software programs can consume more time than they save.

6. Get out of the office on a regular basis. In the beginning of this article I mentioned that daily trip to the coffee shop.  I know the critics say it’s a waste to pay for an overpriced cup of coffee, but there’s more in that cup than java, so don’t give it up. Getting out of the house will provide that change of scene that can re-energize you for more work – not to mention the effects of a shot of caffeine.

Put these suggestions to work and you can tame the technology beast, get more done and still have time for the pleasures that self-employment offers.

[picapp src=”8/8/7/1/Microblogging_Site_Twitter_84b8.jpg?;imageId=5320616″ width=”500″ height=”537″ /]

2 Responses to “How to be a productive freelancer without giving up Twitter or Starbucks”

  1. Mickey said

    Great looking blog, Randy, and good advice in the lead article. I’m joining friends for lunch and networking.

  2. Lynae said

    I enjoyed this article. You have some very helpful tips here.

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