Telling stories

Be a Productive Freelancer Without Giving up Your Life

Posted by southwrite on June 19, 2014

HOME OFFICEIf you’re like me you became much more productive and got a lot more done each day when you became a freelancer. I was only too happy to say goodbye to the endless meetings and the talkative co-worker next door who spend more time in my office than he did in his.

Yet, you’ve probably also found that a home office has it own time wasting traps. I know I have.

You’ve gotten to day’s end with little to show. Oh, sure, you tweeted you commented to Facebook friends, and maybe you even cruised into Starbucks.  Did you finish that assignment? Sure, it wasn’t due today, but if you had, you’d be breathing easier tomorrow when it is due.

Maybe it’s time to look at how you’re working, what distracts you, and how you can make those distractions help you. Here are some tactics that have helped me – when I’ve used them.

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, completing 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, email, and the like –  that waste our time can also make us more productive – if we manage them rather than letting them control us and our time.

1. Control social media. 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 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. Sure you can also look at what’s being said about the World Cup, but don’t let it take up the whole session. [And, make sure it is a session – with a specific beginning and end time.]

2. Reset your email clock. The Post Office never delivered 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 longer 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. Set a separate Gmail account for all those newsletter, Facebook and Twitter announcements so they don’t overwhelm the work day and more important mail.

3. Make an appointment. Block out time in your Outlook or other 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 social media 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

4. Keep regular hours. I know most of us became freelancers so we could keep our own hours. We all work best when we pay attention to our own internal clock. Whether you’re up at 6 a.m. or just getting started at midnight, set up 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. It can also make you more productive if you dress for the role. I rarely work in my sweats and I don’t really feel that I’m “working” until after I’ve showered and gotten dressed.

5. Use technology that works — for you. Letting others be trend setters 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 house and home office. 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 buy that 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 it offers.


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