Productivity – the best kept secret to a successful freelancing career. Just think about it, a highly productive independent professional has countless advantages over a less-efficient freelancer. Things such as being able to undertake more missions, getting current missions done quicker, and having more personal time are just a few of the first competitive edges that come to mind. All of which result in doing a better job on missions, a better reputation, more clients, and therefore a higher income.
I mean, sure you’re probably working pretty hard as-is, but who wouldn’t want to be more productive?
In this article, I’ll outline the best kept secrets to boosting your productivity as a freelancer. Read on to learn how to become the highly productive version of yourself that you’ve always wanted to be!
Define Your Working Hours.
Knowing when to work and when not to work is a crucial part of being able to work productively as a freelance professional. Having clear-cut time boundaries will allow you to basically divide your mind into two different modes: work-mode and me-time – kind of like your car’s transmission if you think about it.
Doing this is actually quite simple: just define your work hours and your personal time – and stick to them!
You’ll find that it is quite distracting to think about your personal life when at work and vice versa. Explicitly segmenting your time will allow you to better focus on your work when working on also on yourself while taking me-time. Congrats on taking step 1 towards becoming a more productive freelancer!
Take Enough Breaks
Now, this may come off as slightly counter-productive at first glance, but hear me out.
Breaks are fundamental to maintaining efficient productivity. Studies show that a brief 20 second break for every 10 minutes of work can increase general productivity by up to 13%. No joke!
Basically, taking a quick breather allows you to refocus, clear your thought pallet, and de-strain your eyes. According to the University of Illinois, taking a 20-minute walk during your break can exponentially increase blood flow to the brain, boost creative thought, and combat degenerative diseases.
Taking a quick break is really a small price to pay if you think about it. The time you take off will more than compensate for the time made up for by your increased productivity. You’ll come back focused, refreshed, and ready take on all tasks at hand.
Focus on One Task at a Time
Ahh multitasking – the ultimate taboo of the professional world. You either love it or you hate it, am I right?
You’ll find many conflicting opinions regarding multitasking, but in the end, one question remains the same – does multitasking actually increase productivity?
Well dear reader, I am here to inform you that: no, multitasking does not in fact increase productivity. Quite the opposite really. Multitasking divides your attention across multiple tasks thus drastically reducing your overall productivity. Basically, you’ll find yourself not fully focused on either task at hand.
It’s kind of like trying to carry too many groceries at once to avoid a subsequent trip; in the end, you’ll find that had you made two separate trips with lighter loads, you would’ve gotten the job done much quicker (and without breaking the eggs).
In practicality, it is crucial to focus on one single task at a time and to give it your full, undivided attention rather than spreading yourself too thin. When push comes to shove, having one task fully completed beats having 3 separate tasks ¼ of the way completed.
Set Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Running a race without a finish line or checkpoints would hardly feel like race. It would just feel like a whole bunch of senseless running.
The same idea applies to your work as a freelancer. You absolutely must implement short-term and long-terms goals in order to be able to effectively measure your performance and your success.
Not only will this give you a sense of accomplishment whenever a goal is reached, it’ll give you something to work towards – a light at the end of the tunnel.
You’d be surprised to what degree setting goals can actually improve your productivity.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with setting goals. Rewarding yourself for achieving your goals is a fantastic way of motivating yourself to efficiently complete your tasks and improving your productivity.
“If I wrap-up my upcoming sprint within the next 3 days and get positive feedback, I’ll reward myself with a new pair of sunglasses and big cheesecake.”
Even such a futile-seeming motivator can go an extremely long way in terms of increasing your productivity. I mean, it’s not like you’ll be thinking about that new pair of sunglasses and that succulent cheesecake 24/7, it’s just that the thought of an upcoming reward will stay with you on a subconscious level and act like a brief motivating push to help you get things done.
In today’s typical work environment, distractions are abundant. Whether it be your phone, your computer, your tablet, a gaming console, or a Rubik’s Cube, you will never find yourself with a shortage of distractions – and if you don’t know how to deal with these distractions, your productivity will surely take a nasty hit.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We totally advocate breaks as they boost productivity in the long run. But if you find yourself prone to giving in to senseless distractions, it might be a good idea to voluntarily push distractions aside when you’re in work-mode.
All you have to do to get this done is condition yourself to focus exclusively on the tasks at hand during work-time only to anticipate taking your break after your current sprint of work. Close your Facebook and Twitter tabs, put your phone in airplane mode, stuff that Rubik’s cube in your desk’s drawer, and put the TV remote control away – trust me, it works.
We know it takes a bit of self-control, but with a bit of effort and some time to get used to things, you’ll get your freelance tasks done quicker and find yourself much more productive as a result.
Divide Larger Tasks
So, this is the point where many of the previous tips that I’ve given actually begin to come together.
Working on one massive and seemingly never-ending project can actually be pretty exhausting – we’ve all been there. You feel as if there is no end in sight and that causes you to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. You’ll find that this actually has a pretty harmful impact on your productivity.
The solution to this is actually quite simple and effective. All you have to do is get organized and divide the massive task at hand into smaller, more manageable subtasks. Be sure to take adequate breaks in between tasks and to reward yourself for completing each of the smaller tasks – even something as small as a brief ice cream break after completing every subtask can go a really long way.
Before you know it, your big-bad task will be all wrapped-up.
This is a big one.
Getting organized is crucial to improving your workflow and your productivity as a freelancer. Imagine having 5 projects due in a week and having absolutely no plan on how manage your time. Imagine trying to find your client’s project description within a mountain of unorganized papers piled on your desk. No doubt about it, it’ll be an absolute disaster.
Now, you may be wondering what I mean by “getting organized”. I’m basically referring to getting both “physically organized” and getting your “workflow organized”.
Getting physically organized is one of the most underrated forms of organization. By this I mean simply organizing your desk, cleaning out your computer’s desktop, standardizing your contact list, and even just cleaning your room. These subtle forms of organization go a long way in terms of promoting efficiency. Things will be easier to find, you’ll find clarity in your workflow, and you’ll eventually find that your productivity will drastically increase as a result.
Getting your workflow organized is more of a habitual type of organization that requires a relative amount of discipline. You’ll find that knowing when things are due and coordinating how/when you do things accordingly (and in an easy-to-analyse manner) will significantly boost your efficiency.
What does comfort have to do with productivity? Everything.
Whether it be an uncomfortable chair, tight shoes, an empty stomach, or a computer screen that strains your eyes, you’ll find that discomfort can be detrimental to your productivity as a freelance professional.
The science behind it is actually quite simple. Your brain only has a limited capacity - and ideally, you’d like to use a majority of that capacity to complete your tasks. When a form of discomfort is implemented into the equation however, you’ll find that a significant portion of your brain will be subconsciously focusing on the discomfort at hand – even if you don’t realize it. That’s wasted brain-power right there.
This can significantly impact your productivity seeing as a significant portion of your brain’s capacity will be allocated towards subconsciously focusing on that (totally preventable) discomfort.
So, do yourself a favour and treat yourself – the increased productivity you’ll benefit from is well worth it.
Alright, so you’ve reached the big-leagues. You find yourself absolutely swamped with projects and tedious administrative tasks to the point where you start to wonder whether you’re in over your head.
You want to do more, but one person can only do so much. The solution? Hire an assistant.
As cliché as this may sound, assistants can be life-savers - even in the freelance sector. They can take care of all of your tedious administrative tasks along with the everyday grunt-work.
You’ll find yourself with so much more time on your hands to actually concentrate on working on your projects.
Trust me, the time and productivity gained from hiring an assistant will more than offset the cost of having one.
If you’re still swamped in work even after hiring an assistant’s help, outsourcing your extra work is also an option to help alleviate your workload. Basically, you take care of the tasks that explicitly need your attention and outsource your other tasks. You’ll find that your productivity will benefit from a healthy boost if you choose to do this.
Technology can also be a pretty big helper. Online platforms that facilitate the entire freelance process from A-to-Z are beginning to emerge. An example is hireme.io. hireme.io allows freelancers to connect directly with a wide array of clients by bidding on missions within a fully recruiter-free environment. hireme.io also boasts full administrative task automation and pay advancement – and the best part is that it’s 100% free to use. hireme.io is a phenomenal tool to help you save time, money, and resources. Try it out, your newfound productivity will thank you.
Productivity is without a doubt the best kept secret to a successful freelancing career. If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’ll probably have found that there are a lot of different element that go into optimizing it.
Just imagine how much more efficient you would be as a freelancer if you were to actively take measures to optimize your efficiency - the possibilities are endless.