Productivity tips for freelancers
Freelancers often face the same struggles as everyone else. They need to stay productive and efficient, even when working from home. The biggest issue is that they don’t have a boss or coworkers to keep them accountable, so it’s up to you to find ways of motivating yourself.
Here are ten time management and productivity tips for freelancers who work at home:
1 ~ Find a time management system that works for you.
It could be a Pomodoro timer, the Eisenhower Matrix, or another time management system that works for you. Search for “time management systems,” and you’ll find several to try.
On average, I spend about two hours on my projects and then work in an admin hour, such as research related to other articles/projects like this one. I plan my day accordingly and keep an eye on the tasks that will take longer than 40 minutes to complete.
2 ~ Write down all the things that distract you before starting your work, so they don’t distract you while working.
Distractions kill your productivity because they’re time-consuming and can keep you from doing important tasks.
Conversely, write down everything that makes your work more efficient, so you get even better at getting tasks completed quickly!
For instance, I removed all of my notifications on Slack. I did this to avoid being distracted by people asking me questions or commenting when I’m working on a time-sensitive project. I also make it a habit to ignore notable time-wasters like other notifications on my smartphone. I make sure they don’t distract me while working on projects with tight deadlines!
3 ~ Plan your day the night before.
This sounds simple, and it is simple indeed. When I plan the day the night before, I prioritize and avoid getting overwhelmed when I hit a roadblock.
My planning includes:
- jotting down my top priority tasks? (what can I do in one hour or less?)
- is there anything that needs more than an hour to finish?
- do I have to consider taking time out of my schedule for personal needs, family needs, or other obligations (kids, pets)?
4 ~ Set your priorities each day
Prioritize the tasks on your list by importance and urgency. It has helped me personally to look at tasks and ask myself the question. Are they important? Are they urgent?
Prioritizing by importance helps me focus on the tasks that will make a substantial difference in my business and help me stay motivated. Of course, my priorities can be different every day. But I always have one or two top priorities (email correspondence with major clients; marketing campaigns). It’s also helpful for freelancers like me to focus on doing the right things instead of doing things efficiently.
That means it’s essential to take care of less urgent tasks but still necessary like filing taxes or updating a website.
The best way I’ve found for myself is using the Eisenhower Matrix. The Eisenhower Matrix is a valuable tool to prioritize tasks in your life; I use it for work and personal projects.
The Eisenhower Matrix provides a systematic approach that helps us decide what is most important; we then know how much time we should spend on each task or goal (high importance-low urgency).
5 ~ Keep a to-do list of all your tasks and break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Set deadlines for each task, then break them down into manageable time slices. This will help you stay productive and not overwhelmed by the enormity or length of tasks.
6 ~ Use the Pomodoro technique of working in 25-minute intervals followed by 5-minute breaks.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The name comes from the Italian word Pomodoro, meaning “tomato.” The word was inspired by how tomato plants grow and how they are pruned in an orderly pattern. The Pomodoro brings this orderly pattern (the interval schedule) to your workday or project planning. These regular time intervals help me keep my focus.
I have a Pomodoro installed on my computer. This is a simple way for me to control the intervals of time I set aside, and it keeps reminding me that distractions are not always bad (although I should limit them).
Let’s imagine you’ve got your work planned with tasks like:
- Emailing clients.
- Answering a client’s questions about what needs to be done next in their project.
- Making a blog post outline.
After working on these chores for 25 minutes, it might be fun to stretch your feet, check some social media before returning for the next Pomodoro.
If you keep the time you spend on distractions limited to 5 minutes, these interruptions won’t lead you astray!
7 ~ Set aside time for Email management, WhatsApp management, Slack management, etcetera.
Don’t let it take over your day. If you give in to the temptation to check these apps once too often, it could lead to a lot of time being wasted.
For example, if you’re on Slack and see the latest updates from your friends or check what’s going on with other people who are also waiting for replies- don’t get into chats that take too long because this will hinder productivity!
It can be good, though, when we only return to them after working 25 minutes at a time, as mentioned before. I am strict about these rules, so I’m not distracted by my phone while working.
It was distracting me enough already just seeing notifications come through all day!!
8 ~ Keep track of what tasks you’ve completed throughout the day.
Keeping track reminds you how much you have already done and helps motivate you to keep going!
In a notebook or on your phone, write down what tasks you have completed and how long they took. This will help with time management because we can see where our day has gone so far regarding work/productivity.
____ hours total today:?
9 ~ Use an app like RescueTime to help you track how much time you’re spending on different activities.
If you are not fond of jotting things down manually, a program like Rescue Time is a great way to track how you’re spending your time.
It tracks what apps and programs on the computer you are using, so it’s easy for me as a freelancer with no employees to keep track of. If I don’t, I sometimes do not know what kept me busy all day! Rescue Time is beneficial! It helps me with productivity because I can see exactly how my working day looks on one screen. I’d rather do that than manually keep track of all these numbers in a notebook.
10 ~ Schedule blocks of time for the most important tasks on your calendar.
A to-do list is necessary, but it also makes sense to schedule blocks of time in a calendar for important tasks that you have to complete.
The best thing about using a calendar is that you can both look back and a week ahead to see what you have accomplished and what is still in store for you. It also helps me feel more organized because I can see everything laid out before my eyes!
It’s a great way to motivate myself on days where not much needs to be done – so then, if something pops up suddenly, I’ll instantly know when I can go to work by just looking at my calendar and searching for an empty spot.
11 ~ Create an environment conducive to productivity: noise-canceling headphones, comfortable chairs, desk lamps, etc.
This advice may sound self-evident, but it is surprising how many people will work from home or a coffee shop and not consider the environment they’re sitting in.
I like putting on noise-canceling headphones, so it feels like I’m getting into my little world of creativity as well (and also because outside noises are distracting!). Invest in top-quality ergonomic chairs rather than just sitting where ever possible? Because as a freelancer working from home, pay better attention to your working environment and the tools you work with.
12 ~ Establish a routine for how you work best (i.e., listening to music while working).
Everybody differs when it comes down to establishing favorite routines.
It’s essential to find a routine that works best. If you’re unsure what will work efficient and effective, experiment with different routines until one sticks out. But don’t forget about your break time! A good plan would be doing something physical every morning or before lunch, like walking outdoors. When I walk around my block, I use this opportunity to listen to some podcasts or YouTube videos. It relaxes me, and sometimes I even learn a trick or two. A nice healthy snack, later on, helps me get back into writing mode.
When it comes down to deciding how many working hours a day should have, there are many opinions; but over 6 hours seems too excessive for me. In my case, it often leads to compromising on quality. And that is not something I’d not go for.
13 ~ Make sure you have enough sleep every night to stay focused and productive during the day.
Fortunately, sleep is getting a more prominent place on people’s agenda. I make sure I sleep for a minimum of 7 hours. Preferably more.
14 ~ Hire a virtual assistant.
I recommend hiring somebody to help take care of your administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments and managing email inboxes. For example, it doesn’t distract from the work at hand (and cost you your precious time). This way also ensures more focus on what you need: getting important stuff done!
I hope you enjoyed productivity tips for freelancers and found some tips helpful.