Let’s face it: if you work for yourself, you need to maintain a high level of productivity to achieve your goals. Slack off a bit too much and you’ll see unproductive minutes turned into wasted hours with you the financial loser there. With freelancing, it is all about completing assignments, billing your clients, and getting paid.
You can probably name a handful of “time sucks” off of the top your head — Facebook, phone calls, and family interruptions to name a few. Some interruptions cannot be helped such as your small child needing help with the potty. Without a spouse nearby, you’ll have to stop what you’re doing, comfort your child, and resume work later.
Assuming that you have enough work on your plate you can stay focused and productive by incorporating the following into your schedule:
Live by Lists
Few of us can remember to get everything done in one day. With so much to do, a “to do” list or multiple lists is necessary. How you make use of lists is up to you. Some people use a day planner, others use an app.
Your list should include everything that you need to do on any given day. For instance, today you may have a dental appointment at 3 p.m., which means stopping your work at 2:30 p.m. and having plenty of time to get to the dentist’s office. You expect to wrap up and be home by 4:30 p.m., in time to check your emails, respond to phone calls and tie your loose ends for the day.
To fit the dental appointment in your schedule, you should also list the projects that must get done before you leave, including writing your daily blog article, submitting a draft article to a client, and making a few queries. Buffer time is required too — as you know, schedule over runs can wreck havoc on your best plans.
Writing down what you need to do is one thing, but getting specific takes more work. For instance, you may have to write a 1,200-word article for your client. That length already clues you in on a few things: you’ll need to set aside some extra time for research, perhaps interviewing a source, and gathering your thoughts.
You might be able to kick the article out in two hours, but it could take another three to four hours to complete your research. Unless you started your research another day, that’s up to six hours you’ll need to set aside to complete your work. Then, it is on the dentist.
Are you most productive when you tackle a product all at once or do you do better by separating your job into chunks such as specific tasks? Writing a 500-word blog article off of the top of your head is something you can do within 30 minutes, but when you’re writing more in-depth articles for a paying client, separating tasks can be wise.
Between each task you might put the job to the side and go on to something else. That means spacing out your work throughout the day or across several days. Your first task may have you writing an outline. The second task has you performing research. The third task has you contacting a source. The fourth task is where you would draft your article. The fifth task has you editing your work. The sixth and final task is for writing your final copy and submitting same. Six tasks that can be broken up into small groups.
You may have been freelancing before social media took off. Before Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the current hyper distractions you had message boards, forums and blog comments. So many distractions, different era.
There is no reason for you to avoid social media. In fact, embracing it can help your business. You just need to know when to use it and for how long. You can schedule in your social media visits or simply reward yourself with a Facebook dash upon completing a task or embarking upon a Twitter rampage if you finish up your work fast.
There are other ways to improve your productivity including choosing software and applications that help streamline your work. If you haven’t reviewed the tools you have been using for some time and compared these with the latest products, you may be missing out on something that can make you an even more successful freelancer.
Melanie Hickman is a professional blogger that shares the latest information on software and applications that can help your business improve performance and productivity. She writes for Ecount Inc., which provides an ERP software that offers easy setup and customization capabilities.