Staying focused on the job can be a challenge no matter where you work. For those in a more traditional office environment, the typical workday routines are often easier to stay on top of. Freelancers on the other hand must rely entirely on self-discipline and dedication to stay productive.
We interviewed 10 inspiring freelancing professionals to learn their tips for staying focused. Here are their top productivity recommendations for getting work done.
Michelle Messenger Garrett
I discovered Buffer, which is a great tool to schedule social media posts. It saves me from worrying about posting—especially on the weekend and overnight (times when I didn’t post much previously). You can set it up in advance, and it will do all the work for you! As a result, my Twitter following has grown at a much faster rate, because I now have Buffer set to post for me 10x/day. It’s easy to use—and, it’s free for a single-user account. Can’t get much better than that!
I call them the "Must Get Dones," or MGDs, and focus on them. It’s also important to block time and turn off distractions. One hour dedicated to each MGD, and no cell phone, no email, even no wifi if you don't need it.
Check your to-do list first thing in the morning before you settle in to actually WORK. That way, you own exactly what you need to do each day. At the end of the day, check off all the tasks you've completed (you'll feel great when you see all those check marks) and add or update tasks as necessary. The simple act of keeping a to-do list really helps keep me focused on the business every day.
Automation can be very powerful for productivity if done right. Tools-wise I use a lot of [platforms and apps] for projects and tasks management. On any given day I'm rarely getting everything done I’d like to, but these tools help provide structure to always attend to those most critical items. I do automate a few things, which is helpful for overall productivity.
My favorite productivity tool is the pomodoro technique. You can download an app that will help you stay on-track, but the creator of the Pomodoro technique originally used a simple tomato shaped kitchen timer to block off time to focus. The basic method is to turn on a timer for 25 minutes, and during that time you get sh*t done. Turn off your phone, close Facebook, and eliminate all distractions. Knowing that it’s only 25 minutes is a manageable goal. When the timer goes off, I take a 5 or 10 minute break.
Sitting at your desk all day can be dragging and lead to burnout. Stand up and stretch every 30 minutes, go for a walk or walk the dog, catch a bootcamp class for an hour, don’t eat lunch at your desk—go out if you are inclined. Just do something to refresh and regroup your mind and body throughout the day to help maintain that focus and keep productivity up.
Walter G. Meyer
Multitasking is a myth and just dissipates energy. Pick one task and finish it. Then do the next. In my home office, I have my desk set up with nothing in my line of sight. Just the monitor. I have photos and fun things on the bulletin board to my right, but out of my peripheral vision. The only thing in front of me are the notes on the one project that has my attention at the moment. I recommend this for productivity at home or at work. Turn off the phone, shut off IMs, and close email. Most things will wait. Let them.
I split up my days into hourly slots, where I'll assign a project or a piece to a specific hour. After each slot, I'll give myself a short break where I can do non work-related stuff. When the hour starts, I'll switch of all other distractions and do as much as I can in that timeframe. This helps me stay focused (as I know that in an hour I'll be able to browse Facebook/watch Netflix/procrastinate again) and helps me plan my days better.
Staying productive is about momentum and focus. Keep momentum on projects, but keep a narrow focus on projects, so that you can devote a lot of thought to them. Don't just pick tons of projects to just keep doing tasks for. I always get distracted, but I allow time for distraction to take me away from work—like a savings account, but for time. That way, when my mind wanders, I know that I've already accounted for that time, so I haven't wasted it, and I'm still as productive as I planned to be.
I leave the blinds partly open on the window in front of my desk, so I have natural light coming in and can see the world passing by, but am not engaged with it except as a spectator. I don't take phone calls during the day unless they're from my wife or kids or work-related and my work computer is just for work, so when I'm looking at it, I don't see personal emails pop up.