Productivity takes on a whole new meaning when you start freelancing. A survey by Vouchercloud suggested that the average UK office worker is productive for just 2 hours 53 minutes of their standard 9-5! But when you’re self-employed, every second is precious – because if you’re not working, you’re not earning. Making the most of your working hours and ensuring that your time is being used effectively and efficiently also means you can take greater advantage of the flexibility and freedom of freelance life. So how can you turbo-charge your freelancer productivity? In this blog, we take a look at our top tips for how you can adapt your working ways to be a more productive freelancer.
1. Consider when you are most productive
One of the big bonuses of freelancing, of course, is the flexibility to work when it suits you. Maybe those office workers were wasting time because they weren’t able to tailor their hours to their most productive points in their day. As a freelancer, you have the ability to set your own schedule. That means that if you’re a night owl, you can ease into the day gently, knowing that you can get cracking on those important projects later on. If you’re a lark, you can rise with the sun and get those emails sent before anyone else has even had chance to reach for their morning coffee. It’s all about working smart and finding a rhythm that suits your own body clock. There are more tips on how to manage flexible hours in our blog on ‘How to make the most of your day’.
2. Take regular breaks
It’s well documented that staring at a screen for hours on end is bad for you: for your eyes, for your posture and for your mental health. It’s a good idea to schedule regular breaks – whether you decide to take them at set times in the day or when you complete a task. While working non-stop might feel like you’re getting the job done, you’re likely to tire more quickly and start making mistakes or getting distracted. In fact, one of the most legendary productivity techniques is the “pomodoro method”, named after creator Francesco Cirillo’s tomato-shaped egg timer:
- Set timer for 25 minutes and work until it goes off – this is one “pomodoro”
- Take a 10 minute break
- Set the timer for another 25 minutes and repeat
- Every four pomodoros, take a longer break (20-30 minutes)
Proponents of the pomodoro technique swear it helps them focus, get tasks done faster, and feel less stressed during their workdays.
3. Track your time
A big problem in freelancing is that your days seem to pass so quickly. At the end, you shut your laptop wondering “where did the time go?” Well, it’s time to start getting proper answers to that question. To really unlock your freelance productivity, you need to start time tracking. Keep a log throughout the day of the minutes you spend on each activity – answering emails, working on projects, taking breaks, checking social media. You could do this on Excel or use a time-tracking app like Clockify. It will help you see what’s sapping your productivity. It’s also useful to help you quote accurately for jobs, as it will help you see how long freelance projects actually take you, and to help you identify any instances of scope-creep.
4. Find a playlist that fits the mood
For a productivity-boost at any time of day, get the rhythm right and the rest will follow. Whether you need some upbeat pop to pep you up through morning emails or an injection of serenity into a stressful afternoon, there’s bound to be a soundtrack for that. Check out our blog of the best motivational playlists for freelancers to listen to some of our favourites.
5. Reward yourself for completing work
Call it bribery if you like, but we always work a little bit harder when we know there’s a reward in it for us! Break down the tasks you want to get accomplished in your workday and set rewards when you achieve them – whatever works for you, whether that’s a biscuit, a break or a bath bomb. There’s an anecdote that novelist Anthony Burgess used to set himself the goal of 1000 words a day, 365 days a year, and once he hit his target he would finish work for the day and relax with a martini. It’s worth a try, right?
6. Get your home office organised
It’s hard to focus when your workspace is filled with clutter and distractions, so a bit of time spent streamlining your space will help your productivity. The same goes for your emails and computer files – how much time do you waste each day trying to locate the right document? Tidy desk, tidy mind.
7. Block out time for big tasks
Some jobs you can do in between emails and social media updates and loads of laundry. Other jobs you need to set aside a proper chunk of time for. For involved tasks – coding, design work, web copy or report-writing – make sure you block out proper thinking time without distractions. It can help to escape out of the house for these if you share with other people or if you’re likely to get distracted by the dirty dishes. Perhaps trial using a co-working space or public library for activities that need extra focus.
8. Don’t multitask
It’s one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves – that working on more than one thing at a time is going to help us get through our to-do lists faster. Instead, this costs us time in procrastination and focus as we have to reorient our brains each time we switch tasks. Instead, prioritise your workload in order of importance and urgency, and try to focus on just one thing at a time.
While you’re getting on with the important business of freelance life, Dinghy freelancer insurance can be there by your side, offering you and your clients protection and peace of mind. A quote takes less than a minute on our website – leaving you with 24 minutes of a pomodoro to get on with that next big project.