Procrastination is the enemy of productivity. Dictionary.com says the definition of procrastination is ‘the action of delaying or postponing something’. Useful synonyms include dithering, delaying, hesitating, dilly-dallying, humming and hawing. See what I’ve done there? Yep, I have just procrastinated by Googling the definition of procrastination…
Anyway, moving swiftly on!
Procrastination is easy when you work from home. There is no boss looking over your shoulder or colleagues giving you the evil eye when you do your online shopping during work hours. Not surprisingly, it is remarkably easy to waste many hours doing very little. By the time you have wandered into the kitchen to make a coffee, pegged some washing out on the line, checked your social media feeds, and watched Loose Women, half the day has vanished and you haven’t achieved anything useful.
Like many freelancers, I procrastinate a lot. I wake up with the best of intentions but find it remarkably easy to get sucked down into an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole once the Daily Mail Online opens up on my laptop. I’m also guilty of playing with the cats when I should be working.
I tend to be most productive when I have deadlines. This works well when I am busy, but it is less effective when deadlines are soft or I have less work to do. I’m going to share with you a few of my best productivity tips. They may not work for you, but they do work for me. At least, they do most of the time. After all, I am only human, and if the sun is shining and I don’t have a whole lot of work in, can you really blame me for sloping off into the garden with a good book?
There have to be some perks of working from home!
Have a strict work schedule
Working set hours helps me to be more productive. I need structure in my life. Without some kind of structure to my day, I lose focus. Before I became a freelancer, I was an employee. I worked 9-5, five days a week. There was some flexibility, but if I was late, I had to make the time up.
Now, I can work any hours I like, but for the most part, I start work at eight or nine and finish around six o’clock, depending on how busy I am.
Block social media
I’m not a big social media junkie, but I can understand how people waste hours of their life on Facebook. I don’t look at Facebook during the day, but if you lack self-discipline like my other half, I suggest you download an app to block access to social media during work hours. I hear they are very effective.
Take regular breaks
I’m not a machine, so I need regular breaks. It’s good to stretch the legs every hour or so. Working at a desk, staring at a screen all day is tough on the eyes and sitting in a chair is bad news for my backside. Regular breaks keep my productivity levels up.
When my concentration is flagging, I make deals with myself to ensure I stay productive for a while longer. For example, a cup of coffee is a reward for completing a 500-word guest post. It is much easier to finish a task when the end is in sight.
Take a holiday
Burnout is no joke. It has happened to me a few times and when it does, productivity goes out of the window. The only solution is to take a few days off and recharge the batteries. By this, I mean doing nothing work-related. A blue sky holiday is nice, but if you can’t afford it, have a few duvet days or go visit some friends. It may feel as if you are slacking, but trust me when I say you will feel much better for taking a break.
I find it hard to work when the next door neighbours are practicing for their X-Factor audition or my son is levelling up on WoW. Unfortunately, this is all part of the fun of living in a terraced house. My solution is to plug in noise cancelling headphones and listen to nature sounds to block out any irritating background noise.
Be tech savvy
There are dozens of tools out there that will help you be more productive. I use DropBox to share files with regular clients. It saves time and prevents files sent via email disappearing into the ether or taking forever and a day to arrive. Skype is also useful, especially for teleconferencing. Why waste time and money travelling to meet a client when you can have a video conference on Skype? It’s a no-brainer really.
Make apps your new best friend. Evernote is a brilliant app for freelancers. I use it when I am away from my desk. I can jot down ideas and make notes for later.
Cut down on the admin
Routine admin is a serious drain on productivity. Like all freelancers, I am required to maintain accounts and submit an annual self-assessment tax return. I also need to send invoices to clients, which again can be a real time drain.
To minimise the amount of time you spend on essential admin, make use of tools and apps. Quickbooks provides invoicing software, which I find really useful. It’s also worth using accounting software; there are plenty of free software packages for freelancers, so try a few out and see how much time you save.
Unplug the phone
Unsolicited marketing calls and people trying to persuade me my computer has a nasty virus are the bane of my life. I used to answer the telephone if only to hurl abuse down the line, but now I unplug it during working hours. If anyone important needs to contact me, they will ring my mobile or send an email.
Get up earlier
Are you a morning person? If so, start work early and make the most of the best part of the day. My brain functions a lot faster in the morning, so I am naturally more productive between 8 AM and 1 PM. After that, my productivity tends to decline somewhat. Coffee helps, but I often experience a massive energy slump around 3 PM. If I lived in Spain, this would be my siesta time. Sadly, I don’t.
Go to bed earlier
I literally cannot work if I am sleep deprived. It feels like my brain is only firing on one cylinder. Everything takes ten times longer and I struggle to string two coherent words together. I used to try and battle through, but I have learned from bitter experience that trying to work when I am really tired is a waste of time. Now, unless I have a pressing deadline, I close my laptop and call it quits until I feel more rested. A few early nights usually does the trick for me.
Avoid screen time after 9 pm
I confess I am a Netflix addict, but after binge watching all seven seasons of The Good Wife, followed by five seasons of Breaking Bad, I discovered that staying up until midnight every night is not good for my productivity levels. To maintain optimum productivity levels, I need to be in bed and ready to sleep before 11 PM.
Do any of these productivity hacks tick your boxes? Let me know!