As a freelancer, the success of your career depends on the work you produce everyday. Failing to create results for clients will leave them unhappy and looking for a new freelancer. Trust me, I know.
I think every freelance entrepreneur has felt exhausted, burnt out or simply lacked motivation at one point or another. Maybe that’s the very thing that made you click to read this article in the first place.
It happens to the best of us, regardless of how long we’ve been in the game. And that’s why it’s so important to develop strong productivity habits.
It doesn’t matter how many challenges, distractions or interruptions that you face in a day. You’ve got to learn how to manage the constant struggle of working alone, dealing with the temptation of having the entire Internet at your fingertips, random people interrupting your flow, and the countless of things that may come up in a given day.
If you don’t, you’ll fail. If I don’t, I’ll fail. It’s just the harsh reality of the path we’ve chosen.
So, let’s learn some simple ways to make your work day super productive despite everything that tries to stand in your way. These almost-effortless tips will help you maximize productivity and minimize stress, so your time working is earning and your time off is really time off – both mentally and physically.
1. Use the ABCDE Method for Prioritizing Tasks
Have you ever had so much to do that you didn’t know where to start?
In these cases, the ABCDE method can be used to determine where to begin, what to finish, and where to end – taking you from overwhelmed to ready, one step at a time.
To use the ABCDE method, all you need is your pile of work, a pen, and a notepad. Begin by creating categories for each letter and then sorting your tasks into relevant categories:
- A: Tasks that must be done to avoid serious consequence (e.g. a project due in 5 hours).
- B: Tasks that should be done (e.g. finding more work, a gig due by the end of the day).
- C: Tasks that would be nice to finish, but that either don’t have to get done or don’t have to get done immediately (e.g. updating your promotional website or a night out).
- D: Tasks that you should delegate (e.g. administrative duties or household chores).
- E: Tasks you need to eliminate (e.g. alphabetizing your to-do list or ironing the curtains).
Once you’ve finished your list, you can start from the top and work your way down. While the number of tasks may be the same, knowing where to start and how to progress brings empowerment and accomplishment to your day.
2. Identify the Most Important Tasks Using the 80/20 Rule
While the 80/20 rule can apply to a variety of situations, it’s especially useful for you in your freelancing career. The general principle of the 80/20 rule as it applies your workflow is that 20% of the effort you put into your work yields 80% of the result.
Identifying which clients or projects take the least effort and pay the most is key. Once you know who these clients are or which projects this describes, you can focus on:
- Seeking more work from those or similar clients.
- Prioritizing this work above other clients.
If you truly master the art of the 80/20 rule, you’ll decrease your time investment and multiply your payout. And that’s every freelancer’s dream.
3. Work on Your Most Difficult Tasks First
There are two primary reasons to tackle your most difficult projects first:
- According to Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, people are most productive during their first two hours of the day. Doing the most difficult projects when you are most productive ensures that it gets done in a timely, effective manner.
- Leaving a difficult project until the end of the day can result in dread and distract you from the tasks you attempt in the meantime. “Eating the frog” first thing in the morning gets the task that weighs down on you most out of the way and enables you to focus entirely on each subsequent task as you tackle it.
I’m not going to lie – it takes an incredibly amount of willpower to decide that you’ll do that most difficult task first. But it’s definitely worth it. From my experience, consistently completing your most difficult task first can consistently improve your productivity, mood, and results.
4. Set Aside Blackout Times Throughout the Day
Set specified period of times during the day in which social media, telephone calls, and emails are off limits. This is a great way to help you eliminate distractions and focus on work.
A few tools can make staying on task easier:
- FocusBooster for Macs and PCs times your “focus time” in 25 minute intervals, followed by an alarm and a five minute break to maximize focus and productivity.
- TrackTime for Mac tracks how you spend your day and provides a report whenever you choose to access it. It can be an eye-opener to see how much time is wasted on non-work-related sites.
Sometimes you just don’t have the strength to say no. Using tools like these takes the decision out of your hands, which is perfect for days when you feel particularly distracted or unmotivated.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Saying “No” to Tasks and People
Every freelancer has a point in their career where they’re constantly straining their limits. The idea of more pay makes more work seem worth it.
But it ultimately can lead to burnout, poor work quality and the loss of clients.
Learning to say “no” is one of the best productivity tips you can learn. It’s all about understanding your priorities, limits and strengths. Don’t be afraid to turn down work that you don’t want to do, don’t have time to do or simply don’t feel inspired by.
Have you learned how to overcome your struggle with productivity? If so, share your best tips in the comments below. And don’t forget to share this article with all your other freelancing friends on social media.