Being productive with your time is one of the best ways to ensure that your freelancing career is going to be sustainable. If you want to make the absolute most out of your time it is going to take discipline, practice, and a few of the tips we have outlined below.
There are hundreds of productivity tips out there and many of them are great, but we have been using these for over a decade and they continue to be the most fruitful hacks we know of. We are firm believers in the Pareto Principle and we consider these 5 productivity hacks for freelancers to be the very best tips that deliver more results than most of the others.
If you have any productivity hacks for freelancers and the self-employed that you would like to share please feel free to contact us and we will add it to a future post!
Top 5 Productivity Hacks For Freelancers
As we mentioned above, there are so many productivity hacks out there that your head will spin trying to find the ones that are best for you, so we will save you some time by sticking with 5 simple hacks that will certainly help you get more done in less time.
You will notice that with the list below it is best to use each of these hacks simultaneously as the stack will amplify your productivity in ways you never thought possible. You can certainly use any number of the below tips to be more productive, but I can assure you that if you add all 5 together you will be blown away at how much you can get done in a single day.
Ready to get and stay more productive? I sure hope so, because as a freelancer it essentially means more money and more free time!
1. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
No matter where you work having a set of noise-canceling headphones will help you stay focused and get more done with your time. There is something about being able to turn down the volume of your house, the coffee shop, your office, the road, the hotel lobby, or anywhere you are working from for that matter while turning up the volume on your productivity.
A good pair of noise-canceling headphones will run you a couple hundred bucks, and there are more affordable options, but if you really want to get the benefits we describe then it is going to be best to save up the cash and make it happen.
2. Ambient Music
Now that you have your new fancy headphones in and you are ready to get to work, some good tunes are going to be the best next step. I would not recommend listening to music that you tend to dance, sing, tap your fingers, or air guitar to because that will most certainly distract you from the task at hand.
Multiple studies have shown that listening to classical music, downtempo electronic music, and ambient soundscapes can help increase your level of focus and concentration. Listening to nature sounds and ambient music especially can help lower blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and help you get and stay focused for long periods of time.
For those of us that are typically pretty high strung and/or high energy the soothing sounds of nature or ambient music can help keep us in our seats, and focused on the most important tasks on our plate.
Personally, I listen to tracks from Groovemuse like the one below. They are very atmospheric and easy to listen to. There are also no ads or breaks in the music to distract you.
3. Pomodoro Technique
As we have written about at length on our School For Startups blog you can learn more about the Pomodoro Technique here. But for the sake of keeping you on our website and giving you the short version of the story we have outlined all you need to know.
Essentially the idea is simple, you set a timer to go off every 20 to 60 minutes depending on how long you think you will be able to focus for, and you commit to staying focused on one particular task until the timer goes off.
When the timer goes off you break for anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes and it is recommended that you stand up, walk away from your work, stretch, get some water, play a good song, or anything that allows you to shake off the stagnant energy you have been building up during your sprint.
Once you are done with your break, you get right back to it and repeat until that task is done. Then you move on to the next.
The idea is to avoid any and all distractions while you are in a sprint and if anything pops up in your head like checking Facebook, calling back a friend, or whatever it is, you either dismiss the distraction if it is not important, or you make a quick note on a notepad and give yourself permission to come back to it once your sprint is over, but not a second sooner.
It is advised that you start with 20-minute sprints and work your way up from there. I personally work in 40-minute sprints with 4-minute breaks, but I know others that work for 90 minutes with 10-minute breaks. The trick is to find what works best for you. It may also change over time or depending on the tasks you are working on.
4. Turn Off All Notifications
This one should go without saying and is critical in helping you get your tasks done. You must, and I mean you must turn off all notifications and distractions. Put your phone in Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode, go into your settings on your phone and computer and turn off all dings, pings, and pop-ups that tell you every time anything happens.
Turn all of them off, and don’t look back. I promise you that if you give yourself the space to get things done and ignore your texts, phone calls, emails, etc. during your sprints the world will keep on turning. You do not need to know every time Elon Musk tweets. Period.
All joking aside, turning off your notifications and avoiding distractions while working is one of the best decisions you will ever make. Combining this with everything else outlined in this post will make you so much more productive than you could imagine.
5. Schedule Time For Tasks
Now that you know just how to get things done, and be the most productive bad-ass version of yourself it is time to block off time in your calendar to do the work.
As a freelancer you know just how valuable your time is, and you also know just how easy it is for clients, prospects, YouTube videos, and phone calls from friends to distract you from getting your work done.
Being a freelancer means you own your calendar, not your clients and you get to decide when it is time to get down and dirty, get the work done, and ship whatever it is you are building.
If you are a morning person and are hyper-productive between 7 and 11 am then block that off to get the most important tasks done. If a client asks to do a call at 8, tell them you are not available. Period. They won’t care I promise.
If you are a night owl, and a lot of creative freelancers tend to be, then block off that time in the evenings or late at night to get the work done. Again, if it is on your calendar it is there to stay. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment or a birthday party for your best friend. It does not move from your calendar and no one can take that time away from you.
Now, you have what you need to get to work. I have been using the above techniques for over a decade now and I have tried so many productivity hacks as a freelancer and these are hands down the most effective ones available.
Now get to work! :)
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