If you’re an online freelancer, you may find it extremely difficult to keep your productivity stable.
Why? Well, because you barely have any accountability. No boss breathing down your neck expecting you to be working around the clock.
Instead, you have your cute dog or cat at your foot wanting to play, your comfy bed awaiting the next nap, and the next episode of your favorite TV show queued up in Netflix.
With all these distractions that could easily take hold and wash away an entire day, how do you stay productive and actually get work done?
Here are some tips.
Ditch your home
Your own home, by far, is the worst place to work. Your home is for many things, but work shouldn’t be one of them.
Why? Well, it has everything to do with associations and habits.
For example, your bed should only be for sleeping (and the other thing…wink wink). That way, when your head hits the pillow, your body associates that space with whatever habit has been ingrained in your brain. The more consistent you are, the stronger the associations will become. Doctors tend to make this recommendation for people who have insomnia.
And this goes for your work and productivity, too!
Over the entirety of your life, your brain has associated your own home with things like relaxation, entertainment, quality time with family, and others. Meaning, anytime you choose to work on the couch, your fighting your previous (and much stronger) associations your brain already has.
It’s a battle that you’ll most likely lose.
What you need is a designated workspace. A place where the only thing you do when there is work. That’s it. Nothing else. Ever. This place COULD be in your home, but I wouldn’t recommend it because anytime you have to go to the bathroom, you’re going to be tempted to break out of that mindset.
You could also try a local coffee shop. Sometimes this one is a little tough because the internet speed may not be enough to suit your needs.
Or, if you’re willing to spend some money, I would recommend trying a coworking space. The spaces are specifically designed for freelancers and small teams to work with little distractions.
If you want luxury, I’d recommend going with a big coworking company like wework. They have offices around the globe. However, they are a bit pricey. But, if you prefer something small, affordable, and personal, I’d recommend you go with a local coworking business. There are usually a few in every major metropolitan area.
Here are some with great reviews:
- Orange County: Pro Desk Space
- Los Angeles: Kleverdog Coworking
- Chicago: Ampersand Cowork
- New York: Workville
Live like a minimalist
A cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind. Don’t do it. If you were left in a room with nothing but a ball, you’d probably spend a majority of your time focusing on the ball – because it’s all you have to focus on. By the same token, if all you have is the document you need to review sitting in front of you, you’ll most likely get to work.
And this same idea is not limited to just tangible things. If you have more than 3 tabs open right now, close them… If you have an episode of The Office playing as background noise, shut it off. If your “Downloads” or “Desktop” file destinations on your computer have more than 5 files, store the remaining away.
Remove the distractions, and only focus on one thing at a time.
And, be sure to only include what you need on your way to work. A backpack or briefcase that’s portable, with lots of useful pockets for you to stow away all of your necessary work items like laptop, mouse, charging cables, etc. And if you commute to work, be sure you pick yourself up a waterproof backpack so that your valuables don’t get wet during an unexpected downpour.
No, you’re not good at multitasking
People claim to be really good at multitasking. However, according to neuroscience, the brain is terrible at doing multiple tasks at once. Rather, our brain rapidly switches focus from one task to another. This happens so quickly that you may think you’re multitasking, but you’re not.
So, news flash, watching your favorite Netflix shows as background noise is probably harming your productivity – a lot. There could be times when you ignore it, but the second you hear something funny and start actively listening, your focus will be taken away from the task you’re working on. It could be brief, but then a latency period may follow where it takes you a few moments to get back into the groove of the task you were working on before.
And as you could imagine, this could easily happen hundreds of times a day. That’s a lot of time wasted.
Now, this isn’t to say that you should operate in complete silence, but anything containing actual words that need to be interpreted should be avoided. So if you’re into instrumentals, then go ahead. In fact, they are probably better because they act more like white noise, drowning out the more noisy distractions that may be around you while you’re trying to work.
Just put your phone away, please
The infamous notification chime that your phone emits is such an exciting sound. A new email? Facebook like? Your favorite YouTuber released their newest video? Your latest Instagram post is starting to go viral? Most of the time, all of it can wait.
So, put your phone on Do Not Disturb and out of site. Or shut it off, which is even better.
And if you need a little extra help, you can try special apps that help you stay focused. There’s an app called Flipd that actually has a mode called Full Lock Mode, where it removes the ability to use any apps besides Phone and iMessage (in case of emergencies). Once you go in Full Lock Mode, you can’t even stop it if you wanted to. The only way for it to stop is if you wait until the designated time is over (which you set at the beginning). It’s worth a shot if you just can’t seem to curb your bad habit.
Start with the task you don’t want to do
For me, adopting this particular strategy was a game changer. I used to put off my most boring or hardest task to the last minute. However, throughout the month, these tasks never left my mind, and the longer I put them off, the harder it was to actually start them. So, as soon those tasks arrive, do them – immediately. That way, your mind will be clear to tackle the rest of your workload.