It’s Friday, it’s summer, and you probably don’t feel like working today. Especially when the weekend beckons and it’s 100 degrees outside. I feel your pain. It can be pretty hard staying productive and resisting the urge to leave that pile of work until Monday.
But, if you want to fully enjoy your weekend, don’t get beaten by your inner sloth. Freelancers, listen up! Check out these top tips for staying productive:
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Wait, what? Stop working? Isn’t that the very opposite of staying productive? Yeah. I don’t mean to unplug your PC. That isn’t going to win over any clients. But if you’re hitting a creative block or the heat’s making you slump over your screen, get up and take a break.
Staying productive isn’t about staying glued to your seat at all times. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that the most productive workers are the ones that factor in time to switch off.
So, no matter how many words you have to translate, or marketing campaigns you need to finish, don’t skip on your lunch today. And don’t forget to take short breaks to breathe in fresh air, call your Mom, or simply stretch your legs.
Do The Hard Stuff First
It can be oh so tempting to leave that pile of excel edits until last. But, believe me, you’ll feel so much better getting the hard stuff out of the way first! Staying productive is almost impossible with a black cloud looming over your head.
So, get that tax return completed. Write that challenging article, or deal with the whiniest of clients. First.
You’ll be infinitely sprightlier throughout the afternoon when you’ve cleared your plate of the brussels sprouts. When you’ve made room for the succulent pork ribs, or double chocolate ice cream.
If you didn’t get the metaphor and I just made you hungry, then get up and satisfy your urge! Get a snack, get prepared, and then whiz through that tricky task. And stop thinking about Ben & Jerry's!
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Take a Shower
Staying productive isn’t easy if you’re vegging out in your pajamas. But there isn't a freelance worker alive who hasn’t worked from their nightgown at some point or another! Well, here’s a newsflash for you: the clothes you wear actually affect your performance.
OK, so one of the best things about being a freelancer is not having to put on a suit. But, personal grooming is important, whether you're working on Wall Street or from your living room.
Take a shower. Freshen up. Shake off the lethargy from the night before and start your day the right way. It makes staying productive throughout it infinitely easier.
Keep All Your Windows Open
Fresh air may be helpful to staying productive. But not when it’s hot out or you work next to a construction site. The noise and humidity will infiltrate your brain like smoke from a cigarette.
So, unless you live in the countryside, or Pleasantville or something, you may want to shut out the outside. What I mean here is opening the windows on your browser. The more, the better! Go 20 tasks to get done before you shut down (or spontaneously combust?) keep 20 windows open!
A word of caution. This is not a tip that will work for every freelancer. Some people like to work more methodically (usually men) and get one thing done at a time. But if you want to skyrocket your productivity, start working on your projects simultaneously.
Not only will you get things done quicker, but you’ll also get to take a mental break from one challenging task as you pick up another. Sometimes, something as simple as taking your eyes away from a document for a few moments and coming back to it later can help you catch the errors.
Of course, your computer may overheat and crash. Which is not conducive to staying productive. But if you’ve got a decent machine and you’re up for the challenge, keep all your windows open. I guarantee you’ll be bolting out the door quicker than usual if you try working on multiple tasks at once.
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Take Internet Breaks
This is a hideously unhealthy habit to get into, but do it anyway. When you’ve got a lot on your plate and staying productive is your goal, taking internet breaks can help.
How does it work? Distracting yourself from one task for a moment can ramp your brain cells up for the next one. And it will also serve to structure how much time you waste on social platforms and online shopping sites.
So, factor internet breaks into your day. Allow yourself 10 minutes every couple of hours to check your Facebook, comment on Twitter, and see if there are any great vacation deals.
Just be strict about how long you allow yourself. Spending all afternoon pitching in on group chat or bidding on an eBay bargain isn’t going to help staying productive.
Get a Designated Workspace
Work from home? It can be hard to establish your own office. We don’t all have the resources to have our own room we can shut the door on. But, here’s a tip to staying productive, whatever your situation. Set up a designated workspace.
Whether that’s a corner of your kitchen, or desk in the hallway. If you can close the door on it, so much the better. But, if not, just keep a space in your home designated for work.
Why is this important to staying productive? Because when you work all over the house, from the living room, kitchen, or balcony; your work follows you wherever you go.
You never get a chance to mentally relax and free yourself from your to-do list. Even when your day is done, if your laptop is staring at you, you're never going to feel mentally free.
I have one friend who locks his laptop in the trunk of his car last thing on a Friday. Personally, it would be impossible for me to not access the net for 48 hours. Not to mention that, in my neighborhood, I’d never leave something so valuable in my vehicle!
But, you get the point. A space for work and a space for play.
And whatever you do, keep it as far away from your bedroom as possible. Your bedroom should be reserved for a couple of things, and work is not one of them.
Limit Your Email Checking
The jury’s still out on how often you should check your email. But, a new school of thought suggesting that staying productive means limiting it to twice a day.
The thing is, there’s a world of difference between being busy and being productive. If you already know you have 35 things to do, finding out frequently that you have more to add to the list is not helpful to staying productive. In fact, it can be outright depressing.
I check my emails first thing, reply to the ones I need to, keep the window open to come back to, then check them again later in the afternoon.
Staying productive is not about spending hours answering emails. It’s about getting the work done that's in them. Read, act, then reply once the work is done.
Make Staying Productive Your Goal Today
Don’t let the heat get the best of you today, or the fact that it’s almost the weekend and you’ve been hard at it since Monday. If you’re just waking up, here’s what I suggest.
Go get washed, dressed, and get out of the bedroom! Check your emails, open all the windows you need and get started!
When you can, get up and walk around, or check in on your ailing sibling. When you can’t, hop on over to Twitter, or start on a different task.
Best of luck staying productive freelancers, you can do it! And you can write me a thank-you note on Monday.