Every freelancer wants to be more productive. Work harder, smarter, faster and have more free time after work. But what are the best practices for being more productive? How do we go about boosting our productivity?
These twelve easy life hacks to boost productivity will help you focus on what needs to be done and help you to achieve your goals and targets.
What Is Productivity?
Productivity isn’t just getting stuff done. It’s about maximising the output while being efficient with your time.
To be productive means only focusing on accomplishing essential things in your business and life.
Identify the things that will help you move toward your goals and make sure you spend quality time achieving them.
What Is Procrastination?
Procrastination is when you put off something important you know you should be doing in favour of doing something more mundane or unimportant.
When you’re all set to write that new blog post, Google your target keywords to do some research, and then, oh wait, somebody, replied to my Facebook group post. I’ll just quickly respond to that.
Procrastination is the enemy of productivity.
I’m as guilty as anyone else of being a procrastinator. Just ask my wife!
Why Is Being Productive Important?
As a freelancer, you likely charge clients for your time in a 1:1 exchange, so your time is precious.
Being able to prioritise your time and hit your goals equates to more money in the bank, so productivity is critical for all freelancers.
Common Reasons For Not Being Productive
- Lack of planning or clarity
- Distractions AKA Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)
- Lack of energy and enthusiasm
- Not knowing how to prioritise
If you want to be generally more productive, address all the points above.
Here Are My 12 Easy Freelancer Hacks To Boost Productivity
1. Plan Your Day Ahead Of Time
Planning your day ahead of time is likely the most vital hack to boost your productivity.
I sit down for 30 minutes every Sunday afternoon and plan my week, jotting down important tasks and goals that need to be accomplished in my Lux Productivity Planner.
Then, at the end of the working day, I spend 15 minutes checking and updating my tasks and calendar for the next day before I have to leave for the school run.
Starting the day with a clear plan of attack mentally grounds you and helps prevent procrastination.
2. Work In Short Bursts
Working in short bursts is scientifically proven to increase your productivity.
The “micro productivity” strategy prevents you from putting too much stress on the body and allows the brain to “reboot” after a rest period.
If you haven’t tried working in short bursts before, I highly recommend starting with a podomoro timer.
A podomoro timer allows you to set 25-minute bursts of work with 10 minutes for rest and refocus before you start the next activity.
3. Define Your Workspace
If you work from home, as most freelancers do, it’s essential to define your workspace.
Whether it’s the guest bedroom converted into an office, the corner of the living room or the end of the kitchen worktop, let others you share the home with know that this is your workspace, and when you are there, you are working and not to be disturbed.
There are many distractions when working from home so having your own space to work in knowing you won’t be bothered is essential.
Try to choose a space that isn’t in a high-traffic zone.
If you have older kids at home, let them know you are only to be disturbed in emergencies when you are in your workspace.
If you plan to video conference with clients and colleagues, consider what’s in your background space – nobody wants to see dirty laundry or be distracted by what’s on the TV.
Try to keep your workspace clean and tidy, and distraction-free.
4. Peer Accountability
Working from home can be lonely and comes with endless opportunities to procrastinate.
If you feel you are struggling to get tasks done in time or generally losing focus to other distractions, having a peer network can help with accountability.
There are many online co-working streams on Twitch where you can “hang” with other freelancers and set and complete tasks while you work.
Others on the stream can see what task you are working and most have some sort of podomoro timer running.
During the breaks, you can jump on chat, ask people about their activities or just have a refreshing, fun chat and break.
To find a peer accountability stream, search Twitch for “co-working”.
Just make sure you don’t get distracted by other Twitch streams!
5. Complete a 7-Minute Morning Workout
It sounds counterintuitive but exercising first thing in the morning helps boost your energy throughout the day.
Completing an activity first thing in the morning sets your mindset for productivity.
A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning, and decision-making.
In the study, participants completed a round of 8-hour days of prolonged sitting with and without a 30-minute morning walk on the treadmill. On some days, they also took 3-minute walking breaks every 30 minutes.
The days with morning exercise were associated with better daily cognition, especially when paired with regular breaks.
You don’t have to complete an hour-long high-intensity exercise to gain the benefits.
Try our morning exercises with this easy-to-complete 7-minute workout.
6. Write Down Your Top 5 Daily Important Tasks
What tasks do you critically need to achieve today?
Writing down your tasks on paper or your preferred task list has many psychological benefits.
First, it gets the task out of your head so you can stop worrying about forgetting it.
I’ve read Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done book several times.
One practical tip he gives early on in the book is to write your tasks down when they pop into your brain, and I can tell you it works for me.
If you already have a list of tasks jotted down somewhere or if you’re working through a client project sprint, choose the five critical tasks that you need to achieve today.
Make sure the tasks are achievable within your daily time limit, or break them down into several sub-tasks.
Here’s a fantastic post on the benefits of writing things down.
7. Avoid Multitasking
What is it that makes multitasking such a productivity killer?
It might seem like you are accomplishing multiple things at the same time, but what you are doing is quickly shifting your attention and focus from one thing to the next.
Switching from one task to another may make it difficult to tune out distractions and cause mental blocks that can slow you down.
Whenever you start to multitask, you lose focus and quality on each task as your brain tries to pay attention to a broad scope rather than the narrow laser focus you’re looking for to be super productive.
I’m a big fan of doing one thing at a time and doing it well.
Pick off jobs from your task list and execute them one at a time.
Close your other browser tabs and keep your phone in vibrate mode while working on your task.
8. Start Your Day With The Toughest Or Easiest Task?
Should you start your day with the most challenging or straightforward task from your list?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of both of these strategies.
The Benefits of Completing the Easiest Task First
- Quick to finish, and you get a sense of accomplishment. Tick it off your list and gain momentum to move on to the next task.
- You know how to achieve the easy task, so mentally, there are no hurdles to getting started. Jump straight in.
The Downsides of Completing the Easiest Task First
- Mentally you know that a difficult task is lingering on your list of things to be done, which can stress you out, affecting your performance and productivity.
- The more complex task gets pushed to the end of the day when you’re starting to lose energy, focus and engagement. This can prolong the activity.
The Benefits of Completing the Toughest Task First
- With the most challenging task completed, all remaining tasks seem easier to achieve.
- First thing in the morning, your body is energised, and your mind is alert, so you are using your full potential to tackle the problem.
The Downsides of Completing the Toughest Task First
- The most challenging task can take a long time to complete, leaving you no time to complete the easier tasks. These easier tasks can be bumped daily; some may be just as critical to finish as the more complex tasks.
- The psychological stress of the task difficulty may hinder getting started, prolonging the activity.
If you’re interested in using the toughest task first strategy, a helpful book to read would be Scott Allan’s Do the Hard Things First.
So, what’s the answer? Which strategy is the best to use?
Mixing your tasks and varying your workload throughout the day is the answer.
You know your own body, so schedule the most difficult tasks when you feel you are at your peak focus energy levels.
9. Create a Break Agenda
Whether you use a podomoro timer or not, taking a break is essential.
Your body and brain need time to rest and refocus, so make sure that you schedule some breaks throughout the working day.
Lunch is an excellent beak time to start with, as it essentially cuts your work day in half.
Work through the two remaining periods and add some break time where you can get up, stretch, walk around, go to the bathroom and grab a cuppa.
10. Use SMART Goals
Using SMART goals changed the way I work.
When I started running my business, I was just winging it from hour to hour and task to task.
Of course, I had a business plan with some long-term goals and an idea in my head of what I wanted to accomplish short term, but there was no way to measure my successes.
To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:
- Specific – strategic and specific.
- Measurable -meaningful and motivating.
- Achievable – agreed and attainable
- Relevant – reasonable and realistic.
- Time-bound – time-based or time-limited.
I’ll use the following example goal to explain each part of the SMART goal acronym.
“I will grow my email list by 250 subscribers in 60 days, using content marketing and social media to drive traffic to a specific offer page with a signup form.”
For a goal to be practical, it needs to be specific.
A specific goal answers questions like:
- What needs to be accomplished?
- Who’s responsible for it?
- What steps need to be taken to achieve it?
In the above example, the specific goal here is to grow my email list by 250 subscribers, and it’s clear that the task is assigned to me, and I’ll be using social media and content marketing to achieve the goal.
You can’t assign success or failure to a goal if there is no way of measuring the results.
In the above example, I aim to increase subscribers by 250 in 60 days.
This goal can easily be measured as I’ll either succeed or fail.
Goals need to be realistic and achievable within the time and resources allocated.
If a task seems too gargantuan to complete, that’s usually a sign you need to break it down into smaller parts.
In the above example, I plan to use content marketing (blog posts) and social media (forums, commenting, DM’s) to drive people to a landing page with a signup offer.
That’s a very achievable action that I can do within the time.
Zoom out and think about your goal and how it fits into the big picture.
Does the goal help you move forward and tick off requirements if this is a client project?
Are you going to get a return on investment (ROI) in terms of money, time, branding, awareness etc., for your business by completing this goal?
In the above example, I know that email marketing is 36% more effective than any other digital marketing technique, so growing my list will directly impact my business profits.
Every goal needs a target date so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward.
I prefer to stick to shorter time frames over more extended periods to quickly measure the results, apply what I have learned and set new goals.
In the above example, I estimate that 60 days is a reasonable time for me to achieve 250 new email subscribers.
I could not achieve that goal in seven days and 120 days feels too long to wait to get the results I want.
11. Ditch Perfectionism
“Are we there yet?“
How good is good enough?
Perfectionism is something I struggle with.
Rewriting, researching, changing, polishing, adding, subtracting, refactoring, and so on.
To increase your productivity, you need to be able to finish your tasks and goals and move on.
Is a website ever finished? Never.
Will a blog post convert 100% of your ideal customer avatar (ICA)? No.
Combining perfectionism and procrastination is a perfect storm to stimy productivity.
It’s time to be OK with things being just OK. Not perfect, but good enough.
12. Work In Natural Light
Our bodies are built to sleep at night and be active during the day – just ask any night-shift worker how hard it is to stay awake and alert.
My last productivity tip is to set up your workspace near some natural light, ideally next to a window.
Exposure to natural light helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, improves our circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, helps us focus, and even makes us happier.
You will be more productive if you are happy, healthy, and focused.
If you want to be more productive in your freelancing work and business, plan to implement one of these productivity hacks this week.