Productivity Tips for Freelancers

Your productivity is constantly under threat. There are distractions like email, phone calls, social media, friends and family dropping in (who equate working from home with always being free to drop what you’re doing and go out). How do you stay productive?

1. Make it clear that work hours are work hours.

Friends and family mean well but they are often your biggest productivity suckers. Tell your friends and family that although you work for yourself that you still work. Although you have more freedom to step out for an extended lunch you still need to plan. Ask friends to call or email before scheduling some socialising so that you can organise your time appropriately.

2. Manage your phones

Random phone calls while you’re in “the zone” are a massive productivity killer. Just because a phone rings there’s no reason to answer it. You have voicemail – use it! Set aside part of your day to review voicemail messages and to answer calls. The tool is a tool that you use to support your business – it’s not your master.

3. Tame your email

Email has simultaneously made it easier for us to communicate and become a noose. It’s common for people to receive hundreds of email per day. So how do you stay on top of your inbox? Start by learning how to create folders and use rules to automatically file messages. For example, I have rules in place that move all press releases out of my inbox into a specific folder. That makes them easier to find later and reduces the clutter. And like your phone, set aside time to deal with email each day – resist the urge to read and deal with each email as it arrives.

4. (Anti)Social Media

Social media can be a a very useful tool but also a vampire that can suck the productivity out of your working day. If you use tools like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook for research and contacts make sure you quarantine the times you use it and stay task focussed.

5. Breaks, not Broken

When you plan your day out, allow for breaks. Short rest breaks aid productivity by keeping your brain fresh. Systems like the Pomodoro Technique suggest working for 20 minutes and then taking five minutes. Every four of five intervals, take a longer break of 10-15 minutes. There are plenty of programs you can run on your computer that sound an alarm or show an alert at a fixed interview. And don’t forget to take a proper lunch break. I also like a coffee break mid morning and usually head out in the afternoon for the school run.