I’ve been freelancing for about two and a half years now. Here’s what I’ve learned so far about staying productive:
- Make yourself accountable to someone else. Schedule regular check-ins with the people you are doing work for since you’re unlikely to want to show up to those empty-handed. If you’re not working for anyone, schedule presentations to update your family or friends on your progress. Social pressure is an amazing motivator.
- Break down larger projects into discrete chunks and assign each chunk a deadline. Projects I haven’t broken into manageable sub-tasks are less likely to ever get started, and tasks that have no deadline are unlikely to ever get finished. It might feel overly forced at first, but once your calendar/to-do list is calling the shots, it takes on its own air of authority.
- Schedule meetings in clumps. Nothing breaks up my concentration as dramatically as meetings. Since one meeting can derail an entire day, why not just plan them all on one day? Then I don’t expect to produce anything and am not disappointed in myself when I don’t.
- Get structured about email and social media. The constant stream of activity is hard to tear yourself away from, so make some rules. Unless it’s an essential tool in your work, don’t look at Twitter or Facebook until after lunch (at the earliest). Get good at delegating emails. 99% of them don’t need an immediate response, so star them and get back to work. Better still, schedule intervals for looking at your email; try first thing in the morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day.
- Keep in mind what your productivity killers are. If you know your enemy, you’re much more likely to be able to defend yourself against it. E.g. when a meeting ends, I know I have to really concentrate on getting back on track because I’m especially vulnerable to distractions at that moment.
Now stop reading this and get back to making stuff! 😉