There is a harsh, but undeniable truth when it comes to freelancing.
The more productive you are, the more work you get, the more money you earn.
It’s the circle of (freelance) life.
With the rise of technology, self-employment continues to flourish as more people are keen to become their own boss. Since 2001, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has seen a sharp rise in self-employed workers in the UK.
If you work from home or dabble in remote working, you will know that life outside of the office means indulging in a plethora of benefits. Nonetheless, it also has a downside. Whether it’s getting distracted by the TV, feeling lonely during the day, or simply wanting to ask someone for help – it’s a battle every freelancer will face at some point in their career.
The question is, can being your own boss and maintaining that high level of concentration and productivity actually be achieved from home?
Here are 7 tips to help you focus and smash that weekly to-do list.
Declutter your workspace
It’s rather true when you hear “Tidy room tidy mind” and if you have a dedicated room or workspace that you retreat to, you’re already one step ahead. Sitting on the sofa working from your laptop is OK some days and can be rather comfy. However, sitting at a table with a flat surface in peace and quiet, away from distractions, can work wonders for both your mind and body. Before working, file away any loose bits of paper and receipts, tidy away cups, plates, books and anything that can be seen as clutter. It’s worth keeping a basket in your space for pens, pencils and stationery, which ultimately saves you time when writing down notes from a client call or when you have a sudden brainwave.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise dehydration can drastically alter your working performance. Research has shown something as simple as a 1% drop in hydration levels could lead to a 12% drop in productivity. Not only will a lack of fluid have a negative influence on your mood, hunger and fatigue, but it can also decrease your levels of alertness. Aim to drink six to eight glasses of water every day and keep a bottle next to you while you work.
Try the pomodoro technique
A lot of the time, working from home can leave you feeling like you’re racing against the clock. Whether you have a set deadline or need to get everything done before the kids get home, the Pomodoro technique, created by Francesco Cirillo, is a fantastic tool to help you reach your own objectives. (It was even put to the test whilst writing this very article!) This effective time management method helps you to focus, by making you do concentrated work in short bursts. Use a timer to break down work into intervals – traditionally 25 minutes in length and separated by short breaks. Learn more about and try the tested method here.
Digital Content Creator, Kat Sonson from Sonsonmedia.com, says that she likes to use the Pomodoro technique where possible. There’s also no notifications on my phone and I try and stand up whilst working too. I’m certain you’ll be more focused!”
Write a small to-do list each day
The upside to writing a to-do list means you know exactly what you need to do. The downside? A lot of us tend to write down more than we can physically handle. Remember we only have 24 hours in a day (the same as Beyonce) but we can’t be productive for all of them. Start by breaking down your task list into smaller, manageable chunks. A great thing about the digital age is that there are so many materials and applications you can use in order to keep track. By writing out your plans, actions and ideas in a notebook, or by using online platforms such as Trello or Asana, this is a sure way to keep you motivated and on track for your work ahead.
Get out of your workspace
A lot of freelancers admit to working longer hours, if not double than what they were doing in their full-time role. Therefore, this usually means twice the amount of work scrolling on our screens or being hunched over our desks. It’s important to get up each day and move around. Every hour, stand up and stretch your muscles, walk to the kitchen and put the kettle on, or do some light yoga. By removing yourself from work and taking deserved lunch breaks, you’re allowing your mind and body to recharge before sitting back down.
Annie Ridout, the author of ‘The Freelance Mum’, said: “I recommend getting some fresh air before you start work – a jog, brisk walk or just five minutes on the doorstep if you can’t leave the house. Or if you’re in a slump, change your environment. Relocate to a coffee shop for a change of scene or even just another room in the house.”
Dedicate time to anything else
Have you ever been in so much of a funk that you can’t concentrate? Burn out is extremely common when being your own boss, so make it your mission to set aside 1-2 days per month solely allocated to doing something different. Whether it be taking a day out to see friends, working on your own business plans, writing poetry, listening to music or heading to the local spa, don’t forget that everyone needs downtime too. Give yourself a break, you’ll thank yourself for it later.
Join an accountability business group
It’s not as scary as it sounds and has nothing to do with paying your latest tax return bill. Taking part in an accountability group means commenting on a live thread (mainly on Facebook or a live thread) and telling other freelancers what you want to achieve by a certain time that day. There are dozens of friendly freelance groups online which are open to join. A highly recommended one is ‘The Freelance Lifestylers’ on Facebook for your daily dose of encouragement and inspiration. Accountability sessions go out at 10 am every Thursday, but ad hoc ones are posted too.