Do you work from home? Did you make a New Year’s resolution to boost your freelance productivity this year? Samesies.
2017 was a MAJOR time of transition for me (here’s why if we’re not Facebook friends). Now that I’ve made it through all that, I’m resolving to make 2018 my best year yet! While I’m going to continue to be gentle with myself, I’m also putting a lot of effort into working smarter and being productive.
So in the spirit of getting shit done but also being gentle with myself, this winter I started to incorporate more tools and techniques that increase my freelance productivity while also understanding/eliminating the things that don’t.
You should join me!
Here’s a quick summary of the best freelance productivity tips I’ve learned and adopted so far:
- Study your mood and habits and adjust accordingly
- Maintain a morning routine
- Make your workspace work for you
- Hold yourself accountable
- Take a legit lunch break
- Get enough sleep
And now, let’s dive in to the details of how to get ‘er done.
1. Gather data on yourself and then USE it
Ergonomics and a tidy workspace aren’t the only things that impact your productivity — internal factors like your overall wellness do too, and may even be more important. I use a free app called Pacifica to track my mood and habits. (I wrote about Pacifica in a previous post as well)
Here’s what I track:
- My mood — I try to log it 2-3 times a day and make sure to note productivity-related feelings too (i.e. whether I feel anxious, overwhelmed, motivated)
- Amount of sleep
- Number of alcoholic drinks
- Minutes of meditation
- Minutes of exercise
- Whether I use my SAD lamp for light therapy
By tracking these things for several weeks, I was able to make some associations between my mood and my habits.
I found out that I need at least 8 hours of sleep. I found out that I feel happier when I exercise. I found out that meditating even for 5 minutes a day helps me stay focused and positive.
And I’m totally willing to implement ALL of these things if they’re going to help me feel better on a daily basis!
2. Do the same thing every morning
It’s easy to wake up when the sun comes up early, but in the winter I find it nigh on impossible to get out of bed. Once I’d nailed down the fact that I need to get more sleep every night, I also decided to try and make the process of waking up suck less by sticking to a pleasant morning routine. Doing a few simple things that I enjoy every morning makes it way easier to get out of my bed. (Even when I’m cozy in my new FLEECE SHEETS OMG.)
You should incorporate the things that make you happy, but here’s what’s working for me:
- Take a sip of water
- Put slippers on
- Go pee
- Open blinds in living room
- Light incense
- Make coffee
- Turn light therapy lamp on at desk
- Ease into work
By the way, if you struggle with seasonal depression like I do, I highly recommend this light therapy lamp. I don’t know if it’s a placebo, if it’s just the morning routine that helps me, or if the light really works, but it’s doing wonders for my winter doldrums.
Also, my cat loves to bask in front of it. And my friend who has the same lamp says her cats love it too. I think cats know something we don’t, and I trust them.
3. Make your workspace comfortable (but not too comfortable)
I’m a bit of a fidgeter and tend to think better when I’m pacing. I got an inexpensive desk riser to transform my desk into a standing desk, and it’s made a huge difference. It puts me in work mode instead of lazy mode, and I can walk around as I think of what to write. This is the one I bought.
When I get tired of standing, I can either move the riser and sit at my desk like normal, or go sit on the couch with the new lap desk my mom got me as a Christmas gift. This lap desk is something I didn’t know I needed until I had it! I have been using it when I’m working from the couch because it has a slide-out mousepad and keeps my laptop from burning up my lap. It’s also easy to slip into my work backpack and would be perfect in airports and on planes.
I love being able to change my workspace to promote productivity!
4. Hold yourself accountable
When you work at home, you have to be the manager of your own time. There are lots of tools that can help you do that, it’s just a matter of finding the right ones. Here are a few favorites of mine:
Use Toggl (free) to time yourself as you do tasks
Timing yourself while you work on common projects. If you know it takes you X hours takes you to do Task Y, you can budget your time accordingly to prevent future “oh sh*t I procrastinated too long” moments.
This will also keep you from expecting too much of yourself in one day. Do you ever put like eight things on your to-do list for the day, then freak out at the end of the day when you’ve only accomplished two? Now you won’t.
Use a Pomodoro timer
The Pomodoro technique means working in 25 minute blocks (called pomodoros) with 3-5 minute breaks in between. After four pomodoros, take a longer break. If you decide to use Toggl to track your tasks, its Chrome browser extension includes an optional pomodoro timer you can turn on/off in the settings. Thats what I use!
STOP SCROLLING ON FACEBOOK
Now, I know some of us need Facebook for work and can’t cut it off altogether. This solution is perfect for kinfolk like us. It’s a free Chrome extension called News Feed Eradicator that replaces your Facebook news feed with an inspirational quote. You can still access groups, pages, and anything else you can find on your sidebar or via search, you just won’t have the constant distraction of your news feed when you land on the Facebook homepage. Cuz who really cares what everyone else is up to? This is a year of YOU!
5. Take a REAL lunch break.
It’s good to shift your focus completely away from work when you take breaks so that you can return refreshed afterward.
I like to take a full hour to heat up leftovers (or cook something up) for lunch and watch a couple of YouTube videos. I’m a wuss when it’s cold out so I haven’t tried this yet, but when it gets warmer I plan to start taking short walks around my neighborhood at lunch.
Also consider using part of your lunch break to do a brief meditation with an app like Headspace or Insight Timer. It’s amazing how refreshing it can be to take a few minutes to recharge.
6. Get the sleep you need.
Your first step is to try out the app Pacifica, which I mentioned at the beginning of the post, to figure out how much sleep you need each night to feel your best. My other sleep quality tip is to reduce screen time at night, or at least reduce the blue light your screens emit — blue light disrupts your sleep by tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.
Newer iPhones have a Night Shift function to filter out blue light — use it! For the computer, I like the blue light filtering app F.lux.
Happy New Year! I hope this post helps you get more sh*t done, be happier, and make more money this year.
P.S. Check out this post for other great work-from-home & freelance productivity tips!