Ah, procrastination. The freelancer’s most ancient enemy. Deadly foe of deadlines, everybody falls into its grip sooner or later.
However, without the structure and supervision of an office environment, filled with eagle-eyed colleagues and managers, procrastination is perhaps more of a problem for freelancers than for most.
To be successful as a freelancer, you need to be self-motivated and excellent at managing your time. Even if you’re the absolute best in the world at what you do, too many missed deadlines will still kibosh your career before too long. So it’s vital to find ways to keep procrastination at bay and minimise those pesky distractions lurking all around you.
Here are some tips to help break procrastination cycles, enhance your focus, and amp up your productivity:
- Understand your enemy. What draws your focus away from work? Is it social media? Your pets? Netflix box sets? The pub? Whenever you find yourself getting distracted, make a note of the distraction. Knowledge is power. If you know your procrastination ‘triggers’ you’ll be more able to avoid them.
- Work when you’re at your brightest. Most of us have an optimum work time, when we’re most energised and able to focus. One of the great things about freelancing is that you don’t have to cram your work into another’s daily schedule. Find out what time of day (or night) your neurons are firing at their best, and use that to your advantage.
- Do the hardest job first. Get the task you’re dreading out of the way, and the rest will follow easily.
- Don’t displace. I’m chronic at tricking myself into feeling productive by carrying out ‘useful’ but ultimately time-wasting tasks. Doing the hoovering, for example. Don’t displace your productivity like this. You can’t hoover away a deadline!
- Break tasks down. Sometimes, we procrastinate because we’re daunted by the scale of our workload. Breaking your work down into bite-sized chunks can help. Make a list of tasks, sub-headings, or whatever else is relevant, and work your way steadily through.
- Just do something. As a writer, I find that procrastination vanishes once I’ve defeated Blank Page Syndrome. Just getting something – anything – down on paper kicks my brain into gear. Scribbling out even a vague outline of your material will break the back of a procrastination episode. Don’t worry about quality. After all, you can always go back and edit or alter later.
- Ditch perfectionism. Perfectionism is the enemy of productivity. Yes, we all want to produce quality work, but nothing is ever perfect first time around. The important thing is to get something done in the first place. As mentioned above, you can edit and adjust to your heart’s content once you’ve got the basic shape of your material down – but trying to be perfect from the get-go is a recipe for missed deadlines and self-recrimination.
- Learn what helps you to focus. Everyone’s optimum work conditions are different. I struggle to focus if there are other people around, but I know plenty of freelancers who are at their best with a bit of background bustle. Some people are more productive with a radio on in the background (or even working from a laptop in a coffee shop), while others prefer silence and isolation. Learn the conditions which bring out the best in you, and stick to them.
- Close non work-related tabs. Particularly social media tabs! OK, I admit that this one is tricky if your job involves engagement with social media...but do keep away from internet rabbit holes if you can. Digital distraction is a real project-killer.
- Go phone free. See above. If you can keep away from your smartphone, do. If you need your phone on hand for client calls, disable the WI-Fi and mobile data. Getting dragged into a WhatsApp chat is not going to further your project.
- Remember your motivation. Why are you doing this work? To earn money? To further your career? To help someone out? Whatever you hope to gain, keeping that end goal in mind and visualising your favoured outcome can help keep you motivated.
And if you’re ever procrastinating about going after that new client, then The Work Crowd is the perfect solution. We make it easy to see who’s hiring and connect with exciting jobs at agencies and SMEs. So, there’s no excuse to delay finding your next project!
Need some help? Then give us a call on 0203 828 8440 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.