Working from home or even an office as a freelancer can be very rewarding. Free time, creating your own schedule, the chance to be your own boss—the freelancing life is one that a lot of people envy.
Unfortunately, without a boss or supervisor breathing down your neck, the accountability starts to decrease and freelancers can become entangled in a web of distractions and procrastination without even realizing it.
Facebook, emails, Twitter, blog comments, your mother calling to gossip about the family —all of these and more vie for your attention.
Distractions are all around you, from your telephone and your neighbor’s barking dog to Facebook and a YouTube video that has been calling your name.
Do any of these distract you too? I know I have fallen prey to these types of distractions more than once.
- Your mother calls and you pick up the phone while in the middle of a client’s project…how can you leave your mother hanging?
- Your friend emails you about his latest accomplishment…how can you not call him back? He deserves a quick congratulations. You can finish your work later.
- A client emails you about a project but it is not a rush. You feel obligated to answer even though you need to finish what you are working on. You will finish the project later. The email will only take a few minutes.
This word will take on a life of its own if you do not omit it from your mind’s vocabulary. Trust me, distractions always last more than a few minutes, even if they are only one minute long. If you add that time up, it will amount to money you could be making doing more projects.
Friends and Family
Consider your workday similar to how you would work for an employer. Our friends and family don’t seem to understand that just because we work from home doesn’t mean we are available during the day. When I started freelancing, I often was asked to help family and friends with tasks during the day. Because I was working from home I decided it was not a big deal. I soon realized that these activities were stealing my productivity. It was time for me to consider my workday the same as anyone else in corporate America or anyone who works for an employer.
How do you resist these distractions?
First, create a daily schedule…
Image by iotdfi
If you don’t set daily goals, you will open up the door to many distractions. It’s nearly impossible to stay focused if you don’t have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish and when.
Break up your weekly goals into daily tasks. At the end of the day, you will feel great for accomplishing your goals and you will also not be struggling at the end of the week to get your work done because you were distracted.
Here is a rundown of some tips and the steps I take to create a daily schedule:
- Every Saturday or Sunday, compile your tasks by weekly goals and client deadlines.
- Break up your tasks into daily increments. Your goals should reflect the time you have in the day, not overwhelm you or give way for multiple distractions. For example, every other Monday I have a personal commitment so I know on Mondays I cannot complete as much work as I can on Tuesday. I factor this into the equation instead of just randomly filling out the schedule.
- Don’t forget about miscellaneous tasks. For me, this equates to lead generation, social media updating, responding to project inquiries and emails, crafting proposals. Some other miscellaneous job-related tasks could include writing a blog post, researching a competing website, watching a design tutorial, etc. Factor these tasks into your week as long as they are applicable to the work you are doing. You can research training tips for your dog during breaks or after work hours.
- Schedule your miscellaneous tasks. Pay attention to how much time you are spending on them. You may need to adjust your schedule as you move along, but this is a great starting point. I currently spend about 30 minutes to an hour on miscellaneous tasks daily. How do I know this? Stay tuned to learn about a cool time tracking tool below!
- Your work schedule doesn’t have to be 9-5. As a freelancer you have the ability to create your own schedule. If you are a parent, your hours may be different than someone who is single. The goal is to ensure you meet your daily goals whether your day starts at 12 pm or 7 am.
- Breaks and Fun Stuff – Make sure to schedule breaks because they are very important. Your mind will need time to re-energize. I schedule a few small breaks during the day and one lunch break. On your breaks you can do fun stuff like going on Facebook for pleasure, watching cool videos or taking a walk in the beautiful weather (yes, I live in sunny Southern California).
- Tip: If you have trouble staying on one project for more than 30 minutes, schedule your breaks in smaller increments. You may need 5-10 smaller breaks during the day instead of 2 large ones.
- To beat those urges to procrastinate, write out your weekly schedule and post it in front of your computer. As you finish each goal, check it off and go on to the next one.
Tips to Deal with Procrastination
When you are working on a project, try not to step away from it until it is complete. If you are like me, you have 25 windows open at the same time and any one of them can be a distraction. Email is my biggest challenge. To combat this, I tell myself I can only check my email once a project is complete and I cannot answer any emails until my miscellaneous time or after work hours. The only emails to which I respond are pressing client projects or deliverables.
We all know how boring a task can become if it is dragging on and on. Instead of running to Facebook or texting your friend, switch to another project or start doing some of your miscellaneous tasks. Resist the urge to go off your schedule unless it is close to break time. Sometimes your brain just needs something different to do.
If you feel like you will have a hard time sticking to your daily schedule, ask someone you trust to make you accountable at the end of every day. Put your schedule up for all to see so you can be held to it.
Use a Time Scheduling Tool
Chrometa is an amazing free tool that tracks your every move on your computer. It will show you exactly what you do each day from how much time you spend on Facebook to the hours you put into a client’s project.
The image above is what a day would look like in its simplest form. As you can see I was away for 2 hours and 51 minutes (you can pause the tool when you step away from your computer) and it breaks down my tasks into the sites and programs I visited. If I click on each entry, it will display a detailed summary of specific information. For example, if I click on Mozilla Firefox, it will show me the 32 sites I visited and how much time I spent on each.
You can also categorize by project and create invoices for clients. If you are working on a project paid by the hour, you can send your client an invoice directly from the interface with a detailed description of your time (this is a paid service). You can personalize the entire system to your freelancing schedule and projects.
This tool helped me realize how much I was procrastinating and how much time I was spending on frivolous tasks. I realized that one minute away led to ten and when I added up all of my one minute distractions, it amounted to hours of procrastination…not a good business model by any means.
Other Awesome Tools:
- Wunderlist – to keep track of your tasks
- – to save you from wasting too much time by telling you what you did
In the end, if you want to beat procrastination, you must get honest with yourself. Look at your daily activities as if you were someone else looking over your shoulder. In the end, it is YOUR success that is being affected.
No one is perfect so take a load off…but don’t allow yourself to become complacent in the process. We all face procrastination in one form or another. If you really want to become efficient and grow your freelancing business by accomplishing your goals, you must take a close look at what you are doing daily.
Also…please don’t think you can’t do this. I was the queen of procrastination. I used to do my work whenever I felt like it and was constantly distracted by Facebook and emails. If I can become more efficient and productive, so can you.
Take it from a fellow procrastinator…if you put the effort in, you will get the same reward back. And eventually, finishing tasks will feel more rewarding and something you will want instead of something you dread.
Do you ever procrastinate as a freelancer? Share with our readers how you beat procrastination or if you need more help accomplishing your goals.