As a freelancer, it matters not how much time you have spent in front of your computer but what you have completed on the project. What matters is productivity rather than the number of workhours and it is in your best interest to be as productive as possible.
Productivity is influenced by lots of factors. Sometimes you don’t have many options how to improve your productivity but more often than not, there are numerous small tricks that can make you finish more in less time and with less effort. Here are some of these tips.
1. Keep Yourself Healthy and Fit
Obviously, when you are not in good physical shape, you usually can’t work with your full potential. When you are exhausted even the simplest tasks take ages. This is why it is almost always best to work not till you exhaust yourself but till you are still in good shape. When you reach the exhaustion point, it takes days to finish a task you finish in less than a day, when you are in good shape, which in addition to being a torture for you, is everything but efficient.
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You need to learn to stop before you are tired because when you get tired this cuts your productivity big time. It makes sense to give yourself a couple of days a rest and then work again because if you are tired, you won’t be able to do much in these couple of days except exhaust yourself further. I know that very often deadlines press us and there is no time for rest but we just need to remember that 2 or 3 days of rest can make us do 3 or 4 times more a day, so it pays off.
2. Make Your Work Environment Cozy
In addition to health problems, nothing harms your productivity more than a work environment you hate. The distractions could be of all kinds, such as noise, uncomfortable furniture, lack of light and/or ventilation, family members, etc. It is not a matter of stoicism to stand this. You can stand it, but if it decreases your productivity, or kills it altogether, it makes no sense to torture yourself.
You need to make your work environment cozy. Get a good monitor, a comfortable chair, ensure lightning is proper, remove all distractions – all these are not whims but absolute necessities for you to work well.
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Noise is a particularly bad distraction because it prevents you from concentrating and if you live in the same premises, it can deprive you from sleep, which can further ruin you. Noise isn’t something to put up with. If your place is noisy, you might have to rent an office. I myself can’t count the times I moved because the place I lived in was noisy, too cold/too hot even with air conditioning/heaters, etc. and all these interfered with my work big time.
When I compare how much I was making while living on a big boulevard where ambulances passed every 10 or 15 minutes and how much I am making in a quite environment, all equal, the difference is about 6 times or more! (Not to mention the opportunity to get sleep on a regular basis.)
3. Plan in Advance
I am perfectly aware it is not always possible to plan in advance but when it is, do it. When you know your tasks in advance, you can distribute the workload more evenly and avoid last-minute rush. Also, you can finish a task when you feel like doing it, rather than force yourself do it because it is due today. It is a known fact that when one does something because he or she wants to, not because is forced to, it is more enjoyable and the results are much better.
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4. Improve Your Communication
The time lost on communication is huge! On the other hand, without communication with the client, no work can be done. This means you need to learn how to communicate more in less.
For instance, visits to the office eat lots of time. Sometimes they are unavoidable but when they are use alternatives. Use more the phone, and even better – email when possible – this saves lost of time. I had a client who always wanted me to go to their office because he believed this is the best way to get the job done but these visits took me hell of a time and at one point I politely told him that we should arrange things in a way that don’t require such frequent visits.
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For me personally email is the best communication tool. When calls are necessary, of course I use them but since calls also take lots of time, I usually avoid them. Sometimes it is hard to keep calls short and to the point and I can remember a couple of cases when I had Skype calls that lasted for hours. I was so exhausted after each of them and a single call almost killed my day!
5. Try to Avoid Rework
While corrections are frequently necessary, rework is pure waste of time and energy. When you have to rework, this means you haven’t planned the task properly. It is best to negotiate the task in detail before you start – this usually helps to avoid rework. When not sure, ask the client to clarify what he or she wants instead of deciding on your own because later, if the client is not pleased with your choices, you might have to rework everything.
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6. Start with the Hardest Project First
This is a tip I learned from an editor I worked with. In the morning he used to write his articles and in the afternoon he did editing tasks because these were easier. Basically, this approach is to do the hardest early when you are still fresh and to leave the easier tasks for later.
On the other hand, if mornings are not your productive time, you can reverse. Just remember to leave your most productive hours for the most difficult projects.
7. Reject Projects that Are Too Difficult for You
No matter how much you know, you can’t know everything. You might be tempted to accept a project in an area you are barely familiar with or a project that simply is lots of work but this usually isn’t a wise idea.
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When you take a project that is too difficult for you, you will exhaust yourself pretty soon and you won’t have the time and energy for your other projects. Yes, the pay might look great, or the project is a real challenge but if you don’t have the skills, or if the project is huge, it won’t take long till you reach the exhaustion point, which can turn your schedule upside down for weeks!
8. Cut All Distractions and Time Wasters
Freelance work is lonely. And this is for a reason – you need all your undivided attention for your project. It probably goes without saying that instant messengers, Facebook, Twitter, etc. distract you and waste your time. Nobody says to give them up completely but while you are working, you’d better forget about them.
Sometimes your contacts will continue sending you messages or tweets but you need not to pay attention. Tell your clients and your friends that you are on Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc. once a day and let’s hope they will understand.
9. Consider Outsourcing
If work is simply overloading you, you might have to consider outsourcing. If you have never done it before, you might think outsourcing is painless but this certainly isn’t so and you need to be prepared. For instance, when you outsource, this increases your communication overhead because you need to answer questions, for example. When considering outsourcing, factor the time and energy you will need to communicate with the external party and only after decide if outsourcing will relieve your workload or just the opposite.
10. Reward Yourself When You Work the Way You Want It
We are not cats or dogs but we also need to be pampered. Rewards help us stay motivated. For instance, when you reach a milestone, do something you like – i.e. go see some friends, get something delicious to eat, see a movie, etc. The good thing is that you will also relax this way, which in turn will help you work better afterwards.
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For a freelancer, productivity is very important. You are your own boss and you need to know how you can do more with less effort in less time. Productivity boosters vary from one freelancer to the next and not all of the tips in this article will apply to everybody. However, if you start applying these tips, you will certainly see productivity improvements. Your productivity might not increase in heaps and bounds but even a moderate 50 percent increase is a good start.