The best strategies for freelancers to increase productivity, optimize time and stop procrastinating in life and work
To increase productivity, you know, you need to optimize time.
Do you, too, find yourself concentrating the maximum amount of work right the day before the due date? Or do you start getting distracted and reading all about wild duck migration on Wikipedia instead of completing a task?
First, don’t worry: you are not alone.
However, procrastination can become a really big deal and is mainly the alarm bell that you are not working the way you should.
After many years of working as a freelancer, I have often had to deal with myself and with the optimization of my time in order to be able to be more productive and be able to carve out more free space, to devote myself to my children and my hobbies. .
In this article I wanted to collect all my reflections on the subject and talk to you about those techniques to increase productivity and optimize time that worked great for me.
I hope they will be useful to you too!
But why do we tend to procrastinate?
It is not clear why we procrastinate.
The most accredited explanation is that we tend to shift our attention from something that scares us or makes us anxious towards something lighter and less demanding, from checking Facebook notifications to doing the washing machine.
This is to obtain a momentary gratification which, however, has absolutely deleterious implications. Those who tend to procrastinate, in fact, live the situation with a strong sense of guilt that often generates greater anxiety, creating a vicious circle from which it is difficult to get out.
How to stop procrastinating
Procrastination is often not a problem related to bad time management but rather to a bad management of emotions.
Think for a moment about climbing K2 or reading War and Peace. In practice, I don’t know exactly what it’s like to climb K2, I’ve never done it, but I guess it’s not exactly a walk in the park.
War and Peace, on the other hand, I read it and I assure you that as much as I love classical literature, if I had eaten a brick I would have probably digested it better.
Now, when we are faced with an undertaking that seems titanic to us, what is the wisest and most reasonable thing to do?
Instead of looking at the whole situation as a whole, it is better to divide it into many small steps.
In this way carrying out every single action will be much easier and the tendency to distract ourselves with some softer activities will be reduced.
- Do you have to climb K2? Start with one step.
- Do you have to read War and Peace? Start with a page.
- Do you need to write an article for your blog? Make a list of the various titles and subtitles, as I did when writing this article.
So if you have to write a blog article, immediately create the structure of the article by creating the titles that will define the paragraphs. Then start with one paragraph, end it and pause before moving on to the next paragraph.
In this much simpler way to stick to your pc with the idea of writing a small paragraph rather than thinking you want to put together 2000 words right away.
Strategies for freelancers to increase productivity
If you want to become a freelancer, you will quickly realize that improving concentration and increasing productivity will be one of your main goals.
What are the strategies that will allow you to increase your productivity and stop (basically) procrastinating?
Here is my personal top 10, i.e. all those methods and activities that have helped me increase my productivity and optimize my time.
1- The Pareto principle
The Pareto principle is a very simple principle that can be applied in virtually any situation in life.
It is also called the 80/20 law and states that 80% of the effects or results produced are the consequence of only 20% of the causes.
- We wear only 20% of the clothes we have in the closet 80% of the time
- On TV we watch 20% of available programs 80% of the time
- We hear from 20% of our friends 80% of the time
And it can also be applied in marketing. In fact, 80% of the earnings will be given only by 20% of your work.
So how to optimize time and increase productivity by following the Pareto principle? Simple: find all those 20% and dedicate yourself exclusively to those activities. They will be the ones that will get you 80% of the results.
A book that I found enlightening on the subject is the 80/20 book which helps you achieve greater results with minimal effort.
2- Don’t pursue perfection
If you intend to reach a goal or launch a project, whatever it is, waiting to make it perfect before presenting it to the public will lead to only one inevitable result: you will never leave.
Imagine having a university exam. If you wait to be fully prepared for that exam, trust me: you will never take it.
If you are waiting for your digital book / product / course to be truly perfect, you will never launch it.
Do you know what is the best time to start something? Yesterday!
Go, start, go for it. You can always improve yourself along the way.
3- The timer technique
If you have an important task to do but you can’t stay focused for a long time, I recommend a very effective technique that I usually use and that allows me to achieve all the goals I have set myself in the allotted time: the timer technique.
The timer technique is very effective in increasing productivity.
The name comes from the kitchen timers. All you need to do is get one and set it for 30/35 minutes.
During this time you will have to concentrate totally on what you are doing, eliminating all external distractions, from mobile to social networks. When the time runs out you can take a break of 10-15 minutes and you can start over with a new timer.
In fact, after 30-40 minutes of activity, the brain tends to get tired and distracted more frequently. With small time steps, therefore, you can stay focused on a goal for longer and thus increase the chances of finishing the work you need to do with more concentration and faster.
4- Do one thing at a time
Focusing your attention on too many activities or on too many projects, in fact, can make you run the risk of losing sight of the main focus. For this reason, many recommend dedicating yourself to only one project at a time, a bit like Apple does with its products.
I am not a lover of this method and I have therefore found an equally effective alternative.
After the initial enthusiasm for a new project, in fact, I tend to fall into the trap of routine and lose the stimuli that made me get off to a great start.
For this reason I always try to keep 2/3 projects open, trying to keep them well separated from each other. In this way my concentration will always be directed towards a single focus but the stimuli I will receive will not lead to routine.
5- Optimize your time with apps
Applications are my salvation. Initially I was very skeptical and continued with paper diaries, post-its and various notes.
Not that I don’t use them anymore, God forbid, only now I have a strong predisposition for applications.
Here are 3 of my favorites:
• Omnifocus: allows me to keep all the projects with the related objectives always under control and to set deadlines.
• MindMeister: to build concept maps to always keep at hand.
• Evernote: Simply great for taking notes, and not forgetting the everyday things that come to mind.
6- Create a routine
While the routine risks losing enthusiasm, having one (or more than one) helps to establish precise timing, even physiological ones. This is one of the most important business strategies for freelancers.
For example, by always waking up at the same time, your body will synchronize your biological clock, making you wake up at the same time even without an alarm.
Create a habit immediately as soon as you get up (which is the most important moment of the day!) And try to make sure that this habit creates a positive emotion for you.
If you know how to associate awakening with a positive association, you will have a double advantage:
- you will wake up with more relief
- you will bring you the feeling of morning well-being throughout the day
7- Define your goals
If you do not have set goals, you will only be wandering aimlessly, and reaching your destination will be very difficult.
But be careful, the objectives must not be random but must have some characteristics:
- must always be specific (do not remain vague)
- must be reachable (you cannot learn German in a month!)
- they must be verifiable (you must be able to verify that you have achieved your goal)
- they should have an expiration date
8- Face your fears
There are thousands and thousands of words to write about this topic, but I guess this has already been done by someone much more expert than me on the subject.
I will therefore confine myself to reporting my simple life experience.
I’ve always been a very determined person. This does not mean that I have never been afraid: fear of making mistakes, of failing, of not achieving my goals,
Sometimes facing fears can be difficult. This is why I have always tried to get around the problem: not by avoiding facing my fears but by finding stronger motivations than fear itself.
If the motivation remains high, the fears will gradually tend to seem smaller.
9- Don’t feel guilty if you occasionally go wrong
Although this might not fit in the category of strategies for freelancers, it’s an important part of your path.
Going astray is human.
If you find that you have wasted your time or that you have not given 100% to achieve a result, do not snuggle up do not justify yourself. Rather forgive yourself and leave great.
A bit like a diet. Who has never failed every now and then? The important thing, however, is that cheating is the exception, not the rule!
10- Find time to relax
Warning: this is the best advice I can give you. It seems paradoxical but to optimize your time and increase your productivity you won’t have to work like a madman day and night.
This will soon tire you out and cause you to lose sight of your goals.
Give yourself space to relax, have fun and take care of yourself. It is definitely the best way to achieve all your goals in the right spirit!
I hope this long article has been of help to you and has given you some food for thought.
To your success!