5 productivity tips for freelancers who want to do more, better
In “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”, Nicholas Carr writes, “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention.” He concludes that we willingly surrender our concentration, while readily accepting the fragmentation of our focus and thoughts. In short, we’ve become addicted to distraction and it’s killing our productivity.
Whether you’re a new or seasoned freelancer, time will always be your most valuable asset. Yet it’s also one we tend to be the most careless with. So here are some tips to help you be most productive with the seconds, minutes, and hours you have to produce your best work in 2018.
1. Learn to say “no”
Remember why you got into the gig economy in the first place? There was something (or things) you particularly enjoyed, and wouldn’t mind doing all the time. Define what that ideal looks like, and use it as the framework to evaluate the offers that come your way. It’s tempting to scrape the bottom of the barrel if you’re new or when times are tough, but you ultimately risk spreading yourself too thin to do your best.
So learn to say “no”, and understand that it is not the kiss of death. The trick is to do it honestly and without closing the door completely. Your future self and clients will thank you.
2. “Eat the alien first!”
Becky Blanton said, during her TEDGlobal session, the first thing you do each day should be the hardest task you have to do because everything else will taste like chocolate cake with coconut sprinkles after that! Saving the worst for last drains your focus as the dread lingers like the Ghost of Christmas Past. So get it out of the way and move on. You’ll find yourself liberated, inspired, and ready to take on the world.
3. Gamify your work
As a freelancer, you’re wearing all the hats needed to get the job done. But we also know that not all jobs are created equal. Jennifer Mattern uses gamification in her writing to create and motivate desired behaviors for reaching goals. From using a timer to implementing a points or rewards system, the key is to have a prize worth working towards to keep up the drive. Apps like Habitica.com and Mindbloom allow users to chart their progress visually and interact with one another for added competition and encouragement.
4. Don’t let multitasking kill your brain
We hear you. “But I’m good at it!” Think again. According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, this is an illusion. The brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time, and bombarding it with information slows down its cognitive performance.
So what’s that sense of achievement after replying to an email, posting a tweet, and checking your phone messages in two minutes flat? It’s a dopamine hit (or a sugar high for the brain), and it’s more fluff than substance.
Research conducted at Stanford University shows that multitasking can damage a person’s brain and career. Looking for that candied high misleads the brain into thinking we’ve done a lot, when we’ve done little of importance, in reality.
5. Embrace automation
Remember, you’re in the knowledge economy. For everything else, there’s technology. Automation is merely taking over tasks we’d prefer not to do in the first place, like manual time tracking and invoicing.
When you free yourself from mundane tasks, your productivity and creativity are spent instead on being human, may it be writing your next blog post, building relationships with your clients, and composing music for broken hearts. It’s the very thing that separates us from machines.
Make 2018 your most productive year for freelancing.
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