One of the trickiest parts of being a freelancer is being disciplined in your work. The autonomy that comes with being your own boss also brings the temptation to give in to distractions. It also opens the door for overwhelming yourself with too many tasks.
Without strategies for navigating the challenges of freelancer-work life, you’ll struggle to reach an optimum level of productivity. To get your work routine on track, here are the four most essential productivity hacks for you to put into practice.
1. The Pomodoro Technique
Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian, so you might be thinking that something called the Tomato Technique is a little bit silly. Wrong. It is one of the most time-tested and effective methods for remaining productive in your work.
The time management technique gets its name for the use of a tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by the system creator Francesco Cirillo. Practitioners of the Pomodoro Technique divide their work into 25-minute intervals, with short breaks in between. These intervals—pomodoros—are meant to be distraction-free periods of steady work. If distractions come easily to you, Cirillo says to start the same task again or abandon the task for now.
2. Inbox Zero
Lost in a sea of e-mail? It is time to embrace the Inbox Zero approach to your e-mail messages. Developed by writer and speaker Merlin Mann, Inbox Zero is a productivity protocol to keep your inbox empty most of the time.
First of all, Inbox Zero says to never leave your e-mail client open and only check it throughout the day at regular intervals. When a new e-mail message arrives, you must take one of five courses of action:
If a message takes longer than two minutes to reply to, you should defer by sending the e-mail to a special folder you create. Schedule time on your calendar to tend to those messages, along with any “do” items that you set aside for later.
3. Forced Deadlines
Freelancers of all kinds face deadlines in their work. That is the date when the client needs your project to be in by. However, setting your own deadlines can provide you with the motivation you need to get a head start, finish projects early, find more projects to work on and make more money.
Make your deadlines as short as possible—within the same week or month. Setting deadlines too far in the future tricks your brain into thinking you have plenty of time to get to it, which means you are more likely going to wait until the last minute to finish it.
4. Bullet Journaling
What better way to harness your pent up creative energy than by creating a bullet journal to help increase your productivity?
Bullet journaling, or bujo for short, takes planning out of the digital realm and back into the world of ink and paper. Creator Ryder Carroll describes bullet journaling as a way to “track the past, organize the present and plan for the future.”
Bullet journals often feature an index of sections and a key that explains what different symbols mean. Journalers then record their progress through a bullet-list of priorities, activities, and appointments. You can take notes, doodle, or whatever works best for your brain. There are many different techniques and recommendations for bullet-journaling to explore as you get into it.
Time to Focus
Putting just one of these productivity systems to use can give you the structure you need to get your work done.
Give them all a try to see which ones work for you. Or take your favorite parts of each one and adapt them to your regimen. The key to being a productive freelancer is finding the right mix of hacks that work for you.