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How to Stop Wasting Time for Freelance Workers
Everybody has some pet distraction that keeps him from focusing and working at full productivity. For me, I get sucked into Pinterest and frolic among the geek humor. You may obsessively post your status on Facebook, watch funny animal videos, or check your stocks. You may even waste your work time by being productive in another area; I have a friend whose kitchen is always spotless whenever she has a big deadline.
The point is, we freelancers have limited time, and no one is paying us to goof off. Here are some tips to help you focus, get your work done quickly and well, and stop procrastinating!
The number one way to keep yourself on task and stop wasting time is to figure out what you actually need to accomplish in a day. Take the first five minutes of your work day to prioritize:
- Check your calendar for deadlines and meetings.
- Make a list of tasks that need to be done in order of importance. (Any project due today should be at the top, but don't forget to schedule time to work on projects due in the near future, so you don't have to pull an all-nighter before the next deadline.)
- Check your email quickly, deleting spam and solicitations first so that you can see the important stuff. (This should only take a minute or two!) Then read work-related emails and add any new tasks to your list. Save personal emails for your break time.
- Finally, begin your work day with the most urgent task. Work down your list from there, saving low priority work for the end of the day.
As a freelancer, you need to keep accurate records of the time you spend on a project. Here are some other ways your clock can help you stop wasting time.
- Challenge yourself to work in short bursts. If you know you can accomplish a small task in fifteen minutes, set a timer and blast through. Reward yourself with a small treat (such as reading your favorite blog's daily post), and then set your timer again.
- Keep (honest!) track of your wasted time as well as your productive time. After a day or two of seeing all the hours you could have been making money go down the tubes, you'll be more motivated to stay on task. This is especially helpful if you get paid a flat rate per project — there's nothing like seeing your hourly rate drop from $40 to $25 because you couldn't stop reading about the latest reality show drama!
- Time your breaks. Everyone needs a break once in a while, but if you want to spend yours on the Internet, ten minutes can quickly stretch into half an hour or more. Set your timer for ten minutes, and then when the alarm goes off, log out of your browser, go to the bathroom or get a fresh cup of coffee, and settle back to work.
Keep Your Home Office Clean and Organized
You'll work better and be less distracted in a clean, tidy environment.
- Don't clutter your workspace with knickknacks or photos. Home office desks are usually not as large as in a regular office, so you need all your horizontal space clear for projects that you're currently working on. Put office supplies into a desk drawer, and hang photos on the wall, preferably to the side or even behind you, so they don't distract you.
- Stay organized. Your computer has folders for a reason; use them to keep documents for a single project or client together. If you're not paperless, file papers as soon as you've finished with them. Keep your printer paper and ink stocked, so you don't have to waste time running to the store when you're on deadline.
- Clean up after yourself. Avoid the distraction of smelly leftovers or dirty dishes by taking five minutes at the end of the work day to clean your area.
How do you procrastinate?
Don't Allow Interruptions to Derail You
Working from home means occasional interruptions from the phone, the kids, the doorbell, or the dog. Deal with the interruptions quickly, and then get right back to work. The fact that you spent the last fifteen minutes mediating an argument between your kids does not mean you "deserve" to goof off for the next half hour to de-stress.
Your time is precious; use it wisely!