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How to Stop Wasting Time for Freelance Workers

Updated on November 17, 2012

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!

Prioritize

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.

Time to get to work!
Time to get to work! | Source

Time Yourself

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.

This home office is tidy, and all the necessities for work are within reach.
This home office is tidy, and all the necessities for work are within reach. | Source

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?

See results

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!

Comments

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    • Brilqntin profile image

      Diana 4 years ago

      Nice hub! Thanks for writing and sharing it :) I agree with all of it and if I may - I'd add that a couple of things that have proved to be working for me through the years.

      1) set working hours - whether it's 2 or 12 hours pee day that you're working, doesn't matter. What matters is structure and set hours helm better organize. Of course, it's OK to not keep the working hours now and then - things happen and this is the beauty of being a freelancer :)

      2) keep my Skype and other chat platforms off while I am working this way I avoid the distraction of needy friends and colleagues and clients who didn't set up a meeting in advance. If I am working on Skype - e.g. I am in a meeting with a client, I put the do not disturb sign - same functionality as being off ;)

      Hope these helped, too.

      Voted up!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Brilqntin: That's a great tip about Skype and instant message functions — they're just another distraction that you don't need taking you away from your work! Having set hours can also help, especially if your time is limited and you have a lot to accomplish. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Well, I'm quite sure I not your "friend whose kitchen is always spotless whenever she has a big deadline." Lol. But seriously, great hub. Useful tips and voted up and useful.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Ha! Clevercat, I know you procrastinate by dressing up Barbie dolls, but I didn't think that was common enough to mention here. ;-)

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      There should be a *like* button for comments. :^)

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My big downfall is having Facebook open and flipping back and forth between sites. I have to learn to buckle down and stay off Facebook while I'm trying to write.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This hub applies to people working at home too. My husband works from home and we have very distinct spaces. When he is working he is working. It takes a lot of discipline. Good hub. Voted up!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Glimmer: You're absolutely right! There are plenty of people who work from home but are employees of a larger company. They must be even more vigilant about not wasting time, since their employer has the right to know how they are spending their working hours!

      Susan: Social networking is a huge time suck. Maybe you can schedule two or three (timed) short Facebook breaks into your day so that you'll still get your "fix," but you can log off the rest of the time while you're working.

    • profile image

      ElleBee 4 years ago

      Great reminder for procrastinators like me! Sometimes it is hard for me to avoid these time zappers, because I keep telling myself writing isn't my "real" job, so it doesn't "Really" matter!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Well, ElleBee, it all depends on what you want to get out of it. My freelance career is in editing, and it isn't always the most fascinating work, so I have developed tricks to keep myself on track. My writing here is more like a hobby, so I don't get distracted when I'm doing it because I WANT to do it. Does that make sense? In the best of both worlds, you could find a job you really love that also pays, and then you'd be truly motivated, and the most tempting of websites wouldn't snare you!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 4 years ago from UK

      I usually find that there is some pressing matter on Ancestry.com that needs my attention when I have a deadline - doesn't matter that everyone is long gone and buried, they need to be found!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      JudiBee, you're too funny. At least your research is occasionally on task for your work, at least for your blog writing, so that's not too bad. Try scheduling breaks to do that kind if stuff. If it fails, you could try something I just read about in the news -- some guy hired a person to slap him in the face every time he went on Facebook, so his productivity increased by 98%!

    • profile image

      summerberrie 4 years ago

      Great article Brainy Bunny. The staying organized has always been my big challenge. Voted up and useful.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thank you, summerberrie. I'm quite good with staying organized, but focusing is still a challenge for me most days, although I keep my nose to the grindstone as best I can!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      My desk is untidy so I can't sit at it! I work on my bed where my leg can be rested, but this means that my 'stuff' is in the wrong place which has incredibly bad consequences. I end up doing what I can where i am - not what has to be one.

      I don't have my own office in this old farmhouse and I'm not god about sharing pace, which is also hard on prioritizing ANYTHING! It is madness and i must sort it out somehow. Thanks. Voting and sharing. Helpful Hub!

    • KarenCreftor profile image

      Karen Creftor 4 years ago from Kent, UK

      Useful hub thanks Bunny!

      Social networking is my downfall and alas I can't turn off the internet as I need it for work lol.

      Voted up etc. xx

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      GoodLady, I know winter is a slower time for you; can you set aside a day or two to work on organizing your workspace? After you do that, then just a few minutes a day will keep it clean, and it will be your own personal space that you don't have to share! (Except with the cat and dog, of course.)

      Karen, l hear you! Try setting a timer when you take a Facebook break. Or . . . I know how you love lists. Why not make a to-do list with social networking at the bottom? That will be a reminder that it should be a lower priority and saved for the end of the day.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      I love this Hub!!! It is so easy to get sidetracked when one is writing. I am guilty! Thanks for the share. Voted up for useful and interesting!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks for reading and voting, mecheshier. Best of luck staying focused!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      I really needed this article today - I have been goofing off too much lately. I will set a timer and start documenting my time to keep me more focused. voted up.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Clear and concise points here. My problem is staying organized, so thanks for those tips about office space!

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 4 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      This topic is SO familiar to me. Most of the time when I was starting out with my freelance writing, I end up missing some deadlines. This affected the type of work that I produce and confidence bestowed upon me by my contractor. Having realized this, I had striven to put these perils to end. I thought I have to work harder now since I'm on my own. And the primary thing that I have to eliminate is procrastination and doing unnecessary things on the side - while writing.

      Thank you very much for sharing these tips. I hope they help budding freelance writers and seasoned ones, alike. ;)

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 4 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      These are great tips not only for freelance writers, but for those in other careers, as well. I particularly like the "working in short bursts" and "taking a break." These both work well for me. Thanks for a great hub!

    • Felipe717 profile image

      Felipe717 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      You listed some great tips. I know I should keep honest track of my time but I'm afraid of what I would discover. When I do get started I find myself full of ideas ready to be typed out and published. Thanks for the tips!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Millionaire Tips: I find tracking my time to be a HUGE help. And sometimes I set a reminder on my computer about an important task and assign a time to it, so I know to get back to work when the alarm goes off.

      Rebecca Mealey: Organization can be a real challenge, especially if you've let things get out of hand. Schedule a day just for organizing your office, if you can spare the time. It will make a big difference in your productivity and peace of mind.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thesingernurse, I'm sorry you've had trouble sticking to deadlines. Freelance work is really best suited for people who are self-motivated and can pace themselves. I wish you the best of luck in your burgeoning writing career.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Esmeowl12: It's true, you don't have to be a freelancer to take advantage of these productivity tips. Anyone who's left to their own devices for long stretches can get distracted or fall behind on deadlines, even in a busy office. Thank you for reading!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Felipe, it's counterintuitive, but sometimes we do need a break from work in order to become more productive. The problem is when the breaks get out of hand. If you find that you can break a writer's block by going for a run, for instance, that may be a good and productive use of your time. Good luck!

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Brainy Bunny, you have no idea how much I needed to stop by this hub. I really need to get focused with all that I have on my plate. Thank you for addressing this issue that so many of us relate to. Up and useful.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Janshares. I'm so glad that I could give you some useful tips to help you succeed. Best of luck!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      One of my bosses always used to tell his employees to make a list of the top 3 things they need to accomplish each day--and to then concentrate on making them happen. There's no point worrying about #4 on the list. Great hub!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I like that idea, tipstoretireearly! It's all about keeping focused on your priorities. Thanks for reading.

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