10 Productivity Tips That Work Surprisingly Well

Productivity is just one of those qualities that we all yearn for. As freelancers we have to be productive in order to get projects done before the deadline approaches. The more productive we can be, the more money we earn — it’s a simple equation.

We’re all productive to a certain extent, but there are always a few things that we know but often fail to apply. Of the many things I’ve tried to boost my productivity, some have failed and some have worked wonders.

The ten tips that you are about to read are the ones that I practice regularly in order to keep my business going. Some of you may already practice these and, if you don’t, I hope this post serves as a productivity-boosting reminder.

10 Productivity Ideas That Work:

  1. Break It Up – We all want bigger projects, but with bigger projects comes more responsibilities and more work. It’s easy to accidentally take on way too much work, and before you know it you’re overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible number of things to do. Instead of getting lost and unproductive, try to break up each project in smaller parts, and finish one project before starting the next. This way your work is much more organized, and putting everything together at the end is much easier.
  2. Pump Yourself Up – Although this might sound cheesy, it seriously works. If you are finding it hard to devote time to a project, simply start giving yourself a little pep-talk. Learn what it takes to motivate yourself, and make sure to apply it whenever you need that extra boost. Whether it’s the reputation that comes with the completion of a project, the cash in the bank from the final payment, or a long term picture of success — remind yourself of the goals you are shooting for.
  3. Fly In a Trap – When it comes to sticking to a routine, think of yourself as a trapped fly. Many freelancers work from home and at times it’s tempting to do the more enjoyable things even if there is a lot of work to do. As we all know, procrastination can easily overcome us freelancers. Create a routine and stick to it like a fly stuck in a trap. It will help create a pattern in terms of both work and leisure.
  4. Work Isn’t Going Anywhere – I have heard freelancers say time after time, “I’ve been sitting here trying to figure this out for hours.” Well, that’s why it’s not working. If you are stuck on something then try taking a quick break. Go for a cup of coffee, a short walk to the park, or just sit on the deck and relax. Your work will be there when you return, the only thing that will be different is the fact that you will have a refreshed brain to think with.
  5. There Is Only One — We freelancers are bloggers, designers, marketers, web socialites and many other things. At times it’s hard to fit in all the aspects of our work, and it’s easy to go way overboard with multitasking. You might be writing a blog post, using twitter, and trying to do client work at the same time. You might get one thing rolling but then get interrupted by an email. You could easily get sucked into a conversation on twitter and work falls behind. Try to eliminate this harmful multitasking as long as it’s not a must. Focus on one thing at a time as much as possible, and eliminate other distractions.
  6. 11:30 AM and am Done – Can you imagine getting your work done by 11:00 AM in the morning? Well, although this doesn’t happen often, I have had those moments — and boy it feels good to be done before the day is halfway through. I am a night person but every so often, I hit the sack early and start my day 5 AM in the morning. I grab my laptop, sit out on the deck, listen to birds and feel the breeze and keep plugging in. It’s actually very relaxing and the morning air has something that just inspires you to get things done. Try it out and see how it works for you.
  7. Those Handy Little Slips — Yes, I am talking about those little pieces of paper that everyone else talks about when they write a productivity article — To-Do Lists! Although it is one of the most talked about tips when it comes to getting things done, many still fail to make a to-do-list, and they really are surprisingly effective. You can get a lot more done if you know exactly what the goal is for the day. Make a habit of adding 10 more minutes at the end of work day to create a to-do list for the next day. You will find things going much more smoothly with help from this handy little slip. I know you’ve probably tried it before, but do you stick with it? If you don’t, do it for two weeks, and I bet you will find a drastic change on how you get things done.
  8. You’re Only Human — At times we expect too much out of ourselves. We try to make everything perfect and although it’s not a bad thing, it is a huge stress factor. While trying to perfect something beyond “perfection” we sometimes end up procrastinating. For example, you might be working on a design and choose to let the deadline slip and finish it up the next day, hoping it will turn out better. Well, in most cases it won’t. Perfectionism will quickly lead to procrastination. Besides, what might not be perfect for you may be one of the best things that someone else has ever seen. When looking at your work, keep in mind what your client wants and what you have created. Perfection isn’t always the answer. We are only human and trying for perfection on every project might be pushing it.
  9. Hammer The Toughest Nail First — Usually we like to knock the easy stuff out. Personally, I think this is a wrong approach. If we end up finishing the easy task first, it still gives us a sense of completion. We end up procrastinating and when we get to the tough part the day keeps dragging onward. Frustration and stress makes it even worse. After a good night sleep it’s best to hammer the toughest nail first. Get a head start by completing the worst task first and slowly make a transition into easy ones, you’ll feel great to have completed so many things by the end of the day.
  10. You Live in the 18th century – Okay, not really. However, sometimes thinking that way can help you boost productivity by ten fold. Imagine not having to worry about email, twitter, facebook and other distractions that suck us deep into the interwebs. It sure would be nice. Of course, we need computers and modern technology to get things done — but sometimes a paper, pencil, and nature can do more than any amount of technology. Try going computer-less for a couple hours each day. If you are a designer, use a sketchpad to sketch out your ideas. If you’re a writer, write key points that will help you create a killer post. This tip can really work wonders for your productivity.

Do You Know Any Interesting Productivity Tips?

These are some of the productivity rules I try to follow to keep my freelance business going strong. Let’s carry the discussion in the comments section and help each other out with some more tips and ideas.


  1. says

    I use a few of these myself. Especially that little slip idea. I have a small notepad that I take with me everwhere. If I get an idea or think of something I need to do I jot it down. Then I have a list of things that I do every day. It makes things much smoother.

    I agree with you bout doing the hardest thing first. Or even the thing you like the least. I’ll do those first. Then it’s smooth sailing from there.

    I’ll try a few of these other things out. Awesome post!

  2. says

    I want to emphasize your 1st point. I have come to realize about myself that after 45 minutes or so, I start to lose efficiency so I try to break my day up into 45 min. “mini-tasks”.
    I shut off email, phone, twitter everything. After I put in 45 really intense minutes I have a great sense of accomplishment and then I have 15 minutes to check email, tweet, return calls etc before my next task starts.

    I get it right about 60% of the time now but I am improving every month and increasing capacity.

    Herb Jones

  3. Erik says

    One trick I learned is to do the things you don’t want to do first, that way you are not dreading them all day.

  4. says

    Nice article! Even those of use not in the freelance world deal with point #3 – or I guess many of them. As a web designer I find it easy to gravitate to those more enjoyable things while the less enjoyable things begin to build then eventually overwhelm. I’ve heard it said we live in a procrasti-NATION – that is it’s something that plagues us all. I believe step #7 can help us over come this issue. Try placing 2 or 3 less desirable items on your to-do list. You’ll be amazed at how quickly those items are taken care of.

  5. says

    Great tips, I’m actually really enjoying sitting out on my patio with the laptop like you suggest in #6, even if it isn’t in the morning it just feels nice to get fresh air and work at the same time. Kiling 2 birds with one stone.

  6. says

    I recently found a great “to do list” method on another blog post:

    I made some tweaks to fit my needs, but it has been great! It brings order to my to do lists and makes it easy to see what all is complete. It also makes it easy to back track if you need to.

  7. BebopDesigner says

    These are very useful. I’m a fan of starting things very early in the morning so that I’m done before the day over. Another idea that really works for me when it comes to focus on some task that has a higher priority, is to get out of the house with my laptop and sit to work somewhere else (hopefully a café)… Thanks for posting!

  8. says

    Thanks to all for taking the time to share tips on productivity. I appreciate your feedback and glad you all enjoyed it. Back to work ;-)

  9. says

    COMPLETELY disagree with #9. I think it depends on the person. My mother always told me get the worst/hardest thing over with, and it took me 20 years to realize it didn’t work for me at all. I end up putting off the hard task forever, and by extension, get nothing done at all. On the other hand if I do the easiest thing on my list, I get the immediete gratification of crossing something off my list. In my case, this gives me momentum rather than compacency. Each item seems a little less intimidating, and by the time I get to the worst thing, that’s all I have left to do and it suddenly seems more bearable.

    I know it’s the opposite for some, but I wanted to point out the other side because, seriously, believing in #9 crippled my productivity for years.

    Good advice on the rest though. Thanks.

    PS. Commenting from my iPhone so please excuse my lack of spell-check and/or spelling ability.

  10. says

    Great post, although I also don’t agree with number 9. Like Meagan says, it probably depends on your personality. I find that I am tempted to postpone the easy ones for much much later if they are set at the bottom of the list. You know, the whole ‘This is easy, I can wrap this up in no time … so I’ll do this tomorrow”.

  11. says

    My favorite productivity enhancer is the mid-day nap. It works WONDERS. They do it as a matter of course in some parts of Japan and elsewhere. I am a believer.

  12. says

    Meagan & Amy : I find it works pretty good for me but as you pointed out productivity depends on our personal preference and we are all different. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. I agree though that for some knocking out easy stuff gets things going whereas for others it’s the other way around.

  13. says

    It sure does feel freaking awesome when you’re done before 2pm. Yesterday I was done at 1:30pm and I was stunned. First 15 minutes I was looking for things that I might have missed, but as it turned out – I just did everything I wanted and needed. Thanks to Dan Kennedy’s “No BS Time Management” I am 10 times more productive than 2 month ago.


  14. says

    This was really great post. It’s amazing how many of us have heard some of these things before, yet we completely forget to do any of them. I am definitely going to make an effort to try these and be more productive. Thanks again!

  15. says

    To Do lists are de rigeur, but each evening / end of workday I’ve recently started numbering the things I’m going to do the next day. I find that I’m more realistic about what I can get done when I’m not already in the middle of the workday in question, and I’m able to proceed from one task to the next without thinking about what it’s going to be. I used to have a longer (mutli-day) to-do list and I would pick things off as I went – led to a lot of inefficient multi-tasking.

  16. says

    Great :) I just read another productivity article where the top-down approach was missing. I see you got it and another 9 great ideas how to make your brain feel better even if working :P

  17. says

    “Hammer The Toughest Nail First” — This is just great. There are times that these are the things that you don’t want to do but need to do. Nothing beats procrastination but real action. Just take a deep breathe then go for it… =D

  18. says

    Great tips, I do some of those that fits to my needs. It’s very refreshing when you work fewer hours than working with longer hours a day drains energy at the end of the day.

  19. Lisa Pater says

    Great work Ritu! I’m also a freelancer and every tip like that seems to be valuable. As I work at home I’m still looking for some new tools and solutions to improve my productivity. So the articles like yours are very helpfull. Since I work on my computer I cannot imagine the time and productivity management without it ;)
    And I fancy all computer-based solutions like: http://onepageonly.net/blog/time-to-meet-your-targets-with-onepageonly/#more-195

  20. says

    This web site is admittedly attention-grabbing i am craving for is there any other examples? but anyway thank you significantly as a result of I found that i was craving for.

  21. says

    Very useful. Working at home can be rewarding but sometimes this poses some difficulty when it comes to managing your time thus your productivity. The last one is extremely critical for me.


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