If we’re able to do more in less time, we can take on more work. We’ll also have more time to spend with our loved ones and to pursue our personal interests.
Being a highly productive freelancer also means you’ll be able to keep marketing your services, even while you’re serving current clients.
It also gives you more time to keep learning, keep sharpening your skills, or develop new ones.
I’ve been a student of productivity even before I began freelancing. I guess it stems from being a Mom of three who has many interests and passions.
In this post, I share my top ten ways to work more quickly and accomplish more.
1. Organize Your Work Space
On a practical level, having an organized physical environment means it’s easier to find things. You don’t waste precious minutes or hours chasing after a document that you desperately need.
On another level, our surroundings affect our thinking. If the work space is chaotic, our thinking will be muddled as well. In contrast, it’s easier to concentrate and stay calm when the environment is uncluttered and organized.
2. Plan Your Day, Week, Month, Year
Diving into your work without a plan is like taking off for a road trip without an itinerary. How do you know when you’ve arrived?
By having clear goals, both for the long term and the short, it’s easier to set clear priorities and decide which activities are the best use of your time and energy right now.
You’ll also be able to identify milestones and celebrate small achievements that lead to your bigger goals. All this is very motivating, which will propel you to accomplish even more.
3. Do Similar Tasks Together
Take advantage of the momentum you gain when you’re working continuously on similar tasks, one after another. For example, set aside one hour to answer emails, instead of flitting in and out of your email software.
Switching from one task to an entirely different one takes time. However, if you do similar tasks together, the work goes more smoothly.
4. Work in Focused Chunks of Time
As we’ve discussed in an earlier post, time chunking enhances productivity. It forces us to focus on the task at hand, take breaks, and minimize distractions.
5. Take Frequent Breaks
When you want to finish tons of tasks, it seems counter-intuitive to take breaks. However, we’re humans, not machines.
Our productivity and effectiveness diminish the longer we work uninterruptedly. We need breaks to keep our energy up and, therefore, to accomplish more. I guess this is why we’re built to go to sleep after 16 hours or so of wakefulness.
Breaks also include vacations. These can recharge our batteries and bring a surge of fresh ideas. You’ll come back from vacation raring to get to work again.
6. Use Tools to Systematize and Automate Common Tasks
Nowadays, freelancers are spoiled for all the high-tech tools we have at our disposal. Use software and apps to simplify or automate tasks like bookkeeping, invoicing, and customer management.
Create templates and patterns for commonly-used documents. For example, I have templates to reply to inquiries, create project proposals, send proposals, send invoices, and other types of communication.
Putting work processes down on paper is also useful. I have a workflow for creating email lists, for example, with all 13 steps I need to do.
7. Learn to Delegate
Control freaks have a big problem with this one. “Nobody else can do it as well as I do; I might as well do it myself,” is a common way of thinking.
I sometimes think this way myself. However, I’ve come to accept that, there are things I don’t do well at all.
So, now I delegate techie stuff to two virtual assistants. They charge me a lot less than I charge my clients, plus they get the stuff done faster than I ever could.
I did make the mistake once of delegating some of my writing work. I ended up practically rewriting everything anyway, because my personal writing style is something I can’t teach.
Don’t forget about delegating other areas of your life. For example, it may be a good idea to pay somebody else to mow your lawn or clean your house, while you go and do client work.
8. Cooperate with Your Personal Style and Body Clock
Self-knowledge is powerful. Know how you work best, under what circumstances, and at what hours of the day–and work around that.
In my case, I absolutely cannot write at night. Therefore, I schedule writing tasks in the morning and other tasks in the afternoon. I leave the nighttime for things that don’t require a lot of thinking.
9. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are plain awful. They break our concentration, lead us down rabbit holes and before you know it, the day is over and your to-do list is just as long as when you started.
Before starting your work, make sure you’ve minimized all possible distractions. Turn off email and social networking notifications, turn on your answering machine, and get that glass of water. Use tools and apps that reduce distractions.
10. Harness the Power of Music
My daughter swears she can’t do her homework without the iPod plugged into her ear. I tend not to believe it, but her grades say otherwise.
Studies have shown that college students were better at solving math problems while listening to Mozart’s music.
Other studies have shown that workers had increased productivity while listening to music. Stress hormone levels were also drastically reduced.
You may be pleased to know that rock music has been shown to have beneficial effects as well as classical music.
Experiment and find out what type of music helps you work the best. Maybe you need a different type of music for different types of work.
The Bottom Line
Always strive to increase your productivity. Tons of blogs and books are dedicated to productivity. A personal favorite of mine is “Getting Things Done.”
The point is you need to find what works for you. Productivity advice is abundant, but don’t feel that you should do one thing or another just because a productivity guru tells you so.
Do what works for you. Experiment. Try things out and see for yourself.
What Works for You?
That said, what are YOUR productivity tips? Have you discovered something that wasn’t mentioned in this post? Do share!
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