Freelancers have the luxury to work their own hours, with who they want and even work from Starbucks if they want, but a lot of things can lead to procrastination. If you overdo things the luxury soon turns into a curse. Get into the habit of procrastinating and you might as well consider yourself doomed.
For those who have never experienced this: procrastination is a tendency to indulge in the unnecessary in order to avoid doing the necessary. It’s like there is some task that you have to perform and it is either very difficult or very boring or you don’t want to do it simply because you cannot avoid it. When you procrastinate you do everything under the sun but the work that you are supposed to do, even when that work is as serious as earning your bread-and-butter.
You may be wondering how a freelancer happens to acquire such an obnoxious habit in the first place. Actually you don’t even realize how and when. Since you are working on your own there is nobody to keep an eye on all your shady activities. So if there is a task you are supposed to perform at 10:30 in the morning you decide to start at 11:30. And when you have postponed it till 11:30, then what is the harm in starting it at 12:30, especially when you have to turn in the assignment at 5 o’clock in the evening?
And what are you doing till 12:30? You are reading some “interesting” stuff on the Internet; you are discussing punk philosophy on your favorite instant messenger with someone you barely know; you are visiting those hundreds of blogs that you subscribe to and going through all 67 comments? Then you click on the links of various commenters and from those links you go to some other links, and this goes on and on. By the time it is 5 o’clock in the evening you are leaving your 26th comment of the day on a blog you never plan to visit again, ever. And then you send an e-mail to your client asking for more time, swearing and promising yourself that you are never going to do such a thing again, and, of course the next day you do exactly the same thing. This is not funny; people lose entire projects due to stuff like this.
Procrastination is not an incurable malady; you can get rid of it even today, or tomorrow (in case you want to prolong the last remnants of the habit). Listed below are a few steps that you can take to overcome procrastination and deliver your projects on time.
Get Madly Interested In Your Work
You never postpone things you are crazy about. Try postponing eating food when you are hungry and try postponing sex when you are thoroughly aroused and your partner is beckoning you. Imagine how important (actually you don’t need to imagine, it is and ineluctable reality) the work you are planning to postpone is. Think about your work as the most exciting thing you are going to perform. Tell yourself that you are doing this work because you have always wanted to do this; you have always wanted to be a freelancer, your clients have trust in you, so much trust that they have paid in advance to you and now it is up to you to deliver the project on time.
Think about the money your work is going to get you and think about all the wonderful things you can do with that money, for instance, keeping your family financially secure.
Organize Tasks Visually
Visual representation of what you have to achieve on a priority basis can help you beat the tendency to procrastinate. Stick a big chart paper somewhere or better, purchase a whiteboard and put it where you can easily see it all the time. Then make a list of tasks that you have to perform in order to meet your professional commitments. Start with the most important, and then move downwards, and then adhere to that list. Of course if you can skip your work you can also skip the task list, but then, if you are so hell bent upon continuing procrastinating then you will also skip the steps listed in this blog post, so let us rule out that possibility for the time being.
Keeping a visual representation of your work schedule also makes it publicly known what all you have to do so you feel more responsible.
Make Yourself Accountable To Someone And Keep Yourself Exposed
Take someone in your family into confidence and tell that person to keep a track on your activities. The best way to do is, arrange your sitting position in such a manner that you have your back towards the door and the screen of your computer or laptop faces the door. You don’t necessarily have to face the wall; try arranging your desk by the window. This way anybody who enters your door can immediately see what you are doing and you have no time to switch the windows or close the programs that you’re not supposed to be running at that moment. Believe me, this can improves your productivity tremendously.
Recollect The Consequences Of Previous Procrastinations And Document Them
Procrastination always leaves behind a litany of consequences: you missed the deadline; you lost face while dealing with a punctual client; your payment was cancelled; the client threatened you; you earned less than what you could have earned; you spent more time on your work desk and missed many family activities; and lost projects. All these things are dreadful but sometimes because they belong to the past their shadows grow dim and their effect diminishes. It is always better to keep a list of consequences written somewhere. Whenever you feel that you are procrastinating just go through the list of consequences and you will be hit by great waves of urgency.
If Nothing Helps Then Take Your Work As A Necessary Evil
Embrace the drudgery if nothing else helps. Sometimes you have to work whether you like it or not — too bad. There are professional commitments, and then there is money that you need to pay your bills. You may have the savings for a few months but after that you will have to sort things out and by that time your procrastination will totally ruin your reputation and you will no longer be able to get work.
The best way to deal with something bad is to confront it; accept its presence in your life and then deal with it. You will only be able to deal with procrastination if you accept that it’s a problem.
Have you been procrastinating lately? Were you once a master procrastinator? Share your stories and your own tips & tricks with us! :)