Jump-Starting Freelancing Productivity: 9 Reasons Why and 5 Reasons How Working Smarter Works

Do you go through long periods of poor work productivity? Here’s a simple “time hack“… Have you considered spending less time per project, to force yourself to complete the work sooner and more efficiently?

If you’re in a salaried job and still contemplating freelancing, you may or may not have motivation to work harder. However, if you’re a 100% freelancer, your monthly income relies directly on how much work you can complete. It sounds like a scary idea, spending less time, especially if you’re worrying about monthly bills or even just food on the table. But look at it this way…

If you’ve turned into a workaholic in hopes of getting work done, and if you’re finding you’re not productive no matter how much more time you put in, then why not spend less time? So if spending too much time on projects isn’t helping you finish them, what harm is it to spend less time?

Why Spend Less Time?

Less time spent per project brings any or all of the following fairly obvious benefits:

  1. More time for friends and family.
  2. More time to play.
  3. Downtime to relax and rejuvenate yourself.
  4. Time for an actual vacation, should you want it.
  5. More time to build your freelance skills.
  6. More time to do legwork for future client projects.
  7. More time to research your niche.
  8. A higher effective per hour rate, which might motivate you to keep up this approach. (Of course, this only applies if you charge flat rates.)
  9. Avoiding the feeling that time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future. [Apologies to Steve Miller - video a the end of this post.]

It’s up to you how you balance your time, of course, but I think freelancers work entirely too hard when it’s not always necessary.

Does It Work?

Now, does this approach actually work? I’ve unwittingly tested it on and off over the past four calendar years, whenever I consciously realize that I’m becoming a workaholic again. Or when I find myself saying, “argggh. I never have time to do this, this and that.”

When that happens, I try to make sure that I forcibly stop working by a certain time of day, for the next few days, as a test of productivity. The net result isn’t necessarily an overall increase in productivity for a given month, but I do seem to get the same amount of work done in that lesser time.

5 Reasons To Work Smarter

Why would this approach work? It could be due to any or all of the following reasons:

  1. You become efficient. You force yourself to perform more efficiently, simply because you “have to.”
  2. You’re re-energized. You’ve taken a break, which eases your stress levels and helps renew your energy.
  3. You’re relaxed. Being relaxed helps the creative juices flow better. Or at least gives you the wherewithal to recognize creative and/or alternative solutions.
  4. You’re motivated. You don’t feel bitter that you’re missing out on activity “X” because of “all this work.” Not being bitter does wonders for motivation.
  5. You’ve gained perspective. Taking a break gives you perspective. If I’m trying to write something and I’m getting nowhere, I find that a different type of stimulation – music, TV, drawing – triggers other ideas.

Summary

Here’s something to consider: If you’re an obsessive Type A personality, then you’re prone to becoming a workaholic. You need to force yourself to work less, and to structure your free time more. So the above approach could be very useful to you. The problem is that some event could happen that will trigger your obsessiveness once again. I struggle with this on a cyclic basis that usually spans 9-12 months.

The key to dealing with it is to enforce structured time as much as possible. For that reason, I’ve been calling it quits for the work day at 10 pm lately (though I might continue until midnight). It used to be worse than that. I should also point out that I spend a lot of time some days watching classic movies on TMN/ AMC or new movies on DVD or in theatres, as part of self-imposed film studies.

So while it’s research for my next career, I’m not overwhelming myself with work as much as I used to.

Now here’s that Steve Miller video (time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future)

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below :)

Raj

******

About The Author: Raj Kumar Dash is a long-time freelancer/ web consultant, an experienced and published writer, a published author, former print magazine publisher, retired programmer, hobby composer and short story writer, and aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter. Past blogging gigs included paid or guest posts at Lifehack.org, Tubetorial.com, SearchEngineJournal.com, editor of Bootstrapper, editor of a travel blog network. Currently he is a lead blogger at Performancing.com, and a weekly contributor to FreelanceSwitch and FreelanceFolder.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks, Michael. You’re absolutely right. And it’s so easy to get carried away, thinking, “If I just spend a little bit longer tonight, I’ll get this done sooner.” That can turn into becoming a workaholic.

  2. Allan says

    Nice article, but i find myself avoiding work rather than nuckling down and cracking on with it, is there any methods / thoughts / ideas / stratagies you guys have to try and change my mindset to work harder?

  3. says

    It’s hard not to read this without saying ‘yes, yes, YES!’

    I don’t think that many people question working smarter. I do think that many people don’t know how to, are afraid to rock their superiors’ boat, or will feel guilty/uncomfortable when dealing with friends/family who expect them to be working more.

    Telling people how they can work smarter would be more useful

  4. says

    What a simple, honest article! “I think freelancers work entirely too hard when it’s not always necessary”. Man, that is so true.

    I wrote a couple of articles on the subject myself. Pricing is also an important factor of freeing yourself from the “must get this done, must make money” syndrome.

    If you undercharge, it’s time to use proper rates and regain control of your life.

  5. says

    working smart and not hard is the way to go – not easy but with practise it can be done- meditation is a good tool for this as well. Pity the video is no longer available.

  6. says

    Allan: Thanks. Maybe that’s a good thing :) I don’t know. I’ve always had a “work hard, play hard” mindset, but that’s an addictive type personality, I believe.

    Adrian: Thanks. A higher rate definitely gives you the luxury of deciding to work less and still earn sufficient income.

  7. Allan says

    raj: Id ont think you quiet understand the severity of my situation. When i say i avoid work, i literally leave it till the VERY last night lol!

  8. says

    Allan: Ah, a procrastinator, are ya? Not to pass judgement on you, but if I procrastinate on something, that usually means that deep down, I’m not interested in that project. So maybe you need to list off what you’re interested in and only do work that matches?

  9. says

    Israel Jobs: Yes, indeed. But I’ll have to learn to work smarter before I can write about it :)

    Viv: Definitely. Meditation has gotten me through a lot in life.

  10. says

    Raj, I’ve been trying to work less all of my life. The trouble is, when I get the hours down to the number I think I should work, I don’t earn anything.

    Maybe it’s personality. I work best under pressure, often well into the night. Free time at fixed hours is a modern idea and I’m not sure mankind has adapted to it yet.

    Thanks for the idea, though. You’ve given me the beginnings of a post for my blog. If I ever find the time…

  11. says

    John M: To be honest, I’m like you. Or at least I have been. (I’ve been experimenting with working less hours, but I think I’ve cut them by too much per day.) I’ve always worked best under pressure, but the problem with working at home is that there seem to be no boundaries whatsoever. And unless I force myself to spend less time, I blog into the wee hours and damage my health. When I worked as an offline freelancer, there were (more) tangible reasons for stopping work by a certain time (though that didn’t always stop me from working until, say 10 pm).

    Freelancing’s not easy, and you have to find what works for you, in terms of what hours to work. Though I think we have that freedom, more so than employees.

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