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.


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 :)



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.