Very true! People sometimes get stuck in routine, and this tends to make innovation go stagnant.
Why Every Freelancer Should Slow Down and Brainstorm
I love to save time as much as the next person. One of the ways that I save time (and you’ve probably read about it here on FreelanceFolder) is by using templates and other automated time-saving methods.
Automated techniques can really help a freelancer become more efficient with his or her time. If you’re repeating a similar task very frequently, it really pays off to create templates or systems to help speed things up.
I have one client that likes to see their work formatted in a very specific way. To save time, I’ve created a blank template especially for this client’s projects. Using the template reduces the time that I spend on this client’s work by over 30%.
There are drawbacks, however, to relying too much on templates and other time-saving tools. While you may be saving time, your work could be losing out in innovation and creativity — and that’s where scheduled brainstorming comes into play.
Four Drawbacks Of Being Too Efficient
If you never slow down and always rely on what you’ve done before, your projects may eventually suffer from your use of the same old tools and time-saving methods.
Some pitfalls to relying too much on templates on other time-saving tools include:
- New Technology — Technology may have become more efficient since you first developed your original time-saving method. Relying on an old template could be costing you time and money.
- New Ideas — You may have acquired some new skills or read about some new ideas that will handle your project even better than the timesaving technique that you are using now.
- New Requirements — The client may have updated his or her requirements for their projects. Using your old template or timesaving tools may not meet the client’s newest requirements.
- New Tools — There may be new tools or resources available to do the work that weren’t originally available when you developed your template.
As you can see, there are definitely some drawbacks to trying to be too efficient. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
The Value of Brainstorming
You can avoid most of the pitfalls of trying be too efficient by making it a point to periodically slow down and look at your repeat project work with fresh eyes. You don’t need to do this every single time you take on repeat business, but it’s a good idea to re-evaluate how you handle repeat clients several times a year.
Brainstorm, to see if there are now better ways to handle the work than the way that you have been handling it. Specifically, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I still using the best tools for the job?
- Have I learned new skills since I first started working for this client?
- Has the client changed their requirements and expectations for this work?
- Does the work that I produce for this client still represent the best that my business can offer?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions then it is probably time to adjust how you are handling your repeat projects.
Some of the changes that you make will be transparent to your clients. For other changes, you may need to ask the client if you can handle the project in a new and more efficient manner.
Have You Gotten Stuck In An Efficiency Rut?
Has your quest for project efficiency ever led you to rely on outdated tools and methods?
If so, what changes did you make? Did those changes affect your relationship with your client?
Share your experiences in the comments.
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August 7th, 2009 at 8:46 am
August 7th, 2009 at 9:38 am
New technology can certainly be a trap.
For instance, the accessibility of the internet means that some clients expect you to work your magic at a moment’s notice. Though the web is certainly a convenient tool, I still must balance that usage with everything else.
Then again, I’m glad that I don’t have to rely on a typewriter to get my work done. Though I can type fairly fast, everything moves at a faster pace thanks to computers and software.
August 7th, 2009 at 10:41 am
Thanks Shevonne and Matt!
I also shudder at the thought of doing my work with a typewriter. Remember whiteout (sp)?
August 7th, 2009 at 10:45 am
I’ve had to use a lot of different types of software in my freelance writing specialty. For each project that required me to learn and use something new, I always said “No problem — I can do that,” and then proceeded to quickly figure out what to do to get the job done. Examples include PowerPoint (ten years ago!) and also Filemaker Pro.
Main points: be willing to use new technology and software, and also be aware that your clients often will direct you to what you need.
August 7th, 2009 at 12:37 pm
I haven’t been in a rut before, but brainstorming is very important!
Once and awhile, if I can’t think of anything or I am in a hurry, I slow down and brainstorm. During that session, I write down my ideas and sketch the design as well.
Slow down, relax, and think.
August 7th, 2009 at 5:07 pm
When I’m in a rut, I turn to Lifehacker.com. (No, I don’t work for them, I promise!) I remember once, I had been very busy and had let about 300 Lifehacker posts build up in my RSS feed reader. I thought about deleting them since I was so far behind, but decided to suck it up and read them instead. Sure enough, about halfway through the list I found a free time tracking software that I still use to this day. Of course, now you have me thinking. Is there a better time tracker out there somewhere?
August 7th, 2009 at 5:39 pm
Great comments (and experiences)!
Jennifer – I like Lifehacker too (at least, I think that’ s the one that I like).
August 8th, 2009 at 6:13 am
Very good post, I think it’s key to get away from the screen when coming up with ideas.
August 8th, 2009 at 7:45 am
Pen and Paper are my best friends when it comes to brainstorming.
It realy shifts the mind of the PC and changes your perspective.
August 8th, 2009 at 10:32 am
In business process management, your job is to drive efficiency from processes or create new processes where none existed before. This can either save money or create new revenue.
This article doesn’t specifically mention business process management, but it reminds me that the act of managing a process does not end once its reviewed the first time. Inputs and outputs, expectations, and technology are changing all the time, which necessitates the need for periodic review, or “brainstorming” like this article mentions.
August 8th, 2009 at 11:03 am
Thanks for all the comments!
Watershawl – you make an excellent point. I appreciate your feedback.
August 8th, 2009 at 3:40 pm
I often take time out to think about any of my work before i actually start, creativity cannot be forced :)
August 8th, 2009 at 6:34 pm
Great post! This is why keeping yourself up on new technology and continuing education keeps you alive and fresh. It’s easy to become stale no matter what business you’re in. I try to spend at least 2-3 hours a week just researching and finding new ideas. It’s hard to break away from the normal routine but brainstorming with new ideas is refreshing and can renew enthusiasm.
August 9th, 2009 at 9:32 pm
On the other hand, the newest technology is often not the most efficient at all. Considering the time and money it costs to try and use the bleeding edge of project managment tools available, it sometimes most efficient, tested, easiest and fastest way to make use of paper and pencil.
August 12th, 2009 at 11:54 pm
Everything over and beyond the normal is bad. It’s bad to be so good, so fast, so etc… because it will bring you to exhaustion faster than you can realize. Slowing down provides you an opportunity to evaluate your productivity, your methodology, and your overall goal. Brainstorming brings diversity of knowledge and perspectives effective for a more forward looking career.
August 18th, 2009 at 11:47 am
The importance of change is often emphasized within corporations, but it is also just as important for any freelancer or small business owner alike. The environment we work in and the way we do work is constantly changing, which makes taking the time to evaluate or existing skill sets and techniques for ways to improve very crucial to our long-term success.
September 4th, 2009 at 6:07 am
Nice article it helps us a lot.
September 4th, 2009 at 12:11 pm
Yes slowing down to think is the best idea, must admit brainstorming, but always with pen and paper, actually pad and pencil but the best visuals come that way …… thinking is great …. but its good to talk.
September 11th, 2009 at 3:24 am
It’s nice. I think when we will create new application remember all features:-
1. New Technology — Technology may have become more efficient since you first developed your original time-saving method. Relying on an old template could be costing you time and money.
2. New Ideas — You may have acquired some new skills or read about some new ideas that will handle your project even better than the timesaving technique that you are using now.
3. New Requirements — The client may have updated his or her requirements for their projects. Using your old template or timesaving tools may not meet the client’s newest requirements.
4. New Tools — There may be new tools or resources available to do the work that weren’t originally available when you developed your template.
November 7th, 2010 at 3:18 am
I’m a freelacer。
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