In the world of employment you are to an extent rewarded for simply turning up.
Sure — you are not likely to stay in a job for long if your performance isn’t up to scratch. However, thirty minutes spent browsing the web on a Monday morning followed by a Wednesday where you just don’t feel up to doing much at all aren’t going to result in major repercussions for many nine-to-fivers.
On the other hand, your freelance blogging business is powered by your ability to be consistently productive. If you’re simply not feeling up to writing, you can’t just phone in your performance that day and still take your full paycheck at the end of the month.
With the above in mind, below I have detailed five steps you can take to remain focused on your daily freelance work.
Step 1: Be Well Rested and Content
Don’t underestimate how much your mental state can affect the quality and speed of your work. If you are tired, stressed, unhappy, angry, or any other number of negative emotions, your writing experience will be akin to walking through knee-high mud.
I appreciate that you cannot always be in control of your mental or physical states, but being aware of how important they are to your focus can help a great deal. Furthermore, you can adjust your work times to take advantage of your most productive hours.
Step 2: Work in a Productive Environment
The environment in which you work can have an enormous effect on your productivity. I say that from personal experience.
When I quit my job I worked out of my spare bedroom. After a while I moved into the living room and started working from my couch. It did not engender a productive frame of mind (to say the least).
Once I had accepted that working from a sofa wasn’t going to get me firing on all cylinders, I started working from my local library. I tended to be very productive in that environment and tried to get there as often as possible.
These days I work from my home office, which I furnished and decorated for a single purpose: to make me as productive as possible. When I’m in this room I know it’s work time, but just as importantly, when I close the door I know I am leaving my work in that room. This clear separation of “work and play” has worked wonders for my productivity.
I can’t tell you what a productive environment is to you as I find that it is unique to every person. For example, my local library is quite noisy but would I listen to music to down the background noise out. It works for me, but it might not work for you. Experiment with different locations and working conditions to discover what works best for you.
Step 3: Remove All Distractions
This should be a no-brainer, but we all need a nudge in the right direction on occasion, especially when it comes to dreaded distractions.
These can come in any form — from the television, to your cell phone, to email and social media notifications, but all distractions should be removed from your working environment. You may feel that a moment’s glance away from your work may not make much of a difference, but there are two key things to bear in mind:
- A moment can quickly become a minute or more if you get distracted by something particularly compelling (and let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much).
- The damage to your productivity is not only the time lost in the distraction, but also the time it takes for you to fully clear the distraction from your head and get back up to speed.
Step 4: Assign Deadlines (And Stick to Them)
As a writer, procrastination is your worst enemy. It is all too easy to sit at your screen as the minutes and hours pass by without getting a great deal of work done.
There are many things you can do to prevent this from happening but the first is to give yourself a deadline to work against. If you assign and consciously recognize that the work must be done by a certain time and/or date, you will be better galvanized to complete it.
This deadline should ideally be as soon as you dare. The fastest work I have done is for clients that require posts every weekday, because I know that the work has to be done that day.
Step 5: Don’t Multitask
According to Psychology Today only 2% of people can multitask effectively, and Harvard Business Review claims that focusing on more than one thing can decrease your productivity by 40% and lower your IQ by 10 points. And yet most of us do it regularly (or constantly).
The obvious takeaway should be this — don’t multitask. Remove all distractions and notifications (as noted above) and make a conscious mental effort to stick to just one task. You’ll be amazed at how more quickly you get work done by focusing on just one task at a time.
I find that one good way of promoting a singular focus is to print out in large text exactly what task you are supposed to be doing and place that notice somewhere prominent and within your peripheral vision. You could also keep track of the amount of times you start multitasking throughout the day and reward yourself for reducing (and subsequently maintaining) that number.