In a lot of ways, freelancers get more done than the average worker. They choose where to work, when to work, and how, thus maximizing their productivity in ways regular office workers can’t control within the confines of a “normal” job.
But it also seems that freelancers are always trying to do more with what they have. I see many work-from-home freelancers who, besides working with interesting clients and businesses, are blogging, writing a book, posting to social media, networking, and juggling all the other things that real life requires.
So how do you get it all done? What’s the secret to being a highly productive freelancer or solopreneur vs. one who struggles to barely meet deadlines?
The Big Two Productivity Rules
I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles about increasing productivity. Most advice comes down to these two bullets:
- Decide what you really want to get done.
- Do the difficult and important stuff first…
Then they go on to list all the tools you can use to accomplish it all.
I distrust time productivity tips that lead me to download more apps. Sometimes my phone is part of the reason my goals get derailed in the first place! Furthermore, those time
suckers management tools are not solely on my phone but my desktop, too.
This month, I intended to dedicate my blog’s content to the topics of productivity and time management, but now I’m having second thoughts. Is it really necessary to rehash what so many others have already said on the subject? Do I really want to point you in the direction of more tools and apps and processes you may not need or use? No.
And I don’t think you want that either. What most people really need and want, is some space to breathe and the freedom and time to do what makes you truly happy.
I love freelancing and having a small business I can run from home. This kind of freedom allows me (and if you’re reading this, probably you, too) to create a unique lifestyle. I’m not saying you can slack off and still be successful, but it means you can decide for yourself if you want to create an empire — and that’s certainly within your powers to do so — or have more time to garden, paint, drive your kids to the skate park they love 40 minutes away. Yes, you get to choose; and that is true success!
If you want to make a few thousand more dollars each month, you can do it. If you want to make more, or less, or simply have more flexibility, you can do it.
Say your definition of success is daily workouts, walks, or hikes. Then a freelance job that requires you to be at your desk during your favorite spin class would never work. Maybe you want to be able to attend your child’s swim meets on the weekends. Then you obviously wouldn’t accept a job that asked you to be on call during those hours.
At the same time, you may have a personal dream of public speaking as a sideline, starting a small agency, or adding a service to the ones you already offer. As you work on your client’s projects, you strive to find extra hours in the day to also get your personal projects moving.
Maybe you’re an employee in a company… do you also have a dream of starting something on the side that earns you a few hundred extra dollars each month, or allows you to pursue a hobby as a business? Then I’m talking to you, too!
High Achievers Want More
Time management and productivity are issues for everyone who wants to do more with their life. At the end of the day (and your lifetime) you want to say you accomplished more than just the bare minimum. You are here to do more than just survive.
Regardless of your position, or your role in your company, whether you freelance, or report to a supervisor, etc., doing more and achieving more require you to do things differently. Different from the average way of working. Probably even different from the way you’re working now.
First, always focus on where you want to be and take a few steps every day to get closer to that vision.
Never just settle for your current role, because you can always do better. You know you were born to be great, do something memorable, and create something extraordinary!
To achieve that greatness within you, and to be your most productive, please do what you love and want to do! (That should go without saying.) Do your work with enthusiasm — even the parts you don’t enjoy — and make sure your transitions are quick so you can get onto the next thing. If you dawdle in between tasks, then you’re going to lose a lot of productivity! You won’t believe how much time you’ll waste, if you don’t know your next step.
Be Honest with Yourself About Your Passion and Strengths
But also, be very choosy about what you “want” to do. Avoid claiming too many goals, or else your to-do list become a wish list, not an accurate list of tasks you can plausibly accomplish.
For example, don’t tell yourself that next month you want to add 500 followers to your Facebook page, write an ebook, connect with 20 influencers, hire a new team member, and bill $5000 in client hours. It’s great that you have specific goals, but you may have too many of them going on at once.
I’ve made this mistake so many times, I can’t emphasize enough how a long to-do list can throw off your ability to get the most important things done.
Decide what’s most important — to YOU.
Just because you see someone else in your network or someone you admire online is doing (and apparently succeeding at) a dozen projects simultaneously, beware of this mirage. It’s probably not true. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s possible or even desirable to do so much at once.
The “Hustle” (à la Gary Vaynerchuck) only works if you have targeted goals.
The main detail I can add to this ongoing productivity conversation about which too much has already been said, is this: Know exactly what you want to get done, but be discriminating about those things, for heaven’s sake!
You weren’t made to do everything, especially when you’re working as a solopreneur and/or just starting out. Your job is to accomplish only a few extraordinarily cool things, that make you happy, and help others at the same time. (Other people have to need your offer and benefit from your efforts, otherwise you probably won’t make any money doing what you do. Hobbies are great, and flexibility is wonderful, but at the end of the day, freelancing means your services earn you an income!)
I like the advice to list the top 3 -5 things you want to get done every day, and then do them. Even if they are the same things every day, do those.
I was chatting with a friend today and she told me that she has free time in the morning, and she knows she needs to get more exercise, but she doesn’t make a point to get to the gym, where she’s a member. My advice was to simply put on the yoga pants immediately after brushing her teeth. Set an alarm for 20 minutes before you need to leave the house or office. Don’t think about it, just go.
Why be so creative with your to do list? Why add a lot of things that don’t make your heart sing?
By the same token, If your goal is to write a book over the next three months, then you’re going to need a table of contents, and plan for writing that content a chapter at a time. It’s not difficult. Start with a short book to see if you actually enjoy and excel at writing, then work your way up from there. If you only ever write one chapter, at least you’ll have that content to add to your accomplishments and publishable files. You can share it in an article on LinkedIn or Medium if nothing else.
Does narrowing your options mean you don’t set new goals? Of course not. You must add new constructive goals (small parts of your goals) to your task list every day. In other words, make goals, but make sure you set goals that can be chunked down and followed, each little step of the way. Make time for those compartmentalized tasks that help you reach your new goals, but don’t add so much to your plate that you choke.
Want to write a book? Plan an event? Make a promo video? Make one long deadline, then reverse engineer smaller deadlines you can meet every day. That’s the way all successful, productive people get things done.
I’m one of those people who want to do everything. I’m always busy doing things I think “should” be done, but it’s easy to get too busy and forget the ultimate big picture. If that one thing isn’t absolutely clear in your mind, you end up busily doing tasks that never get you any closer to your real goals. How sad is that?
Chasing toward things you never set out to do only wastes time and serves no one.
Meanwhile, stick to your routine. It will provide the framework for additional tasks. Just put the non-negotiable tasks on your list first and work everything else around those.
Can you imagine actually getting those few things done? Most people don’t even get a handful of tasks finished to their satisfaction each day.
But you can be the exception.
The problem with productivity is that people think they will get more done if they are more productive. But what about getting less done? Less done, but really DONE. Not half-done, not “wish they were done.”
No, I mean Really. Done.
Choose less and you’ll see… you’ll actually do more. You will find that you have the mind-space and even the time to do stuff you thought would be gravy. You finish a few tasks and feel good about them; then have the energy and desire to go the extra mile on those things you didn’t even think you’d have time for.
Strive to do less. That’s my advice for productivity. Now, I’m not a productivity “expert” and it sounds crazy, I know. But I’ve found that taking my to-do list and cutting it in half, works! I just stuck to a few small but uber-important tasks each day, and I can do more than I imagined when my to-do list was miles long.
To get more done, take something OFF your to-do list! Is this just semantics? A trick of words? Not really. When you start seeing your time as your most valuable resource, and making priorities as to what you choose to do first, second, and third every day, suddenly you get really good at doing only what is really important to you.
Less is more. Good luck! And tell me how it goes.
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