Staying on Task and Limiting Distractions
We’re all a little ADHD. Distractions are inevitable, regardless of if you’re at home or in the office. If you’ve worked in an office, you might’ve experienced the luxury of a company-installed site blocker. Companies understand that the internet is vast, and their employees are prone to slipping down internet rabbit holes. When you work for yourself at home, chances are you won’t install a site-blocker to quell your addictions. No shame, you’re only human; but distractions can determine how long it takes for you to get a project done, and time is money. You’ll still be prone to interruption, but you’ll always have some steps to fall back on.
Your day-to-day freelancing will not always look the same. Heck, MOST working days as a freelancer aren’t alike. That doesn’t mean you can’t still prioritize what you have to get done that day. As a freelancer, you’ll be working on multiple projects that are all in different stages of development. This can get messy, so it’s important that at the beginning of every day (and even every week) you compose a checklist of important and urgent to-do items. Seriously, just grab a blank piece of printer paper and write down what you need to get done at what time that day. The most urgent to-dos go at the top and so on. Not only will this help keep you focused and productive, but it will also give you the satisfaction of completing a task and crossing it off your list, giving you more incentive. This should NOT be confused with the more formal task of project planning. Your project plans for different tasks will inform your priorities list. A procrastinating mind is always looking for excuses, for reasons to put something off. Give it one less reason by having a clear idea of what needs to get done each day.
As we mentioned before, you’ll have different projects to focus on that are in different stages of development. In fact, prioritizing and creating a list is step one of organization! You have your list, now you should organize the materials and resources you need to accomplish the day’s tasks. Depending on your line of work, this can be as simple as pulling up different documents or software on the computer. It could also be a little more sophisticated, like gathering various art materials to complete a mural. Avoid the “well I don’t have what I need to get this work done right now so I’ll just do it tomorrow” line of thinking. Make sure that all your work-related resources are readily available so you never have an excuse.
If you’re like us and a lot of your work is computer-based, it’s important to have a solidified and reliable file structure on any device you use. Having this structure will save you time and keep you focused on work rather than “man I got to organize my files.” When establishing this, think about what files you’ll access the most, the least, and where they should go. As far as naming these files, come up with your own system; one that you know like the back of your hand but isn’t too hard to figure out if someone else is looking through your files. Don’t forget to incorporate the date and version number when saving a document.
Lastly, always remember to back up your files using cloud storage AND external hard drives. Technology isn’t full proof; something could crash, and you could lose valuable data. There’s no bigger opportunity for procrastination than some sort of tech issue.
Don’t just get to know your clients, get to know the work you’re doing for them. You might find that you take on projects that you’re not 100% sure you’re capable of doing. That’s OK; it’s sometimes the only way you learn and develop new skills. Even if it’s a project you know you’ll be comfortable with, always take the time to do your research and familiarize yourself with the material. As far as distractions go, it can be easy for your mind to wander off the trail when you don’t fully understand what you’re supposed to be doing. Having to reach out to a client who might be busy in order to ask a question you should know the answer to is a ripe scenario for procrastination (and it makes you look like shit). If you have a good idea of the task at hand, you’ll remain more focused and solve problems as they come, rather than stopping your workflow to get help or look something up.
Prioritize, organize, and familiarize. If you’ve nailed down these steps, you’ll prevent yourself from getting distracted. There is one other actually: forgive. At some point you’re going to procrastinate. It happens to the best of us. When it does, being hard on yourself is not going to solve anything or get you back on track. Have some compassion and forgive yourself. You’re only human. Now take a break, you deserve it.