Whether you work for your self full-time or have a side hustle, it can seem like a never-ending road when it comes finding an intuitive, efficient workflow. After working from home for the past couple of months, I thought I'd share these simple tips of what has helped me be more productive by wasting less time and getting MORE done. Each day isn't perfect, but these easy steps should help anyone seeking clarity and focus in their freelance projects.
1. BLOCK OUT YOUR TIME
Sitting down each Sunday evening (or Monday morning) and giving myself an overview of what needs to be done each week has really helped me get organized. But before you schedule your days, it's important to block out your time into different categories. I'll get to household tasks and personal needs, but when it comes to work for example, my time is divided amongst client work, personal work, business admin, social media, and blogging. Each of these has their own subcategories as well. I'm also playing around with dedicating certain days to a specific category, but right now I'm working on different projects each day. I just started using an app to help me with scheduling, which brings me to #2.
2. USE A PROJECT MANAGEMENT APP
Even though I'm a designer and you can often find me on the computer, I'm a huge fan of lists with pen and paper. That said, my paper lists have kind of gotten out of control. I have multiple notebooks filled with them and sometimes the list I need is hard to find! I started using Todoist, which is a super simple checklist-based app. I did try Trello, but thought it had too much going on and preferred the simplest interface possible. I also tried Evernote, but never stuck with it, I think because you can do SO much on there. What I also love about Todoist, is that I can create my own categories like described above with color coding, as well as due dates and collaborative options with the premium version (which I'm going to buy after my trial!); although, I do wish it had a calendar view option integrated. I plan on using Todoist as a project management checklist with clients as well, but still may try out Basecamp.
3. CREATE SMALL, ACHIEVABLE GOALS FOR BIG PROJECTS
I have some long-term goals for projects in the works, and they can seem very daunting. It's helping to break them down into smaller goals, and even micro goals for the short-term. For example, instead of "Redo my portfolio on my website", I'll create smaller tasks like "Create thumbnail template for portfolio" which makes things easier and is much less stressful. This is great for gigantic goals but also amazingly helpful for organizing your business/life. So instead of "Organize files on laptop", I would instead "Organize project X's design files", etc.
4. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
Sigh. Social media is so annoying. Ha. I mean, I love it, and it's vital for my business and I'm truly grateful for a free way to promote my work, but it has to be scheduled so I don't waste my time on it. Instagram is particularly the hardest for me to get off of, because there is so much eye candy and inspiration there. There are time management apps like Rescue Time that help you evaluate how you spend your time on the computer, (which I tried, but don't really like how it tracks my computer 24/7), but instead I try to practice self-control. The simplest thing that helps me the most is to wear big comfy headphones when I need to focus, and listen to music with minimal lyrics. Also, don't leave your phone right next to your desk where you can grab it easily and plan on having easy, healthy snacks readily available.
5. SCHEDULE ERRANDS AND HOUSEWORK
One of the great things about working for yourself is that you can go run an errand without having to ask for permission! But errands are time consuming, so I absolutely schedule them like I do all of my other projects. The same with housework and meal prep. I'm really looking forward to moving into my office (soo soon!) so that I'm not constantly tempted to clean the house (actually a problem, I love cleaning, ha).
6. GO FOR A WALK
The best thing to do for yourself if you are feeling frazzled or stuck on something is to go outside and take a walk, preferably with a dog and without your phone (if you feel safe!). It reenergizes me every time.
7. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Finally, the most important step to take to be your most productive self is to be healthy and not ignore your needs. Take breaks, find time for yoga or running no matter what, drink A LOT of water (easy to forget when staring at a screen), and also, eat an actual meal. I've been working long hours and have been trying to cook for myself more often instead of eating a frozen meal or something easy. It's so beneficial to step away from work and take some time for yourself; it may seem unproductive at the moment but in the long run you are setting a solid foundation for yourself, and improving the quality of your work.