When you are self-employed, there’s no clock to punch, no coworker (other than your dog or cat) noticing when you’re not at your desk, and often no one pushing you to meet a deadline. Maybe this freedom and independence is why you chose the freelance life! But some days we may need a push to be as productive as we can be. Here are some tips for ensuring maximum productivity in your workday. You may be newly self-employed and just setting up your work routine, or you may already do these things. Feel free to comment and share what has worked for you.
- Set up a dedicated work space
To work efficiently and have your job taken seriously, it’s ideal to have an office space of your own. Ensure that everything you will need for work is in this space, with a good work surface, a comfortable chair, and adequate lighting. Don’t allow your family to “borrow” your office supplies, or you’ll have to interrupt your work time to search out your calculator or stapler! How to best organize a home office will be the topic of a future blog post – stay tuned.
- Set a weekly schedule
This is key. Determine your work hours and when your breaks and lunch time will be. This may be different from day to day. In my editing work, it’s very important to have long uninterrupted blocks of time for maximum efficiency. So I plan for this and don’t allow interruptions. It’s important to maintain a professional mindset: this is your JOB. As you would for any other job, get up at a regular time, shower, get fully dressed (“to the shoes,” as one home worker says) and show up at your office on time. Resist the urge to work in your pajamas.
- Tell everyone your work schedule
It will take time at first to train your family members not to interrupt you during your work time. But no one will take your job seriously unless you do. You will need to tell people that you work from home and what your work hours are. When you see your neighbour after you take your furry coworker for a walk at lunch, end your chat with, “Well, I have to get back to work,” and remind him what that work is (soon the whole neighbourhood will know). As common as freelance work is nowadays, many people (your mom?) still find it unusual and can’t imagine what you might be doing all day long!
- Avoid unnecessary interruptions
Your scheduled break times are a good time to check your Facebook, your blog feed, or the news headlines. Try hard to avoid these time suckers during your workday. If you check your browser history regularly (or ask your spouse or a friend to do this), you may be astounded how much time you spend online. It’s very important to stay connected, networked, and informed, but just be selective and disciplined about what you read during your workday.
Unless you are expecting an important call, allow phone calls to go straight to message and return them later, on your schedule, not theirs.
Avoid the temptation to do housework during your workday. I will do laundry on workdays, however, as I like to be able to hang it outside as much as possible. Schedule home chores for other days, when other family members can pitch in!
- Keep a timesheet
Set up a method for keeping track of your working hours—what you do with your blocks of time. You can keep a notebook handy on your desk for this purpose, or you can use an electronic timesheet app if that works for you. FreshBooks cloud accounting system is one that I have used and also includes an invoicing feature. There are many other systems or apps—feel free to comment and share what you use.
These are only a few ways you can ensure an efficient workday. What ideas have worked for you?