Working at home is a risk in more ways than one. You’re not only responsible for finding your own sources of income, you’re also your own taskmaster, which means you have to be self-motivated and productive enough to deliver what you promise to your clients.
This has never been an issue for me, really—but it’s more of challenge to also make sure I deliver on the things I promise to no one but myself—my fiction, my blog posts, my platform for wordhaus, and other efforts that have been floating n the back of my mind with nowhere to go for so long.
My first few days working from home, the entire day, every day, seemed like a blank slate, filled with as many distractions waiting to ensnare me as a game of Mousetrap.
Now that I’m a couple weeks in, I’m much more confident that I can stay on top of my priorities. There’s always room for improvement, and I”m learning some lessons along the way, but here’s how I’ve averted total disaster as I kick off my new freelance career:
Sticking to routine
Some friends looked at me a little strange when I told them I’m still waking up at 6 a.m. every day, and am in front of my computer by 7. I work from home now! There’s no boss to care when I show up! Why not get my beauty sleep?
But the truth is, I’m terrified to sleep in. Those morning hours are prized fiction writing time, and the later I get up, the less writing I’m likely to do. Worse, I fear that sleeping in will disrupt a trusty routine that’s proven productive for years—even if it was forced on me by a job.
As I settle into new routines, I expect I’ll get more comfortable letting go of the old ones. But for now, if it’s not broke, I’m not fixing it.
In other words, you’ve got to know what matters, what doesn’t, and mercilessly draw the line between them.
I have a lot of goals. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t tackle them all at once, even if I am working from home. The only way to make meaningful progress on any of them is to pick a few to focus on first, then build from there. For now I’m focusing on finishing my novel, getting a few freelance clients, getting in shape for a half marathon in November, and integrating more peace and mindfulness into my life with regular yoga practice.
And obviously, prioritizing is key on a day-to-day level too. Every morning I identify my to-dos for the day. Crossing them off my list as I go is a reward in itself.
Understand your flow
I always do my fiction writing first thing in the morning. This is in part sticking to my routine and prioritizing, but it’s also largely because I know my mind does creative writing best when I’m fresh. Other tasks like new business pitching and research I do best at the end of the day. I don’t know why, I just know it works for me.
Finding and understanding your optimal work flow comes from experimentation. Try new things, and pay attention to what feels good and what get results.
Periodic breaks have been proven over and over to improve your focus and productivity. So chill out and enjoy them, okay?
I write my breaks right into my to-do list. This lets me mark my break times by accomplishment. I like this better than breaks by time period because when I step away I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve ticked off a to-do, and it helps me relax to know I’ve got one less thing on my plate. It also makes sure I actually take a break. I use most of my breaks to get away from the computer and do something active—walk my dog, practice yoga, go for a run.
And when it’s over, I’m rewarded by getting to scratch it off my list along with my work tasks.
These basic principles of productivity have kept me moving forward in my first few weeks of freelancing. But maximizing my productivity is an ongoing project for me. As I experiment with some productivity models, I’ll keep sharing what I find.
What are your best productivity tricks?