Working from home — in comfy pajamas and with your favorite Netflix binge streaming in the background — sounds awesome, but freelance writers know that staying productive is a challenge. When you supervise yourself, it’s easy to talk the boss into putting off work, approving an abundance of breaks and the importance of a warm bed to your creativity. There’s nothing wrong with working from under the blankets on occasion, but productivity is usually better if you rise and shine and put some of these tips into action.
1. Use a Productivity System that Works for You
Entrepreneurs and successful businesses pros — even best-selling authors — have something in common: they all found a system that works for them and stuck with it. The system doesn’t have to have a lot of moving parts; for many authors, the system is simply a consistent and strict regimen of butt-in-seat and pen-to-paper.
Freelancers have to be willing to do the same, so take some time to adopt a productivity system and make it your own. I like the bullet journal system designed by Ryder Carroll. It’s simple, easy and doesn’t require many supplies; while you can buy a custom bullet journal, you can also just use your favorite pen and notebook. Other productivity systems integrate digital tools such as Todoist or Evernote, which let you maintain them via mobile devices.
When deciding on a system to keep you productive in your home-based office, look for:
- Ease of use: if it takes more than a few minutes a day, it cuts into your profitable hours
- A match for your personality: if technology isn’t your forte, opt for systems that use paper and pen
- Affordability: don’t spend your hard-earned money on expensive systems that don’t support ROI
2. Shut the Door — or Door Equivalent
Writing, editing and other freelance activities take concentration, and production is often momentum based. Constant interruptions, whether they come from spouses, children, pets, television, the phone or friends, can increase frustration and make every task more difficult to complete.
To boost productivity in your home office, pick a work space that has a door and shut it whenever possible. If you don’t have a set-apart office, create a space for work and let everyone else know it’s off limits. Shut the proverbial door by pulling a curtain over the area or slipping in ear buds. Even if you can’t work to music, wearing headphones can physically signal that you’re occupied.
3. Invest in Little Things that Bring you Joy
When it comes to interruptions, your own mind is probably the worst culprit (with the possible exception of young children). One way you can soothe your brain and focus better on work is to ensure your space brings you joy. When you’re happy in the space, you’re less likely to constantly consider other activities and locations.
Choose decor and accessories that you love, and be picky: clutter can reduce productivity. Experiment with various types of music, sounds, scents and textures to find sensory items that help you maintain focus and motivation for at least several hours each day. For example, lemon helps you concentrate and remain calm, while rosemary is stimulating and good for memory functions — something that’s essential for freelance writers.
4. Try Out New Tools for Freelance Writers
With technology developing at a rapid pace, it’s wise to try out new tools every now and then. What have you got to lose?
- Focus Writer is touted as a distraction-free word processor — and it really is. It gives you plenty of white space without all the annoying icons and toolbars (until you really need them), and it’s free. I love it because it’s basically me and a blank page — just what I need when I’m staring writer’s block smack in the face. You can also personalize the page with a background photo of your choice and set it to produce the sound of typewriter keys when you type. Best of all, you can save your work as text, Word (.docx) or rich text format and set daily goals for words typed.
- Automate those pesky little tasks using IFTT so you can focus on the work hand. IFTT lets you set up applets to do almost anything you need online. Sync it with your phone, email and Google account, and it will do things for you such as sending you a notification when you get emails from a specific person, saving news to your iOS reading list every time the POTUS signs a new bill into law or blink your Hue lights when your Alexa timer hits zero. Amazing stuff.
- Track your daily activities with RescueTime. The free version lets you set daily goals and tracks how much time you waste everyday reading Buzzfeed articles or keeping up with friends on Facebook. For a nominal monthly fee, RescueTime will block websites that distract you, keep a log of your daily accomplishments and send you alerts when you reach your goals.
Do you have an awesome productivity system or a top tip for pushing past the 3:00 p.m. slump? Share it with other freelancer writers in our comments section.