How to Stay Focused and Productive as a Freelancer

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For some freelancers, churning out work and keeping focused comes easy. For others, it’s a living nightmare. If you find yourself struggling and wasting hours on social media, all hope isn’t lost. Before you give up on freelancing and go back to that office job, try these tips to get back on track.

Establish Structure

Many people choose freelancing for its freedom. What’s better than waking up at noon and working in pajamas? But just because you don’t have someone looking over your shoulder or a tight schedule doesn’t mean you don’t have deadlines to meet.

Don’t let your laziness get the best of you. You’re allowed to make your own structure, so design a schedule that works for you!

If you want to have a 30-minute coffee break in the morning, then feel free – just make sure that you do start working on those terms. Don’t let 30 minutes turn into an hour. A lack of discipline is the downfall of many freelancers.

Man pointing to a date on a calendar.

Work with Your Energy Cycle

Every day has high and low points, and this cycle is different for everyone. Some find it easier to start right away, and struggle to focus as the day goes on. Night owls may need to spend the afternoon relaxing and ride on their nightly burst of energy.

Figure out when you feel most active and put those times to use. Save your recreational time for when you’re feeling lazy. If you work best in the morning, don’t get up and waste that potential energy on video games. Change up your routine if you must.

Typing in a dark room.

Rest and Reward

The best way to get motivated is to use positive reinforcement. If you force yourself to work without a break, you’ll only begin to dread your job. Our brains aren’t wired to sit still and stay focused for hours on end.

Break your work into smaller tasks. When you hit those milestones, take a break to do something enjoyable. Wrote 1,000 words? Play your favorite game for a while. Finished up a webpage template? Treat yourself to some ice cream. Even if it’s just to get up and stretch your legs every 30 minutes, make sure to give your brain a break.

You may find it easier to take frequent mini-breaks throughout the day, or work for hours and take longer rests. Just don’t reward yourself unless you’ve earned it.

But it’s also important to know your limits. When these small breaks stop working, take a long shower or do something that requires little mental energy. Get relaxed, then get back to work.

Video game controller.

Take Care of Yourself

Nothing does more wonders for your productivity than a good night’s sleep, lots of exercise and a few healthy meals. If your job is getting in the way of this, it may be time to step back. Know when you’re overloaded, and when to say “no” to a client. Don’t work yourself into the ground.

Create a Comfortable Workspace

It may not seem that important, but comfort can do wonders for your productivity. Work in a quiet room with no noise or distractions. Invest in a comfy office chair or a nice, spacious desk. Make it yours with posters, plants and your own personal touch. Decorate to create a casual or professional environment, depending on where you work better.

Man in home office.

Use Tools

There are many apps, websites, and programs out there that can help you stay focused. Desktop calendars, virtual sticky notes, and time management tools are great at keeping everything straight. If you’re desperate, Parental Controls can keep you off Facebook.

Apps like Habitica, Mindbloom or Fighter’s Block! “gamify” your life and reward you for staying motivated – helping you build better habits.

Person holding mobile phone.

Do What Works for You

More important than any advice a stranger can give you is this: Figure out what’s best for you. Articles like this can point you in the right direction, but they’re no replacement for experimenting. Keep trying and find what keeps you motivated, what’s best for your situation and what methods keep you focused and on track.

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