By Jonathan London on 19th June 2015

How to avoid laziness when you go freelance

When you’re just starting out on your freelance career, one of the most exciting benefits you’ll discover is the feeling of freedom that comes with being able to plan your own work days, without having to worry about commutes, office hours or a boss breathing down your neck.

However, after a couple of months of midday starts, Netflix binges, low productivity and general lethargy, it may be that you realise that self-motivation isn’t as straightforward a process as you had in mind.

The reality of self-employment is that staying productive requires a different skillset that you may not have had a chance to develop if you’re used to office work. You need to be able to set your own goals, keep yourself on track, avoid the temptation of procrastination and essentially hold your own feet to the fire sometimes, rather than relying on someone else to do it for you.

This can be difficult for those unaccustomed to the process, but by following a few simple tips and ground rules, it can be easier to acclimatise than you might think.

Set a schedule – and stick to it!
Creating a schedule for yourself is an absolute essential for anyone who’s serious about running their own business in a professional manner.

First-time freelancers may initially feel as though the removal of a strict timetable will give them flexibility and freedom, and to a certain extent it’s true – but it needs to be balanced with some sense of structure if you want to avoid your days drifting away into directionless, distracted meandering.

As such, you should draw up a schedule that includes all of the deadlines you need to hit and goals that need to be achieved in a given day, while also including periods of flexibility so you still get the benefit of some leeway. Feel free to experiment with this timetable until you crack the formula that works best for you!

Another note on scheduling – avoid the temptation to indulge that teenage fantasy of year-round lie-ins and make sure you get started early each morning. You’ll feel more energetic and productive, while making it easier to sync up your activities with clients who are keeping regular office hours.

Create a working environment around yourself
When going freelance, many may dream of knocking out great pieces of work while still lying in bed with their pyjamas on, but in practice, this often isn’t good for your work or your leisure time.

Failing to create the right separation between work and play will make it harder for you to get into the right mental space for a day of productive professionalism, as well as preventing you from shutting off and relaxing properly when the end of the day arrives.

As such, it can do wonders for you to establish a distinct, well-equipped home office area – preferably with a good view –  to which you can retreat while you work and leave when it’s time to clock out. Also, ditch the pyjamas – you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but putting on some actual clothes can really help you to get into the right mindset for work.

Give yourself rewards
The modern home is filled with all sorts of tempting distractions – the internet, games consoles, your pets, that gripping HBO drama that just ended on a massive cliffhanger etc.

When you’re working from home, it’s hard to totally ignore the pull these temptations can exert on you, so why not try and turn this to your advantage? Instead of allowing an impromptu gaming session to derail your day, try and reward yourself with a quick blast on your console of choice after you complete a set amount of work, or treat yourself to another episode of your favourite show after you’ve met that urgent deadline.

Look after yourself
One of the main problems that freelancers face is the feeling of always being on the clock, never able to switch off and dedicate time to themselves due to their lack of set office hours. You may feel that you’re being conscientious, when in fact you’re just draining your own energy and making yourself less productive in the long run.

That’s why it’s vital to make time to look after your personal needs, especially when it comes to your health. Make time in your schedule to exercise, go outside, eat leisurely meals and sleep properly – you’ll feel better mentally as a result, making you less prone to distraction.

Maintain human contact – but not too much!
Don’t let your home office become your own personal sensory deprivation tank – it’s important to keep some level of human contact, or you’ll risk going stir crazy pretty fast. Take time to speak to family members and loved ones, and to keep contact with clients or collaborators.

Still, it’s important to remember the need for moderation in this regard; there’s a difference between staying in touch with the outside world, and spending the entire day sharing Buzzfeed quizzes and cat memes with your BFF on Hangouts. Learn to recognise the difference!

Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to procrastination
One of the main downsides of the internet era is that all of a sudden, your work portal and your main source of timewasting activities are housed within the same machine. It can be hard to stay focused on your work when you know that all your favourite social networks, games, gossip sites and blogs are only a click away.

Sadly, there’s no easy way of fixing this, other than good old-fashioned discipline, willpower and self-control, but you could make life easier for yourself by incorporating some of these activities into your personal reward structure. If you want to go a step further, deleting distracting bookmarks and programs from your workstation might be a valuable step, or even installing plugins to block your own access to sites you know you can’t stay away from.

By following these tips, freelancers will find it easier to keep the distractions at bay and stick to a regular, productive schedule that works well for them – while still feeling like they’re in charge of their own time.

Jonathan London Written by Jonathan London

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