Nick Rojas
Nick Rojas 2 February 2018

Timeless tips for freelancers struggling with productivity

Whether you freelance as a designer, UXer, developer, product manager, or something else in the designer space, one thing's for'll experience productivity issues occasionally.

It’s one thing to be in a corporate office where you can contribute to and benefit from an environment bursting with creativity and great ideas, but it’s another thing when you’re freelancing on your own in your home, in a coffee shop, or in some other location. So, it makes sense to come up with strategies to deal with productivity struggles when they arise.

In order to help you develop a process that facilitates optimal productivity, here are 3 tips that you should work into your daily routine, if you haven’t already done so.

1. Use Apps Wisely

You’ve no doubt already come to realize that there’s an app for pretty much anything under the sun, and this is definitely the case when it comes to productivity solutions. Consider that some statistics show that people spend only 2% of their mobile app time focusing on news and productivity versus 43% playing games, 26% focused on networking, 10% pursuing entertainment, 10% focused on utilities, 1% tuned into health fitness and lifestyle, and 5% focused on other areas. So, if you’re like the majority of people using mobile apps, you probably don’t use productivity apps as often as you could to help you get more done in the allotted time.

Of course, some apps will be more useful than others, so figure out which ones work best for you. And while you’re focused on downloading the right apps for your freelance practice, don’t forget to consider how the apps you use could impact battery performance. Whether you’re at home or away from home, you definitely don’t want your phone to die on you when you need it most. Being mindful of battery life will include reducing unnecessary battery drain by, among other things, using the auto-brightness adjustment, disabling GPS, and steering clear of push notifications. That way, you’ll have your apps at your fingertips...on a phone with enough juice.

2. Make Better Use of Time

One thing that can cut into your productivity is interrupting your creative work time with tasks that could perhaps be rescheduled for other times of the day -- or even other days of the week. Consider the Pomodoro Technique, which calls for working for 25 minutes with zero distractions, resting for a period of five minutes and after four such sessions, taking a longer break such as half an hour. The rationale behind this technique was detailed by Francesco Cirilio in a paper focusing on single-mindedness. Basically, the Pomodoro Technique will enable you to focus and to resist visiting productivity-draining sites like YouTube, Facebook, or other online diversions.

When it comes to aspects of your business that are not directly related to design work, such as administrative or marketing work, you should consider possibly outsourcing said tasks so that you can concentrate on what you do best. It’ll take time for you to get a feel for what works best for you, but once you’ve assessed your current processes and tried out different options, you’ll eventually find a suitable routine that will put your productivity struggles behind you.

3. Eliminate Distractions

While working from home has its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. One of these drawbacks is the potential for distractions. Whether it involves family members who need your attention during the work day or neighbours who believe you're available for a chat as long as they see your car in the driveway, you will need to eliminate or at least reduce distractions. Otherwise, you'll definitely experience a productivity hit that will see you fritter away your time. You can get the ball moving by letting your family, friends, and acquaintances know that you need as few distractions as possible to get your work done. All in all, you’ll have to treat your freelance career like a business if you want others to respect what you do for a living. Once you’ve communicated this and hold your ground, you’ll find that most of the productivity-sapping distractions will largely be a thing of the past.

Being a freelancer in the design space can be a rewarding experience, but you'll need to careful about how you go about things if you want to be successful without someone watching over your shoulder. From using the right apps, to making better use of your time, to avoiding distractions, you can put an end to your struggles with productivity and boost your creativity.

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