I haven’t stepped into an office for over five years. And, that means I also haven’t had to deal with daily commutes, set schedules, and co-workers. Sometimes being a freelancer is pretty awesome. However, it takes a lot of self-motivation to be a freelancer. After all, you have to set your own hours and stay on top of your responsibilities. And, to be honest, it can be tough to stay on track when their plenty of distractions at home. Thankfully, I’ve been able to stay focused and motivated after picking up these freelancer motivation tips over the years.
Up and at ‘em.
I know. Wasn’t the whole idea of freelancing waking up whenever you like? While you could get out of bed at noon, that’s not necessarily going to help keep you focused.
Getting a late start to the workday can lead to a bad habit. Instead of being responsible, you stay up all night, sleep in, and get to work whenever you want. When that’s your work ethic, it’s hard for you to take your work seriously.
Additionally, a study by German biologist Christoph Randler found that morning people are more proactive than night owls. I’ve made it point to start work at 8 a.m., but if you’re ready to go at 6 a.m., then that’s when you should start your workday.
I’ve definitely been guilty of staying in comfortable clothes throughout the workday. You know, comfy sweatpants and a broken-in sweatshirt. After all, it’s not like there’s a dress code to adhere to when you’re a freelancer.
However, once I read this Forbes article by Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, I made the decision to put on actual clothes.
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire or ‘relaxing weekend wear,’ so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning,” writes Dr. Pine.
This means that if you’re wearing comfy clothes that you would when binge-watching Netflix, you’ll be lazy.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit and tie. But, you should at least put on something besides sleepwear.
Personally, jeans and a t-shirt are just enough to put in a more productive mindset. But when I need to crush it, putting on a button-down shirt takes me to a whole new zone.
Set a schedule.
Again, I get that you become a freelancer to escape schedules. But, in order for you to remain productive, you should establish a daily schedule. Doing so will keep you organized, focused, and motivated.
For example, you could use the first couple of hours every morning to plan your day, respond to emails, and update your social channels. After that, you would set aside between nine and noon for work, take an hour lunch break, and then work from one to four. From four to five you could get back to emails or return phone calls.
Enjoy what you do.
As freelancer Deji Atoyebi writes, “some people go into freelancing for the money and end up not having a passion for what they do. This is probably the best way to end up frustrated if you ask me.”
“Truth is: no one gets contented by doing what he or she doesn’t love. If you’ve got wavering commitment towards something, several things could go wrong.”
“To not end up frustrated, you need to grow a passion for the freelance life. Most importantly, ensure what you’re doing is what you really love. Don’t choose to be a content marketer if you’d make a good designer. Don’t choose to be a web developer if you’d be more satisfied with being an SEO specialist.”
“Make your job what you enjoy, not endure.”
Arm yourself with the right tools.
Of course, you need the basic tools, like a computer and an internet connection. But, there is a wide range of tools that can help you retain your focus
For starters, a timer is one of the simplest tools to possess to help you stay on track. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, involves working on a task for 25 minutes, taking a short break, and then working for another 25 minutes of work. There are also time trackers that let you know how it takes to complete a task.
There are also apps and tools that can eliminate those pesky distractions from your desktop or smartphone. I’ve also invested in a decent pair of headphones and listen to Spotify when working. Music not only blocks out background noise, but it also maintains my focus.
Separate personal and professional communication.
It’s not uncommon, or difficult, for your personal and professional messages to get intertwined. This may not seem like a big deal, but when this happens it becomes more challenging to remain focused. That’s because you end up spending the bulk of your day responding to personal texts, emails, or phone calls.
If you need to be on-call for your clients, then consider having a separate phone line and email address that’s just for work. Then, during work hours, you can keep your personal lines of communication silent.
Design a functional workplace.
Even though your couch is comfortable, it’s not always the most optimal working space. Wouldn’t you rather just lay there and veg out instead of working?
If you want to remain focused and productive, while preventing distractions, you should create a functional workspace. This includes having exposure to natural sunlight, setting the temperature setting at 77 degrees, and painting your walls in neutral or soft colors. Your workplace should also be free of excessive background noise and throw in some plants for good measure.
And, don’t forget to keep your work area clean and organized. This way you can pay attention to the task at hand instead of looking for items when you need them.
Get out of the house.
While it’s obviously important to stay focused, you also need to take breaks. And those breaks should be somewhere besides your home. After all, you’re not under house arrest!
Instead of being cooped up in your home 24/7, take a walk, go to the gym, or meet a friend for lunch. You should even consider working from somewhere else occasionally, like a coffee shop or coworking space. This is one of the best ways to maintain your health and your sanity.
Socialize with others.
I can tell you from personal experience. Working from home can get lonely. While at first not having co-workers may sound ideal, we all need the occasional banter and conversations with them.
In fact, according to Fast Company, “When people connect physically–through a handshake, a pat on the back or a high five–oxytocin is released, promoting feelings of attachment and trust, facilitating greater collaboration among team members.”
“Oxytocin plays a number of other important roles, such as boosting mood and improving our ability to learn and remember. Increased social contact has also been shown to dampen cortisol–the chemical that is released when we’re under stress.”
Since you’re a freelancer, you probably don’t have co-workers. However, you can still socialize by grabbing coffee with a friend, working in a shared office, taking a class, or joining a local networking group.
Be aware of your MIT.
Each and every freelancer has one or two tasks that are a high priority. Instead of procrastinating, know what exactly your Most Important Task (MIT) is. Once you do, make sure that you complete it as soon as possible.
As suggested on LifeHacker:
“It’s Friday. Near the end of the day, deliberately decide on your MIT for Monday morning. Make sure it’s tiny, achievable, and important. Write it down and place it somewhere you will see it, even if it’s a Post-It note on your keyboard. Monday morning when you arrive? That’s the first thing you’re going to do. No matter what.”
[Related: Tips for Staying Focused While You Work Remote During Retirement]