Freelance Productivity Killers & How To Avoid Them

Ah what can be better than working from the comfort of your own office and your own computer right? You wake up in the morning with a nice cup of coffee and ready to take on a day of web work – that it until your phone rings off the hook, you’ve got 300 emails, 30 IMs, your mom is poking you on facebook and your friends are wondering why you haven’t responded to their Twitter post. What’s a freelancer to do? Let’s look at some common productivity killers and how to avoid them:

Overly Communicated

This one is tough for me, as I pride myself on being available on 5-6 different IM clients, by email or by phone during the entire 9-6 workday. I like my clients to feel assured, knowing if they have question or a crisis, I’m quickly and easily reachable. However, this can have major downsides, as more than a few hours of potential work time has been wasted by talking to clients on IM. Normally one can handle one client while still being able to design or code somewhat efficiently. But if you’re talking to more than one client, you might as well say ‘bye bye’ to some good work hours.

How to Avoid This: Check your emails periodically. I try to go for once an hour, on the hour, but I may break this if I’m waiting for a long download or something. If you tend to get tons and tons of email (you fabulous, freelancer, you) you may need to cut down your emails to once in the morning, once at lunch, and once before you quit for the day. As for the phone, answer if you must, but if I’m in the middle of a complicated project, I try to let it go to voice mail and call them back as soon as possible.

For IM clients, keep them on, but set your status to Away when coding, designing or trying to do some productive work. This way, you’ll still get your IMs, but you won’t feel bad about ignoring them while you’re working, since it says you really are Away. I would probably plan to only answer these when you have a good 30 minutes or so open.

Social Networking

Yes social networking is important and yes I am also guilty of doing this way to much. When you need to work and pay the bills, you don’t need to be on facebook. Leave your friends alone on Twitter. While I do use Twitter for tech help, to find good articles and to search for new web client leads, I often have to stop myself, otherwise I’d spend the whole day and not get any work done.

How To Avoid This: Check your facebook once in the morning if you must, and perhaps once before you leave for the day, but that’s it! It’s a bad bad addiction, my friend. I normally check Twitter on the hour, after I’ve checked my emails.

Chores

Working from home can be great, until you realized how high the grass is, how many dirty dishes are on the counter and how dusty your furniture is. Don’t (I repeat) DON’T fall into the chore trap. This is worse that IM clients and social media combined, as you’re completely away from your computer, and therefor no reminders remain to tell you to get to real work.

How to Avoid This: If I noticed chores need to be done, I do them during my self given lunch break; or I try to hustle so I can finish my work early and do them before “the man” comes home from work. I’m super OCD about organization and cleanliness, and surprised that I have successfully avoided this trap (for now).

Clients

Yes you heard right, clients can be a HUGE productivity killer. I had a client once who had a super short deadline, but wouldn’t let me work. He would send 5 one line emails; then immediately IM me to tell me I had an email; and then would call 2 seconds after that to discuss the email. I love clients, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you need to lay down the law.

How to Avoid This: Normally a combination of the tips above will be enough to give you time to work, but if the client doesn’t get the hint and continues bombarding you with communications. Calmly inform the client that “I’m sorry Client A, but I want to make sure I get this project done for you/have a meeting/am extremely busy right now, so can you put your questions into a big email, and I promise we’ll discuss this as soon as I’ve finished this project/meeting/etc.” I promise, they will understand. They have lives too you know?

There’s a lot as freelancers that we have to keep up with, but if we don’t manage our time properly; the day can get away from us and we’ll find we have done any work, therefor we haven’t gotten paid. Get a good calendar/day planner (this is one thing I leave OFF the iPhone) hang it above your computer, so you can always be reminded of what’s coming in and out for the day. Let me know if you have any other productivity tips, as my OCD is longing for more fun things to organize. 😛