Working from the comfort of their home is a dream come true for many people. You get a chance to be your own boss and the master of your schedule. There is no one looming over your shoulder and pushing you over the edge. Alas, escaping the tedious 9-5 loop should not throw you in the void of constantly juggling work and life.
Another challenge to keep in mind is that our work routines often die by a thousand little cuts, all those short pauses and distractions in the living environment. Is it possible to avoid these pitfalls? The answer is yes, but apart from discipline and perseverance, you need to harness the power of time management.
The right mindset
It all starts with a shift in the mindset. I have seen so many people (including myself) chasing clients only to lose sight of how that affects their lives. In other words, they disregard the value of their own time. Do we really have to be available on weekends, nights, and days? Is it not enough to provide quality service and high value?
One of the hardest lessons is learning to say no. It took me quite a while to overcome this blockage, but I realized that I had to disconnect and spend time unwinding every now and then. It comes down to striking a better work-life balance and finding room in the schedule for your own happiness and health. Otherwise, you risk being overworked and experiencing a burnout.
Put it all in the writing
When everything depends on you and you alone, you cannot afford to drift around aimlessly. Get your priorities straight and be more organized. Use calendars and alarms to stay on tracks. Keep records of your contacts, invoices, tasks, due dates, documents, expenses, spreadsheets, etc. You can use the good old pen and paper or digital tools such as the Google Drive.
Moreover, one of the best habits you can develop is creating daily and weekly and daily to-do lists. In a nutshell, write down everything you want to accomplish in a set time frame. It is a good idea to handle the most important tasks at times of the day when you feel most energized. Less taxing tasks like checking emails can be performed even while commuting.
Smart productivity tips
Rest assured that you do not need to work harder, just smarter. Managing time effectively revolves around being productive. The number of hours you put into tasks does not mean all that much. Even working for eight hours non-stop does not guarantee exceptional results. Science has proven that taking regular breaks holds the key to maintaining peak productivity.
So, do not be afraid to “waste” time on a lunch or coffee breaks every day. Here, I would underline that many freelancers successfully use a Pomodoro technique. Basically, you work in 25 minute bursts and then take a break of five minutes. During these breaks, you should stand up, stretch a bit, and rest your eyes from the screen.
Work means work
On the other hand, when you work, you need to really work. To make it happen, start treating your freelancing remote job like any real office job. Beyond everything else, minimize the number of distractions that can always prolong your work indefinitely. For most people, this means closing social media tabs and muting all notifications on the smartphone.
But, you also need to embrace a holistic approach and limit the overall information intake. At the same time, try to avoid multitasking. This practice forces your brain to engage in a perpetual back and forth and wastes precious time. Even when tackling less demanding duties such as filling paid surveys online, you should complete them first and only then proceed to the next block of tasks.
When caught up in frantic clicking, typing, mailing, and browsing, it is easy to lose track of time. Also, you might be unaware of just how much these things can drain you. When I was doing nothing more than mindless clicking, I was happy with how little mental effort this required. However, after a while I became aware that it is something that stresses me out and drains energy.
So, know what your limits are and set realistic goals. Identify tasks and obligations that eat up most of your time or willpower. Most likely, you can benefit from streamlining and automating social media, email, and scheduling activities. Finally, bear in mind that there is an option to delegate and outsource tasks. That way, you will still be able to deliver without going out of your way.
Have time on your side
It is true what they say: time is money. I would also add that you never want to have it as an enemy. Like it or not, sound time management is integral to success of any work-at-home individual. This practice gives us the best of both worlds: getting more things done every day and still having a life outside work.
So, if you really mean business, create a system and explain to clients how it works. There are many ways to prove indispensable other than being available around the clock. Schedule some regular downtime and take frequent breaks from work. Know when it is best to keep the nose to the grindstone and when to step away from it.
By Sophia Smith