As freelancers, we don’t have bosses to check up on us and to make sure that we’re on track to get all of our work done. There are plenty of freelancers for whom that’s never a problem, but, sometimes, some of us need a little help staying focused on our work. Over the years, I’ve found a few different strategies that work for me.
- Build in procrastination: Some days, writing is harder than others. On those days where I want to be anywhere but my desk, I break down my assignments into small increments. I’ll tell myself that as soon as I finish the first 250 words, I’ll let myself go spend five or ten minutes on procrastinating — all those things that you suddenly think of to do when the writing isn’t going so well. I set a timer and, when the timer goes off, I go back and write another 250 words. The number is entirely variable, depending on just how much I need to get done in a given day.
- Think about where the money is going: I track the time I spend on writing in a spreadsheet, alongside the money that I’m earning for each project. I also keep a few notes on what I’m going to do with the money I’m earning right now, reminding me of why I do all of this. I have a basic number for monthly bills, but I also make a note of anything really exciting that I’ve got coming up, like a vacation. By seeing the number that I’ve got to make is surprisingly useful, especially when I break it down into how much I need to make today.
- Create personal incentives: There are pros and cons to creating personal incentives — it’s easy to turn a luxury into a necessity if it’s your standard incentive. But an occasional prize that you can keep your eyes on can make a world of difference on a tough project. Even if it’s something simple, like promising yourself a bowl of ice cream at the end of a particularly long day, sometimes offering yourself a reason to stick to your desk just a little longer can make a world of difference.
These approaches aren’t universal, of course. Everyone has different ways to stay on track and I’d love to hear some of yours. How do you focus on your work without a boss looming over your shoulder?