• Advice

How to be more productive when you work from home

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

The downside of being a freelancer?

It often feels like you gave up a 9-5 to work 24-7!

Even when you’re not sitting at your desk actually working... you’re always thinking about work. You’re constantly learning and brainstorming new ideas to grow your business.

So it’s ironic that you started this freelance business to be your own boss and finally experience the freedom of doing work you love only to realize that your business has completely taken over your life.

If you’ve ever found yourself complaining that you don’t have time for a weekend off or to finally have a date night with your significant other, you know how easy it is to look up on Friday (or Sunday if we’re being honest) and realize your week got away from you.

The good news? You don’t have to work 24-7 to build a predictably profitable freelancing business when you know how to run your week.

If you’ve been struggling with feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and on the path to burnout, learning how to proactively plan your week will help you to dramatically boost your productivity and get your life back.

Let’s start by designing your Model Calendar.

Step 1: Create a weekly calendar that is broken down by hours

I use a Google Calendar for this because it’s easy to share with my team, but you could use a spreadsheet or old-school pen and paper. The goal is to see all 7 days of the week for about 12 hours a day.

Step 2: Block out your family, friends, and fun time

That’s right! We are starting with family, friends, and fun time! Why? If you don’t block this time first, then work can quickly take up every available moment in your week.

Take some time to decide what you really want to experience each week. Do you love going to Thursday night trivia with your friends? Wish you had a weekly date night with your significant other? Attending your favorite yoga class twice a week? Block out time for what is most important to you.

Step 3: Create your office hours

I know, I know… you don’t want to work 9-5. That’s why you started freelancing!

But the challenge with not having dedicated work hours is that it becomes really difficult to create boundaries between your work and your personal life. And with no boundaries, you’ll find yourself working ALL THE TIME at the beck and call of your clients (hint - if you’re responding to emails at 9PM, this is you!).

Start by asking yourself - when do I do my best work? Are you an early bird who likes getting an early start at 7AM so you can log off by lunch? Are you a night owl who feels most creative after 9PM?

And how many hours do you really need to work to achieve your goals? Too often, we default into thinking a 40 hour work week is required as an entrepreneur. But in my experience, if you’re freelancing as a lifestyle business, you could find that 25 productive hours a week are all you need to achieve your goals.

Step 4: Use block scheduling

Now that you have a clear block of time dedicated to work each week, you’ll want to give those hours some structure.

I start each week with a CEO Date. This is a dedicated time (just an hour or two) on your calendar to plan and prioritize your week. It’s an opportunity to track your progress, determine if you’re on or off track, and course correct so you can achieve your goals.

Once you block in your weekly CEO Date, block in the most important core tasks that keep your business moving forward:: marketing, business development, client work, customer service, and admin.

Each of these core tasks are required for a healthy lifestyle business. Neglecting any of these core task areas will quickly result your business hitting the feast or famine cycle. Blocking time for each core task area each and every week ensures that you’re both paying attention to your business right now (admin, customer service, and client work) as well as your business in the future (marketing and business development).

I recommend scheduling BLOCKS for each core task area because the specific tasks might change week to week. One week, your marketing block might consist of writing newsletters and blog posts while the next week it’s pitching yourself for podcast interviews. The key is to give yourself dedicated time to make progress in this core area each and every week.

And while you’re scheduling these blocks of core tasks - group LIKE with LIKE. Schedule all your client meetings on the same day of the week (my client days are Tuesdays, no exceptions). Block out your creative time during your most creative time of day (all my content is created in the mornings from 9-12). Why? Because if you’re working on similar types of tasks, you’ll get into a creative flow state more easily.

Remember, if you’re not running your week (by design), your week is running you! I hope this inspires you to create a Model Calendar so that you can create a living and a life that you love.

Racheal Cook, MBA is an award-winning business strategist who believes entrepreneurs can grow their dream business while living their dream life, right now. Learn how you can design a business you love, that loves you back, through her productivity and CEO mindset course the Fired Up + Focused Challenge.