To finish your freelance project on time, you need to work out a clear plan of action and stick to it. That's easy to say, but harder to do! With some projects, you often lose inspiration, with others, you may hit a standstill. Also, as a freelancer, you can easily reach a point of burnout.
When this happens, even the best productivity software doesn’t help. In a nutshell, when you start procrastinating, your creative process looks like this:
So how can you regain focus with your projects and grow as a freelancer? In this article, we have prepared some tips to help you deal with your procrastination problem.
Timeboxing is the method of limiting the time needed to finish the task. You could have probably heard about Parkinson’s Law. According to this law, we use as much time to complete the task as we are given. It means you can spend two hours painting a wall or two days, depending on what deadline you set up for it.
To use timeboxing, break your working day into time slots dedicated to a specific task – a virtual meeting with a client, doing the first phase of research, or proofreading a report. Once you get down to testing this system, use a timer to avoid exceeding the time you are supposed to work on the task. Also, don’t forget to assign a small break in between tasks exceeding 30 minutes.
Practicing mindfulness can help you learn more about when you get bored, overwhelmed, and start procrastinating. Over time, mindfulness activities will assist you in recognizing your thoughts and feelings which become destructive to your productivity.
One of the core aspects of practicing mindfulness is acceptance. It helps deal with perfectionism – a trap we are all vulnerable to as freelancers. By learning how to accept imperfections using mindfulness, you can accept and beat your inner critic faster.
Even a few minutes of meditation every day will help you to become better at listening to yourself and confront your negative or critical thoughts that often block your productivity.
Prepare a plan for the day
Finishing projects on time is not the only domain of the freelancer’s work where we tend to procrastinate. Some freelancers who want to grow their portfolio and income also procrastinate in acquiring new projects.
For instance, they have an old portfolio posted on freelancer websites which they don’t update. Once some potential clients write a message or want to connect, their email response time is too long to even be considered as a potential partner for the project.
If you procrastinate on growing your client base, you should seriously think about it. Developing your brand should be one of the most important activities on your to-do list if you don’t have a full pipeline of projects.
Monitor how your project pipeline changes. For example, you can use some sales CRM where you can track what projects are almost finished and if you have more projects in the backlog which you can start working on later.
If your project pipeline is weak, consider getting more active on Fiverr and Upwork or develop your own inbound lead generation machine.
Make invoicing more effortless
Paperwork is something every creative mind hates doing. Once you have pulled yourself together to deliver a project on time, you have to deal with invoices and taxes.
If you don’t have a reliable bookkeeper or accountant to work with on a regular basis, you need to educate yourself on what your invoice should contain and when you have to send an annual statement. Some freelancers are still using Excel or Word templates to prepare their invoices.
However, using them introduces even more chaos to your work. They often get lost or look unprofessional. That is why to make the billing process more effortless, you should consider automating the administrative tasks with some billing software and work closely with an accountant.
Following up a client with overdue invoices is also important. Setting up recurring emails can help avoid uncomfortable conversations and set up invoice reminders on autopilot.
Set up a Pomodoro timer
Pomodoro is a productivity tool that helps you by working in cycles of 25 minutes. Instead of spending hours to resolve a task, you break your working time into shorter periods.
Let’s see some tips on using Pomodoro technique to beat procrastination.
- Divide complex projects into actionable steps
Don’t work on one task during multiple Pomodoro sessions. This way you won’t notice any progress over time. Break big tasks into digestible parts and spend no more than one Pomodoro session to solve each.
- Do smaller tasks within one Pomodoro session
If, on the contrary, some tasks take less than 35 minutes to complete, pick up a few other smaller tasks and finish them during one Pomodoro session.
- Make breaks between sessions
Don’t forget to make a five-minute break after your timer rings. It’s tempting to continue working on the tasks after the 35-minute session is over. However, that’s not how it works. Make some notes on where you finished and come back to the task later.
Reward yourself more
Create positive emotions related to finishing the task by rewarding yourself for completing it. That’s how our brains work! Your brain associates a task completion with a positive reward and urges you to continue achieving next milestones.
Every day, write down your three biggest achievements and give yourself some small reward. A reward can be anything you can think of – a good cup of coffee or a relaxing bath. You can also create rewards for bigger tasks – a vacation or buying a new computer.
Done is better than perfect
Instead of perfecting each task to never finish it, do what you can do at this given time. If you are planning to get more projects through your website, don’t plan for a top-notch website and invest $10,000 in it. Start with a website builder and create it on your own. Once you get more work from this channel, you can consider introducing some improvements to the website performance or design.
Over to you
Procrastination is one of the main issues that can block your growth as a freelancer. However, by applying some tips and using appropriate tools, you can regain more focus and increase your productivity day by day. So go for it!