We all know a few great ways to increase productivity without cutting into even more of your precious free time. As freelancers and entrepreneurs, we have precious little of that already.
It's also easy to forget the basics when we’re neck deep in the details. So, here are a few productivity tips, a couple of which you may have heard of and a couple of which you may never have heard before. Either way, they could change your entire workflow.
1. Get Organized!
This cliché has become that way for a reason. Poor organization is a widespread epidemic that kills productivity and causes more mistakes and overlooked data than any other single problem. With literally thousands of ways to get your work more organized, there is simply no excuse for not taking the time to get things in order. I guarantee it will save you time in the long run.
Productivity management software, spreadsheets, a good online and offline filing system; the methods of achieving better organization will vary a great deal depending on your particular tasks and workload. No matter what you do, get organized! You’ll get more done in less time, and your accuracy will take a step up in the process. Most good software options will cost a few dollars, but this is one of the wisest investments you can make.
2. Identify Recurring Distractions
We all have little distractions that consistently crop up throughout our day. Identifying those recurring issues can help you find ways to mitigate their impact on your workflow. If you’re a freelancer working from home, that issue might be the spouse or kids constantly interrupting you. Or, continually checking your phone as non-business texts or voicemails come in, checking Facebook a dozen times a day, even thinking about your budget while working on other tasks are all far too common.
Setting up a designated office space with designated working hours can help. If that’s not viable, looking into a good coworking space can make all the difference in improving your productivity and focus.
3. One Step at a Time
This requires more than simply organizing your workload into manageable steps, although that is a key component. A nicely organized, step-by-step breakdown of your tasks makes the day easier, but that’s only the first step.
Prioritization of your daily tasks can bring a sharper focus to your workflow. Some people work better when they take care of the quick, little tasks first, checking things off their list faster for the first part of the day, leaving fewer tasks overall after lunch. Others prefer to tackle the largest tasks first, for that feeling of gaining momentum all day long.
In either case, critical tasks should always take priority. This may take some experimentation to find the right system for you, but investing that small amount of time now will save you a great deal later. A flexible, sortable to-do list such as Trello or GQueues is a necessity for any heavy workload.
4. Take a Break!
Another obvious one that needs re-stating. Grinding yourself into the ground with eight, ten, even twelve hours non-stop isn’t helping you, or your client. Taking a short break every few hours and doing something completely unrelated to your work can help you to keep your mind sharp, and prevent that mental fog that so often hits all of us later in the day.
If you spend a great deal of time looking at paperwork or a computer screen, some gentle eye exercises every few hours can go a long way toward helping mitigate that eye fatigue and the headaches many of us get after a long day of reading fine print.
Avoid overworking yourself and you will improve your productivity. On that point…
5. The Miracle of the Shorter Work Week
Most of us are well acquainted with the feeling of waking up the first day of the week, dreading the knowledge that today we go back to work. The weekend didn’t last long enough, and with a to-do list a mile long, and with those unavoidable social obligations, there was no time to recover from last week.
It should be obvious that this approach only results in a slow, steady buildup of exhaustion and mental fatigue. Freelancers and businesses around the world are beginning to realize the benefits of a shorter working week. New scientific research brings support to this idea, showing evidence that 40 or more hours a week is actually counter-productive.
The 32-hour workweek is gaining more ground by the month with companies and freelancers everywhere. Why sacrifice a full day’s work? According to the evidence, a three-day weekend can result in less fatigue, sharper focus, higher productivity rates, and fewer sick days. The inevitable benefit of all of the above is that you can actually accomplish more in four days than you can in five when combined with the three-day weekend. You can see the data for yourself here.
Optimization of productivity forms the cornerstone of an effective business, from freelancers to small businesses, up to multi-national corporations. Following these five tips is an essential move toward increasing productivity, getting more out of your hours and potentially freeing up even more time to do other things. Better productivity means better profits, for you and your clients.
Guest post by Tiffany McAdams from personal finance website Investment Zen, who share inspirational stories and actionable insights from people who have found a way to make money work for them.