“Scrolling the Instagram feed and chatting idly to your desk mate are reliable ways to waste time and precious attention.”
If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or artist you’ll appreciate how difficult it can be to keep regular hours and make them count. The type of work you do might mean being in it for the long game with no guarantee of rewards—money $$$ fame!!—or it might mean working to self-imposed deadlines. The challenges are many. You have to cling to the conviction that the work you do is worthwhile and avoid a minefield of distractions. Below our part-time in-house writer, Rayne Attwood, divulges her ‘Top Five Tips’ to help any lone ‘freelance’ ranger have a seriously productive day.… every day!!!
1. WORK FIRST Structure your day around the time you need to be working. Don’t run errands or set appointments during these hours, and don’t, I repeat do not, respond to emails (this last point deserves its own section, and it is going to get one!). Deciding for yourself what hours you work might sound like a dream, but anyone who’s tried will know it’s laughably hard. Unless you’re one of the high-functioning freaks who prize self-approval more than gold and diamonds, it can be tempting to structure your day around things that other people will notice or care about.
Do your work. Stick to your hours at all costs—paying attention to how excellent it feels when your work is going well—and it won’t be long before you don’t need the approval of others. You’ll be too busy working (high-functioning freak!).
2. TREAT EMAILS LIKE SLIGHTLY FASTER POST Remember post? Back in the day we wrote love letters and sealed them with kisses… We also wrote dispassionate letters containing all relevant information and expected a few days’ wait for the reply. Then came email, a faster way to send the letters we used to send in the post. In email’s golden era, you dialed up to Send & Receive. Before replying you had to read the email because it had actual words in it. Then you composed a reply, checked spelling & grammar, and connected to the internet to send. Back then it was perfectly acceptable to get an email in the morning and send your reply at the end of the day, or even—what?—the next day.
These days written correspondence is basically an unending rapid exchange of cat pictures. The effect of this tyranny is that we’re jumpy, distracted, and constantly expect to be interrupted. Who can work like that? I can’t. Resist! Resist! Just because you work your own hours does not mean you’re free to reply to emails 24/7. Set your own rules for email. Be consistent and people will get used to it. Rant over. Phew.
3. STRATEGIC COFFEE I heart coffee as much as the next freelancer but try to drink it only before sitting down to work. This signals your brain that it is work time, stops your caffeine tolerance creeping up, and helps you avoid jitters and sleeplessness later in the day, all of which are essential for repeating the exact same routine tomorrow (NB!!). Even so, after a while, you may need two or three cups to get you going. When this happens, stick to decaf for a while. After a few days off, one espresso will knock you off your swivel chair.
4. MAKE SOCIAL/ISING COUNT Scrolling the Insta feed and chatting idly to your desk mate are reliable ways to waste time and precious attention. Instead of banning yourself from Social or building a Big Beautiful Wall around your desk, why not limit the quantity—and focus on the quality—of social interactions? Avoid short unsatisfying chats and grab lunch or coffee to connect in a real way.
Internet-wise, this Chrome extension lets you decide how much time per day you’re allowed to spend on your guilty pleasures. An awareness of limited time might help you spend the minutes wisely. Read articles that actually interest you, or look at photos of people you actually know (as opposed to reading “10 Surprising Uses for Fingernail Parings” and flipping through pics of your cousin’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s twenty-seventh Birthday at Adventure Golf). Or, if cold turkey is more your style, this open source app lets you blacklist time-wasting websites for hours at a time with absolutely NO turning back. You can delete the app or take an axe to your laptop but you won’t be allowed on Facebook until the app says so.
5. FIND YOUR COMMUNITY Working on your own steam doesn’t have to mean working in a vacuum. No matter how obscure your work is, there are people out there doing what you do. These are your people. Keep yourself informed about work being done in your field. Become a fan. You’ll get inspiration, and maybe support, but you’ll also start to see your work as part of an ongoing conversation. This sense of belonging will prove vital when the demons descend (you know the ones: why does this matter? who’s ever going to care? Boo hoo hoo).
If you found solace in ‘all of the above’, make sure you tune back in next week for the next five tips for freelancers to make the most out of every working hour!
Written by Rayne Attwood – Freelance Journalist
Rayne works part-time wherever the Iconic crew needs extra hands. During the other ‘part’ of her time, she writes fiction, copy and web content. She is working on her second novel. Her first novel, like all the best first novels, is now in the bin.