Like professionals working across other industries, freelancers struggle with productivity and time management. Sitting at a recent meetup we held in Podgorica, a group of freelancers discussed concrete ways to develop work patterns that lead to more productive output and healthier work habits.

6 Ways Freelancers Can Focus their Work Day

1. Create a list.

It is easy to quickly get off track by tasks that we feel like we need to do, but do not really matter. Or they leave us feeling like we accomplished nothing by the end of the day. A list can help focus our attention, think intentionally about the day, and set boundaries regarding our time for things we need to get done versus distractions.

Creating a list helps to set off the thought process of completing the task. A list can help make the task real and calms anxiety. All of this helps to increase creativity.

2. Break down larger projects into smaller pieces.

Along with putting items on a list, divide large projects into smaller more accomplishable tasks. Large briefs can feel overwhelming, create anxiety, and shut down the brain. However, outlining the major milestones within the project and a path to completion will help make it feel more achievable.

3. Set a routine.

One of the advantages of going to an office each day is the daily routine which naturally gets set. Freelancers may find it difficult to get a regular routine started to help keep them on track and focused. I would suggest creating a daily schedule that helps guide your day to accomplish your goals for the day and week.

A schedule may be loose or strict depending on personal needs. Some need a tighter structure which may dictate exact times for coffee breaks, lunch, or times to check email. Some schedules may be organized around blocks of time that setting 30/60/90 minutes of productivity and a 10-15 minute break at the end.

4. Use time tracking apps.

When working on a project, how many times has it happened that a project owner has asked for an extra task to completed. Or an additional part gets added. A common question that gets asked, “How do I charge for this? I don’t know how long it will take”

A good practice especially for beginning freelancers is to use a time tracking app such as Toggl, HourStack or TMetric, and note how long each phase of a job may take. A large problem for freelancers is understanding how long a specific project or task will take them to complete. Or how to quote a price during the negotiation phase. Time tracking apps help to solve this by giving insight into time needed to complete jobs.

toggl app time tracker

5. Use tools to limit distractions.

How many times have you opened your laptop ambitious to accomplish all of your goals…. And then you are 30 minutes lost in the social media abyss?

Sites like Freedom and Anti-Social help to restrict social media usage during specific work hours. For those of us who struggle with distractions, technology can be our friend to drive the distractions away to keep us on task and be more productive.

6. Focus on your health.

A final tip for freelancers is looking after your health. Physical and mental health often get overlooked by freelancers. The thought of getting the next job and the stress of completing the current one may pile up shifting the focus away from health. However, studies show that productivity increases with a healthy lifestyle.