I recommend that you read Getting Things Done by David Allen – a quick read that contains some great advice, and has allowed me to take on more client projects in a manageable way. But if you lack time to read a book, here’s my take on it improving productivity as a freelancer.
Capture actions in a trusted system
We all have limited cognitive bandwidth, so unless we use a trusted system to capture thoughts and ideas, our brains are working extra hard to handle multiple thoughts while switching back and forth between tasks. The problem is that our ability to get things done depends on how well we focus.
Capture everything that’s on your mind, noting down all those actions, thoughts, and ideas you’ve been mulling in a trusted place. This could be a good old-fashioned paper notebook, an e-version like Apple Notes or the To-do app (I use Basecamp for managing client website projects). Getting it out of your head will help you focus and make sure all those great ideas don’t get lost in the quagmire.
Process your stuff
There’s nothing like a good clear out for cleansing the soul and getting everything shipshape – decluttering your physical and virtual space really does work wonders for giving you more headspace. A thorough annual cleanse of your desk and your virtual space, in January or just before Christmas (so you can enjoy the festive season knowing your ducks are all in a row) can help you feel more in control for the rest of the year.
But there’s no point in having a good physical and mental clear out if you’re in chaos again a week later. Put a system in place that ensures you can regularly clear to zero – I’m talking about everything that will congest your working day; paperwork, emails, actions.
Follow the ‘Do, Delegate, Delete’ mantra – For each item ask yourself; can I do anything about this? If yes, ask yourself; can I do it in two minutes, or give it to someone else to do? If not, can I delete it (spam) or add it for reference (brochure)? Don’t skip anything – even that annoying task that’s been hanging over your head for the last month.
Achieving inbox zero every day leaves you with a sense of freedom, so set aside time in the daily schedule to process your inbox each and every day. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can get it done if you tackle it regularly.
Have a weekly review
Schedule some time last thing Friday or first thing Monday to scan all of your tasks and projects. Get yourself up-to-date and note down what you need to do next. Having this control over everything makes for less worrying and a more productive workday. Also, having a weekly review means you have the headspace to develop new ideas as you’re not bogged down with to-dos.
Write your to-do items as actions
To-do lists work because they help you stay on the path to getting your most important work done – but they work even better when you write them as an action! So instead of ‘get more paper’, write ‘buy A4 laser paper from Amazon’ and add a due date. If the to-do is to call someone, write their contact details, that’ll save you from having to hunt later.
The aim is not to have to think about a task when you come to do it. Also, don’t pack numerous tasks inside one to-do item. Instead of ‘finish project’ break it down into many smaller actions and you’re more likely to get them done.
Set aside time in your calendar for work and play
A calendar isn’t just for work. Use it for personal stuff too, particularly your wife’s birthday, and your home life will benefit too. At Rather Inventive we add in time for Zoom meetings, personal projects, a review of jobs done as well as focused work time and even lunch. Also, add in time for those less defined tasks such as writing up meeting notes or work-related research, which will help you stay in control of your day.
You may be wondering how you’ll have time to do all this processing and scheduling, but it is quite surprising the amount of time you accrue if you make time to schedule. Having a system in place so that you don’t need to keep everything in your head is the key to being in control of your day and helping you to get things done, ultimately improving your productivity as a freelancer.
Written by Ben Kinnaird, SEO and Website consultant at Rather Inventive Marketing. You can connect with Ben on LinkedIn and get in touch directly via email. If you want help improving your website, search optimisation or even your productivity get in touch with Ben for a free 30 minute Zoom session.