I wish I could send a hundred custom proposals each day, work on ten projects, feed and groom my cat, explore web development, chat with Uncle Bob, binge on my favorite Netflix shows, and do a thousand other things in 24 hours.
But I have limited time per day, so I’ve had to learn to optimize my schedule in order to get things done. Here’s what works for me:
It’s Not About Waking Up at 5:00am
For a long time, I thought waking up early was the answer to my productivity problems. After all, it’s what self-help books like Robin Sharma’s, The 5:00 am Club and Laura Vanderkam’s, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast tell you to do.
But here’s the thing, if all it took to be successful was waking up at 5:00 am, a lot of us would be rolling in cash!
To me, productivity means getting things done.
No one cares when and how you get it done. Since we are all different, there isn’t a standard measurement of how to achieve productivity. That said, I’ve learned a few cool productivity hacks along the way that work really well and might help you too.
1. Find Your Flow
Freelancing provides a unique opportunity to work at our own pace. Listen to your body and learn what it needs at every moment. This has been instrumental in improving my productivity.
Over time, I’ve learned my natural body patterns and rhythms, and it helps me stay on track.
For example, I know that I barely get work done in the afternoon. So, instead of forcing myself to concentrate, I switch focus to fun or creative activities like an afternoon walk or playing the piano.
I am most active in the evening, so I schedule my most important tasks for that time of day. This way, I stay focused when it counts and I spend time doing what matters most at the moment.
2. Switch Off Notifications
You might be surprised by how much work you get done when notifications don’t get in the way. Checking notifications steals focus and distracts you from more important tasks.
Sometime back, I would quickly check my email. Three hours later, I’m watching funny cat videos on Youtube (cute little things)!
I can’t tell you how this happens. You just catch yourself hours later, focused on totally unrelated things to what you set out to do.
My solution was to switch notifications off entirely. I set priority notifications for the project at hand in case I need to give immediate feedback to my team.
It’s incredibly freeing not to have to check my emails every minute. I can focus more on the task at hand and produce quality work without distractions.
3. Work While Others Sleep
When everyone is asleep, that’s when I get work done. Since I’m not an early riser, I work late into the night. That is my most critical time. It’s also when I’m most active.
In the middle of the night, there aren’t any urgent work messages, so I’m not distracted by putting fires out. Also, most of my coworkers don’t expect me to be working at night. It’s natural for them to wait for email replies until morning.
It’s always quiet at night. The only noise you can hear is my fingers furiously burning the keys as I create content.
Find a time in your day with the least resistance and work with it. Maybe that is night for you or maybe it is some other time.
- I take frequent breaks after periods of work and eat light snacks throughout the day. This keeps me from having a heavy lunch, which usually makes me feel lethargic. Some of my favorite snacks are nuts, berries, apple slices, and yogurt.
- I use a to-do list every day. The secret is to keep it short. I only include what is most important on the list. This keeps me focused and motivated. Some people find apps like Trello and Google Calendar helpful to stay on top of things.
Should You Stop Waking up Early?
Probably not. If waking up early works for you, keep at it. If it’s something you do just because other people do it, then it might be worth it to evaluate your routine.
Find what works for you. Customize! Take advice and make it work for you. Find your rhythm. Learn from other people, but make it your own. Just like we say in content writing, get the idea but write it in your own words.