Mark Twain once said that if you woke up every morning and ate a live frog, it’d probably be the worst thing you’d do all day.
Consultant Brian Tracy used this quote to thread his anti-procrastination guide Eat That Frog, which I read through while procrastinating on a big feature article.
While Tracy’s book is more aimed at corporate workers (and I’ll never understand how reading the newspaper became one of the deadliest sins according to almost all productivity guides) procrastination certainly affects freelancers, hence I will share some of the lessons I learned.
Plan in Advance
Tracy writes that one of the biggest reasons for procrastinating is not being certain as to what you’re supposed to be doing. Throughout the book, he hammers home the value of advance planning.
I put this into practice quickly the night before I REALLY needed to start getting interviews scheduled by making a list of the people I needed to call and also made sure their phone numbers were on the list, which eliminated any excuse for not waking up and making calls immediately.
However, Tracy goes far more in-depth, writing that advance planning doesn’t just apply to starting a project, but other necessary tasks and even long-term goal setting.
One of the biggest challenges for freelancers is managing our time — if we don’t do it well, we won’t survive as freelancers.
Time management is about developing good work habits, and using time management tools that work without getting in the way.
As freelancers, we also want tools that can be used and accessed from anywhere — multiple locations, while traveling, and on the go with our mobile devices if necessary. So today we’ll look at a few online tools that are simple, easy to use, and effective — helping you manage your time and tasks without too much hassle.
This list actually contains alternatives for each type of time-management tool, so you have options to check out.
By Leo Babauta. This article has been translated into Spanish by Juan Manuel Lemus from DotPress.
Freelancers are excellent at producing great work if an assignment takes less than a day to complete. But many freelancers (not all) are also notoriously bad at completing projects that take several days or more to complete.
We’re not always great at project management — and part of the problem might be that we don’t have a boss breathing down our necks, pressuring us at every turn and holding us accountable.
Another problem, of course, is that big projects are overwhelming and intimidating, and it’s easier to do a quick one-off job than to plod along at a project that could take a couple of weeks. Yet a third problem: we don’t always have a clear picture of how the project should look when it’s finished — a clearly defined desired outcome.
We’re going to address those problems in this guide to simple project management by modifying some project concepts from David Allen’s Getting Things Done — modified for freelancers. Actually, this method would work for regular employees too, but it’s especially designed for freelancers.
All freelance workers (heck, all workers in general) know about the Dreaded Project: that item that sits on your to-do list, deadline looming or even long gone, too intimidating to tackle. We’ll do anything but that Dreaded Project, even though we know it’s the most important thing we should do.
Fear no more. We’re going to conquer that Dreaded Project and turn it into a tame little puppy dog in just 8 steps.
Then you can get it off your to-do list and breathe a sigh of relief. It’ll be a huge burden off your chest, and you can safely go back to diddling around online until the next Dreaded Project arrives. But that’s OK — you can apply these same steps to that one too.
1. What’s bothering you? Take just 5 minutes to think about this Dreaded Project. What’s bothering you about it? Why don’t you want to do it? Often our reasons for putting it off go unsaid, and we avoid thinking about it. We know it’s there, but it’s too dreadful even to consider. Well, take those 5 minutes and consider it. Often it’s not as bad as we first imagined. And if we know what the problem is, we can address it. Spell out your obstacles, and plan a way around them.
By Leo Babauta
It’s amazing how we can while away our days by doing practically nothing, and feeling busy and stressed while doing it.
And then, at the end of the day, we are so tired we zone out in front of the television or Internet until we’re ready to drop off to sleep.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, it’s possible that you’re the victim of time and energy drains — things in your life that drain away your energy and your time without you really thinking about it. Eliminate those drains, and you’ll find yourself much more productive, much more energetic, much happier. In fact, even if you’re pretty productive already, it’s very likely that you still have time and energy drains that you could eliminate to improve your life.
What are your time and energy drains? It’s different for each person, of course. The best way to find out what your time drains are is to do a little time log. Now, before your eyes glaze over at this idea, I don’t recommend a detailed log, unless you’re good at doing that. For the rest of us, it’s easier to just keep a blank sheet of paper or notebook by your side and just jot down what you’re doing. You don’t need to write down the time or keep track of the minutes — just write down the activity. At the end of the day, look over your list and you’ll see the kind of things that are taking up a lot of your time without giving you much benefit in return.
Energy drains are a little tougher, but if you go over a list of the things in your life, and give it a little thought, you can probably identify some of the things that are draining you unnecessarily and find ways to change your life accordingly.
Some of the most common examples are listed below.
They say that time is money. So logically, one wants to find ways to improve their speed and make more money with their time. If this is your goal, then here you’ll find a list of what I’d recommend for the toolbox of every software-developing freelancer.
If you’ve had to do something twice, automate it. Whether it’s recreating a database, transferring new files to the web server, or just crunching a handful of data, doing it by hand twice is already once too many.
Learn a scripting language, get comfy with the automation tools your applications offer you (think snippets in TextMate or macros in Photoshop), and start using them, so that you can focus your valuable time on the important things.
Imagine your tools doing the work for you in the background while you’re sitting in the sun with a coffee, and reading everyone’s favourite freelancing site.
But let’s look at how to make that laziness work for us, and how to turn lazy into productive.
We often beat ourselves up about our laziness, even though it’s a natural condition that every human being gets to some extent. It’s time to stop the self-criticism and see how laziness can actually be a positive, no matter what society tells us.
Here’s an observation: often the smartest people are the laziest ones. They’re always looking for ways to get out of work, or do make something easier, and their creative ways of doing that have come up with some of the most ingenius, productive inventions: the computer, the microwave, the car, the Clapper, to name but a few.
Now, I don’t know about you, but laziness doesn’t seem so bad to me when you look at it that way. Let’s see how laziness can actually be productivity if you use it the right way.
By Leo Babauta
If you’re like most people, you’ve got a to-do list that spills over onto the next page — one or more lists of tasks that just seems to be getting longer and longer. And no matter how hard you work, no matter how many hours you put in, no matter how many of the tasks you knock off your list, it just keeps growing.
Master your never-ending to-do list by simplifying it and focusing exclusively on high-powered tasks.
Take a look at your to-do list right now — how many of those tasks will really matter in a month? How many of them are just boring, mindless, repetitive, time-consuming tasks that will keep you extremely busy without really making a difference in your life? Look through you list and see if you can find the one task that will really change your life.
That’s a high-powered task.
By Leo Babauta
If you’re like me — and if you’re a freelancer, you’re probably like this — you procrastinate on your assignment because, well, you just don’t feel like doing it right now. There are tons of reasons why: it’s an intimidating project, you’re not sure how to start, or simple inertia stops you from getting started.
A solution that works every time: break the job into smaller bits, and do those bits in bursts.
That may sound obvious, but not many people put this to optimal use. Too often they procrastinate because they’re stuck with a daunting task on their to-do list. If that’s you, try these 10 productive tips:
Granularize. Got a project? Just put the very next physical action on your to-do list, not everything on the list. Is that task still too intimidating? Break it down even further. For example, instead of writing a whole article, write the intro. Or do an outline. Instead of doing a whole graphic design, just do a sketch. Or start by brainstorming. Or searching the web for ideas (don’t get lost on the web).
If you’re like most writers, you procrastinate. You have a hard time getting started writing, unless you’re seized by a burst of inspiration. Instead, you might do some “research” online, fiddle with your to-do list, or work on a number of other tasks instead of doing the writing you need to do.
If you’re having trouble getting your writing done, try creating a morning writing ritual. You can get a lot more done each day, as an early boost of productivity will spur further productivity throughout the day.
Why create a morning routine? A few reasons:
One of my best skills is being able to turn out a high number of articles each week. My output varies depending on the complexity and length of a story, but I can crank out anywhere from 3-6 articles a day — which doesn’t hurt the pocketbook.
But writing productivity doesn’t come easy. All writers grapple with procrastination: you know you should be writing right now, but you find a million other things to do instead.
It’s not an insurmountable obstacle. You can squash the distractions and procrastination and crank out articles like a maniac with some simple hacks.
Here are some of the best methods for writing productivity: