One of the biggest pros of becoming a freelancer, is flexible working hours, but it can be your worst enemy if you can't control your production flow and stop procrastination.
Procrastination or as some people call it "Freelancer's Rut" can be identified as a method to postpone important tasks thinking you can still do it on time and it will not need much time. That might not be the wide accepted definition of procrastination, but it surely is my own definition based on my personal experience, but there is another thing I've experienced with this that you don't think it is affecting your work flow, guessed what it is? Yes, it is too much thinking. Yes, that's right.
In this post, I will cover 3 of the main causes I faced and how I overcame them using simple training methods.
1. Cause: Too much thinking or planning.
Yes, think about it, have you ever got a new project, or wanted to start your own project, and every minute you started thinking of new ways, features, functionalities, modifications, that kept you going for weeks researching the same things over and over, and once you stumble upon a new idea you leave everything behind and start researching that?.
I remember one project I had a few years ago, I wanted it to be perfect as it was my own project, and every time I sit down and start working on it, I get a new idea that I can do, and I start researching this idea first, and most of my day gets wasted trying to find the best way to implement this idea, by the time I finish researching, I'm too tired now to work, what should I do? I know, I'll sleep on it and start fresh in the morning, the next morning I sit down and go through all of this again, after 4 weeks, I had over 50 ideas and features for the project that actually needed only 3 features and shouldn't take more than 10 days to complete.
Now I have over 50 features to add, which will need at least 6 months of work, suddenly the project seems too big and time consuming, I don't even have a clue where to begin.
Stop Procrastination: Stick to the core.
Yes, simply at the start of any project, what I do now is never think of what I would like or want, instead I think of what the visitor would want, and how would they like to interact with the project, and write it down as phase 1.
At this point, I don't think of anything else, I try my best to block any idea that I get on how to improve the design, or the features or anything and just get it done, cause every new thought outside my plan, will cause delay in the project.
After finishing phase 1, I move to planning phase 2, you're right, this is the fun part where I tend to think of new ideas and features to add or even design improvements, I take a few days to only think, research and plan phase 2 before working on it.
But the most important thing in this method to stop procrastination, is to never change anything while you're actually working, instead have seperate time to think and plan.
2. Cause: I have enough money.
I hear you say, WHAT? I don't have enough money, I need more money, I still need a lot of things, well, you'd think so, but in reality, many freelancers ( including myself in the past ) have a different behaviour when it comes to generating revenues, How? Check out my behaviour in the past decade and how I stopped procrastination and see if you can relate.
It is a start of a new month, I need £2,000 (Not a real figure) to cover all bills and expenses this month (I wish haha..), I land a project for £2,000 at the first day of the month, isn't that just awesome? Perfect, I got a project that will take 3 weeks and covers all my expenses for this month, I can just sit back and relax, and I tell you what, I will start on it first thing in the morning, and I will contact that other potential client and try to land another project, great, I got it all figured out, so let's just go hang out today with the lads and start fresh tomorrow.
Later that night, one of my friends says there is a concert tomorrow for a band I really like, it's a 4 hours drive but it's not a problem, I can still work the day after, I got everything figured out, right? After the concert, I return home very late and drunk, I head to bed and wake up the next morning with a really bad headache, but it is not a big deal, I still have time to start, right? you see where I'm going with this?
Two weeks later, you'll find yourself only 1 week away from your deadline and your project is just 10% complete if not less, and now you need to work super fast to finish it, otherwise you won't be paid and you have no idea what to do for the upcoming bills. At the end, you either finish the project with low quality that gets you bummed feeling you didn't do any good, or it gets rejected by the client, in both ways, you lost a lot of time, money, and effort.
Stop Procrastination: You never have enough, plan for the future.
One of the things I've learned over the years is that working hours are great, doesn't have to be 9 to 5, but you need a strict set of office rules to follow, take a look at yourself for a second, would you hire yourself with your current behaviour?
Being a freelancer is just like being a business owner, having you both the employer and the employee, you must set a specific working hours that you cannot for any reason avoid, have a daily tasks schedule and deadline that you must deliver to yourself before the client, and treat yourself like an employer who needs to make sure his staff works to their full potential, if you haven't noticed yet, being a freelancer is a lot harder to stop procrastination than if you work for a company, but there is no one to answer to but yourself, therefore, you must become you're own boss, in every sense of the word.
My own working hours is fairly simple, I work from 9 am to 1 pm, and then again from 7 pm to 11 am, 5 days a week. Mostly I divide the 2 shifts between working on client's projects in the morning and working on my own projects in the evening, and if for any reason I need to skip a shift, I'll have to do it on my days off, because every Monday I will have to deliver to myself all week tasks and take the new ones.
Also one of the most important things in my planning is that I tend to plan my expenses 3-4 months in advance, so if I need £2,000 per month, then my target is to get at least £6,000, and I've created a separate bank account for the extra money, and I have to keep this bank account always having a minimum of £6,000 all the time just in case of anything I will always be able to cover my expenses for 3 months.
3. Cause: No work to do.
Sometimes you have no work to do, we all have faced a time where there are no clients, and if you have been using my tip just above this one, you might feel like you don't have a problem now, you can just relax and start waiting for a new project.
This is way we've been saving money right? Just to relax and wait for more work to come, after all we're covered for a couple of months.
No, if you're not earning money, then you're losing money, so instead of losing money in trivial things, stop procrastinating and start investing in yourself
Stop procrastination: Invest in yourself
Yes, why just sit there and waste your time? Instead, stick to your work hours and make new plans and tasks, this will become a routine that will help you stop procrastinating as well as benefit you in the future.
4. Write that blog post you've been postponing for a while
5. Research for potential clients and plan your pitch.
These are just a few examples you can do, and I'm sure you will find hundreds more that better suits you.
Procrastination is something we all do, and there are hundreds of articles online that covers everything about it, but I want to be more specific about the life of a freelancer and a few things we normally do that we need to focus on to stop procrastination that we mostly tend to overlook.
I wrote about my main reasons for procrastinating and how I fixed them, this might not work for everyone, but surely will help you find the right reasons why you're cannot stop procrastinating.
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