According to a study conducted by Intuit in 2010, 40% of america’s workforce will be freelancers by 2020. The trend in Canada is sure to follow. You may be considering freelancing as a career path for yourself, or if you are reading this article you may actually already be a freelancer.

Working for yourself can be tough. When working for a company, there are generally rules you need to follow and there are people whose sole job is to make sure the rules are enforced. When you work for yourself, you have to be the employee and the enforcer, which are contradictory roles, but have no fear, with some of these helpful tips, you can bring those two opposing sides together in a formidable team.

One-track mind

Multitasking is not your friend. Your brain can not do more than one thing at a time no matter how hard you try. Quickly switching between tasks can also drastically decrease your productivity because of the associated onboarding of context your brain has to perform.

The term multitasking comes from the computer engineering industry, so if we extend that analogy, we can compare your brain to a computer. Your brain, like a computer, has a limited amount of RAM to utilize, running too many applications will definitely slow you down and what’s worse, is that you are prone to make more mistakes.

So do yourself a favour and close all unrelated browser tabs, put your phone on priority calls only and stash it somewhere outside your field of view, because you’re about to get serious.

Plan ahead

The first thing to do when starting your work day is to look ahead at what you need to accomplish during that day and also what other deadlines are fast approaching within a weeks time. Write out a list of all your tasks and prioritize them based on importance as well as amount of intellectual horsepower you need to execute each one. This step will be different for each person but if you find yourself more apt in the morning, you should try to do mentally exhaustive work first, so that you can still perform less challenging tasks later in the day when you are more tired.

Break Time

Your daily schedule should be broken up into blocks of about 45 minutes. You can adjust this number if you feel that your attention span starts waning earlier or if you blow past that mark and are still lost in your work. The trick is to schedule in breaks as well as tasks. Breaks can be simple things like walking over to make a cup of tea or doing some desk stretches. For a different approach to this methodology look into the Pomodoro technique, which breaks up your units of time into 25 minute blocks and has some additional pro tips at optimizing productivity.

It’s important to remember that most of us are not superhuman and if you want to avoid burning out you need to pay attention to your body. If you find yourself easily distracted don’t try to push through, it may be your body’s way of telling you that you need a break or a snack. Take some time to yourself and regroup your efforts.

Taking time to review and reflect on your work habits will go a long way in improving them. Set a couple of hours aside at the end of every month to analyze how your month has gone and what you could optimize the following month. Maximizing efficiency is generally an iterative process and you need to track your progress to be able to tweak your behaviour. Becoming a mean freelancing machine is not an easy task, but if you follow these simple steps, you’re well on your way.

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