Freelancing is a famine or feast existence and, recently, I've been feasting so much I felt like fitting a gastric band on my business.
Deadlines came in daily waves and all-nighters were starting to feel like the norm instead of a one-off occurrence. It's not a sustainable existence, and I'm grateful for the influx of work - but I'm equally grateful to kick back and go back to working the usual 9-5, not 5-9.
There's a problem with the famine period of freelancing though. I find it really difficult to stay motivated.
Suddenly, I find 101 things to do around the house. I start raiding the fridge with alarming frequency - and then going to the gym to work off the 14 Crunchie bars I've consumed in one hour*.
But I still have work to do. I just can't seem to get my bum into gear to do it. It's been a difficult and chocolate-heavy week - so I wanted to share a few productivity tips I've stumbled on during quiet times:
1. Tomato timers top the list
The Pomodoro technique is a regular on many productivity posts - but it really has worked for me so I had to give it a mention. The idea is that you work on one task for 25 minutes straight, take a five-minute break and then repeat that cycle four times, before taking a longer break.
This method doesn't work for me when I'm writing a long feature article and need to immerse myself in a topic - but it's a Godsend when I have lots of little jobs to do. And taking regular breaks really does boost your productivity - here's the scientific proof.
2. Get on top of the backlog
Not too busy? Now is the time to sort out your website, write a backlog of blog posts, clean your desk and clear the decks.
I write a weekly Sunday Science blog series that (you guessed it) comes out every Sunday. So, I'm using this period of downtime to write as many posts as I can before I'm busy again. I've set myself a target of writing one post per day and put more topic suggestions up on my editorial calendar.
If you have similar tasks on the horizon, your future self will thank you if you break the back of them now.
3. Reflect on your work
I'm not one for navel-gazing - but I'm currently completing a self-assessment on my business. I know it sounds a bit mad, but I hope it will help me to identify what's going well and where I need to make more improvements.
This post from Rosalind Davies gives some great advice on completing a freelance performance review. If you're more of a small business - then check out these business assessment analysis tools.
4. Stand up!
A couple of months ago, I fitted a standing desk in my office. I originally wanted to improve my health, but I've only just started to realise how it has helped my productivity. I find it easier to retain focus and get back to my desk after a break, for example.
You don't have to fork out for an expensive desk either - I constructed my own desk using a few boxes and some spare IKEA shelves. It's not a long term solution, but it's a good way to trial a standing desk to see if it works for you.
If you're not convinced by a standing desk - here are another 15 office design tricks to boost your productivity.
5. Cut yourself some slack
I use Toggl to track my time. It's a great tool to analyse my working week, including the clients and projects that are taking the most amount of time.
During peak times, I can work up to 60 hours a week. So, does it really matter if I only work 30 hours this week and take some time off? No. In fact, taking a break could be a very good idea if you want to avoid the dreaded burnout.
Taking of which, I'm going to take the afternoon off now to do a spot of gardening. And tidy my desk.
Please feel free to share your tips for retaining focus during your downtime in the comments below!
* Slight exaggeration. It was 12 Crunchie bars.
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I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology