By guest blogger Emilie Martz.
I recently embarked on an adventure as a freelancer, and even though I’ve dreamt about the freedom freelancing can give, there are certain aspects that have been very difficult in the beginning stages. Working from home, without a boss or a schedule can be extremely disorienting, and I often felt that I didn’t know where to begin and would easily fall victim to the time-wasting comforts of my apartment. I made and ate a lot of food out of boredom, spent a lot of time on social media, and watched The Office for the 30th time on Netflix. Then, after falling into the time suck, I felt guilty and beat myself up for wasting time and not being enough of a go-getter.
Slowly, however, I have started to pull myself out of the procrastination cycle and discovered some things that have helped me to actually get work done in the comforts of my home. I’m a firm believer that everyone is different, and it takes time to develop a routine that works best for you, but you may find some of these tips useful in implementing your own freelance adventure.
1. Map out your morning schedule the night before - Every night before bed, map out a detailed plan for at least the first few hours of work. If you wake up with a plan, you don’t have to think about it, and you’re more likely to be able to dive in and start your work day off right.
2. Set Timers - You can use your phone, a kitchen timer, or one of many useful timing apps, but setting a timer for yourself and saying, “I will work on this project for 30, 45, or 60 minutes without distraction, and then I can take a break,” helps you to continually set goals and deadlines for yourself. You have an end to work towards, and you’ll find yourself having a more focused and productive day. You can even break up larger projects into smaller 20 or 30-minute tasks to make them seem less daunting.
3. Move - Make sure you’re moving. It’s very easy to sink into a sedentary lifestyle when you work from home, but it will help your mental health and your energy if you move. Maintain a workout routine, but also make sure that you’re getting out of your chair and moving at least every few hours. Stand up, stretch, put on a song and dance around, take a 5-10 minute walk, whatever makes you feel good.
4. Designate A Work Space - It is so tempting to do work from your bed or couch (like I’m not currently doing), but having a set workspace can kick your focus into high gear. If you live in a small space this can be difficult, especially if you live with other people, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a simple desk or table and chair, as long as it doesn’t become another place to put random things, but a clean, organized spot just for working.
5. Embrace the Radio - It can feel lonely and a bit “too quiet” working by yourself, so don’t be afraid of adding a little ambient noise. Avoid things that steal too much of your attention, i.e. television shows or loud music with complicated lyrics. Try listening to classical, jazz, or lo-fi hip-hop. If you’re working on something that is a bit looser or requires a little less brain power, try listening to a podcast or radio show. It makes you feel like there’s someone else in the room with you and usually isn’t too distracting.
6. Change it Up - We all have days when it seems impossible to get focused. Instead of feeling like a failure, try changing your environment. Moving your work to a library, coffee shop, or park can be a great way to re-focus. Getting into a public space and just being around the gentle noise and company of other people can also help to fight the loneliness that sometimes creeps in when working on your own.
Bonus Tip - Forgive yourself. “Greet each day with a beginners mind” and know that we all have days where we feel scattered and unfocused. Beating yourself up or feeling anxious about the work you didn’t get done will only slow you down. Breathe. Tomorrow is another day for you to tackle. You will get better at this.
Emilie Martz is a writer and actress based in Los Angeles. Movie buff, human karaoke, and feminist (not necessarily in that order). She recently quit her waitressing job to finally use that English degree for something. You can follow her on twitter @martz_emilie and instagram @emilieelizabethmartz.