Working on your own terms can be the ultimate lesson in self-discipline.
After all, you are your own boss: you manage your own schedule, create your own deadlines, and take control of your own capacity. This level of independence can make or break your business plan, which is why maintaining it with a serious level of meticulousness will be a key insight into earning the lifestyle you truly believe you deserve.
Stick to a standard 9 to 5 schedule.
Work-from-home freelancers and entrepreneurs like me, this is for you. Each day, imagine you have to wake up for a 9 AM meeting and about half of your yearly income depends on your punctuality and preparedness for it. Now factor in a 30-minute commute to arrive at said meeting on time. However long it usually takes you to not just show up as a presentable human being, but also impressive enough to secure a huge account that would give you peace of mind for at least six months, get out of bed at that time. Even if I don’t have to physically be anywhere some days, I wake up around the same time each morning, making sure to wash my face, brush my teeth, get dressed, and do my hair as if I did. It adds a crucial layer of mental readiness for the day, setting a tone of self-discipline that will keep me laser-focused for maximum productivity.
In the evenings — particularly by 10pm — I do my best to eliminate all business-related conversations from the agenda. That can be answering emails, texts, or even venting to a loved one about my day. The cut off period is essential for avoiding carrying unwanted stress into the bed (and potentially ruining a good night’s sleep).
Literally, time yourself for everything you do during ‘work hours.’ I know, it’s a bit OCD — but it is a must for anyone who works autonomously and has a ton of deadline-driven tasks on their plate. Since I mostly work at home, I find this rule a key for keeping me fully motivated to completing a project without battling procrastination. A daylong workflow is different for everyone, but for a Type A personality like mine, frantic multi-tasking is almost an aphrodisiac.
My computer screen, just like my mind, has various tabs open at any given moment, since I am almost always working on multiple projects at once. I counter my habit by timing myself for each task, even down to walking my dog during my self-imposed 15-minute breaks. Especially in the daytime when I should be crossing some line items off my checklist, I am going to make sure I don’t give too much time away to mundane things that could possibly encourage idleness. Yes, rest periods are essential, but they should be precisely planted into the day in a while that doesn’t end up being counterproductive for helping you stay focused and refreshed to continue productivity. Argue with me if you must, but I am a firm believer in such a thing as having too much downtime, which can be just as unhealthy as not allowing yourself any.
Frequently check (and adjust) your availability.
Luckily for me, many of my friends are also busy freelancers who have to administer their use of time with precision. This makes it easier to reschedule meetings or having to RSVP ‘No’ to some invitations. As an entrepreneur who works for — and is managed by — themselves, consciously choosing what to give precious time and energy to is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself. If you are somewhat new to the full-time freelancing game, you will soon understand what your personal bandwidth looks and feels like. Once you do, pay close attention to it, nurture it, and I guarantee that you are on the right path to setting any self-governing business of yours up for success.
Just like saying ‘no’ to some things is important for overall well-being and burnout prevention, learning what events or projects make sense to say ‘yes’ to — this usually will be something with less energetic output, greater financial payoff, more brand exposure, or any combination of the things that matter most to getting you closer to fulfilling your career objectives.
The same goes for your vision board.
Just as unpredictable as your dreams are at night, the same goes for your waking life journey. Perhaps you met your Prince Charming last year and both of you are now considering plans of joining in a longterm partnership that involves owning a home and starting a family. And just like that, your 10-year plan has changed drastically.
Life throws us curveballs, and creates values that we had no idea mattered as much as they did until we encounter them. Those experiences need a home within the plan of success, beginning with your vision board. I consistently go back to my vision ‘board’ (which consists of a notebook, a few spreadsheets, and a couple online photo galleries) to add, remove, and shift around what I want my present and future to look and feel like. It changes constantly, so I make a self-care ritual around my vision boarding process on a set date, depending on what I need to change around.
Most things in life are completely out of our control, so it’s important to always be as prepared and flexible as possible. Intentionally mapping out a tangible strategy to achieving personal success in a realistic time frame is a good way to grasp some sort of idea of control that can keep you on track to maximizing full productivity each day.
Freelancers, creative entrepreneurs, work-from-home employees, how do you stay productive during a typical work day?
photos of yours truly by Michael Donnel.