You don’t have to get up every morning thinking which dress to wear today – tracks and pyjamas now substitute your dress. You no longer have to think of redecorating your desk – your bed and dining table make up your workspace. And you don’t have to report to anyone today because you don’t feel like working today – you just feel like hangin’ out in your slacks and watching some Netflix.
Hello world, I ain’t no chillin’, neither am I laid off, I just happen to work from the comforts of my soft bed, drinking actually good coffee, and eating real food rather than that Maggi from the canteen. And thank goodness for freelancing, I get to choose to not work with that sleaze-ball of an editor, or that overbearing boss from that other website.
When I started off freelancing, it wasn’t exactly out of choice. I had shifted to a new city, a new country – Dubai, where the writing scene wasn’t that alluring. The magazines and newspapers read dull – they never quite resonated with the kind of writing I did. While freelancing made me my own boss (I chose whom to work with, the type of projects to work on, and decided my own rate), there were many things that perhaps I might have failed to address.
Flexibility is excellent; I get to work at my own time. But when you work from home and move your work around, according to your children’s school timings, or your personal commitments, what you don’t realise is, you’re slowly putting your work on the back burner.
That doesn’t go to say that you shouldn’t prioritise your self, your family, or other commitments. You should; work happens to only be a part of your life.
But when you always try to move your work around to handle other responsibilities, your work only comes second on your list. You’re always at the beck and call of other commitments. I mean, what you do when your bua’s-chachi’s-son’s-wife’ s-daughter has come to visit you while you’re busy working in your room, right? Gosh, wasn’t the 9-to-5 a better ordeal than serving samosas to her in the middle of a brainstorming session?
And then there are days when you don’t feel like getting up and working at all. Even Mark Zuckerberg must have felt that at least once. You can make up for one lazy day on another, but don’t let this become a routine. This will lead to lower and delayed income on your part and a tainted reputation with your client because you’ll miss your deadlines in the process.
Slacking off comes easy when you’re freelancing – there’s no one really to monitor your work.
And let’s be real, how would you have your head in the game if Netflix is just a click away, your neighbour happens to invite you to this new restaurant she’s going to, you also want to check on what Kanye West tweeted today, and which couple has the trendiest wedding hashtag today (#henpeckedraun? You gotta be kidding me). So then you land up in the vicious cycle of procrastinating. What can you do to avoid this?
1. D for… Discipline
Repeat after me—‘I will not check out another Taimur picture on Viral Bhayani’s Instagram feed. I will not send my classmate’s sangeet outfit picture (what was she thinking?) on my WhatApp group.’ Assure yourself that you are not going to slack off at any period that you had scheduled for work unless it is due to an unavoidable circumstance that inhibits you from working right then (no, Hrithik Roshan’s new picture doesn’t make the cut. Okay fine, we’ll give that to you).
Say you have a family emergency that you must attend to, or suddenly your computer crashes… solid reasons, but never miss your scheduled work period simply because you ‘didn’t feel like working right then’. Push yourself to get to work when you had planned to no matter how you feel, get up and start, and once you are in the motion, you will wonder why you didn’t feel like getting to it in the first place.
It might be hard at first, but practice every time you feel like slacking off, and in no time, it will come easily to you. However, if you still feel like slacking off, it may be time to reassess your work schedule and see when you are most productive to make sure you get the maximum work done.
2. Balance It
The easiest way to do this is to create a well-balanced schedule. This does not necessarily have to model a 9 to 5 job. You don’t have to take breaks in conventional hours, just make sure your schedule is consistent, regularly reboots your mind, allows you to maintain healthy relationships, and maintains a good productivity level so you get things done more effectively.
Establish a balance between your work and your life, and place equal priority on your down time. Create time in your schedule to do the things you enjoy. Have you ever noticed that your speed and effectiveness reduces with each hour that you stay at work? Have you considered that maybe you need a break to refresh your mind? Think about what works for you.
Imagine incorporating family, children and pregnancy into the mix – adding the needs and schedules of additional people into your freelance life. How do you embrace the constant stream of demands from your partner, children, self, work and friends without feeling pulled in a million directions?
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3. Oh Partner
Find a partner in your partner. Tell them to help you out to maintain a schedule. Ask them to reprimand you when you’re going off it—it does help as a motivator, really. Or ask them to share dinner duties every day and not just while you have a tight deadline to work on. Distribute all the home chores. Having friends or family supporting you and distributing your half of the work to them makes it easy for you to slide through the days when you have an overload. That way, you don’t feel pulled in all directions. Easier said than done, though, we know. Pfft.
4. D for… Distractions
It is very easy to get distracted by small things, especially when working at home. Loud TVs, household chores, kids, idle friends, and a long list of other distractions can easily break concentration and keep you further from your goals.
Social media equals an even bigger one when you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder. As a journalist, I’m expected to keep up with the news, but I often find myself wasting time on Twitter for an hour when I could have written half an article. How do you find that balance?
Turning off all of the notifications on your phone or switching your phone to its ‘do not disturb’ mode when working is one way. Social media can be a trickier one as I’m sure I’m not the only one mindlessly scrolling throughout the day.
However, try to set yourself a 15-minute block every couple of hours to check your various feeds. When the time is up, it’s back to work. Or download apps like Freedom, Anti – Social, Cold Turkey and Rescue Time if you don’t trust your self restrain.
5. Find A Co-working Space
Working as a remote freelancer can become isolating, so find a community that you can work with whether at a local coffee shop or a co-working hub. In addition to providing you with the kind of social interaction you’re craving and providing a healthier work environment, co-working spaces may also lead to future work endeavours through networking. Also, you don’t have to serve those samosas to that guest of yours anymore, remember?
6. Update Your Client
And often. To stay on top of your client’s mind, connect with them every day, or at least every other day, even if you don’t absolutely need to. The best way to do so? An FYI email. This could be a quick status update about your progress or a short note about something you’d like them to know. Labelling an email as ‘FYI’ will also signal that you’re not looking for a reply, which makes it a bit more pleasant for your client. That way, even if you’re not exactly working on the project, it will remind you that you have to.
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