Almost every freelancer struggles with productivity, time management and process. We’re all asking how we can get more done without going more crazy. So let’s share. What works for you?
We’ve been talking with some pros about freelance productivity. Today we talk with Dustin W. Stout. He’s a speaker, a web design and social media consultant, and the co-founder of Warfare Plugins. You can also follow him on Twitter.
“Streamline as much as you can. The fewer apps/tools you use, the better.” -Dustin W. Stout
The conversation covers prioritizing tasks, taking breaks and email.
What’s the most effective thing freelancers can do to be more productive?
Freelancers need to be super conscious of the time they’re spending, otherwise life is going to be absolute chaos.
How do you stay focused and productive throughout the day?
While I was still freelancing I became highly aware of my lack of productivity and sought out as much advice as I could. What I came up with was my own hybrid evolution of the Pomodoro technique and the Getting Things Done (GTD) method. It’s a simple as this:
- Keep track of all your “tasks” or “to-dos” in one central list. My list of choice is the Swipes App.
- Visit your list at the beginning of each day and decide the high priority, high urgency items that need to be accomplished that day and order them accordingly. Snooze all other tasks to another day/time (you can do this in Swipes).
- Use a timer/app that will allow you to track 20 minute sessions—I use Focus Booster.
- Work only on one thing at a time in 20 minute sessions. Take a 1-3 minute break between sessions and make sure you’re letting your eyes rest by looking at something at least 20 feet away from you for 20+ seconds. Stand up, walk around—don’t stay seated during your break. Once the break is over, back to working on that one thing or move onto the next to-do item.
Email is often mentioned as a productivity killer. How do you efficiently manage your email?
My email system of choice is Inbox by Google. It automatically categorizes emails for me and I can quickly scan what’s important and get rid of the rest. Just like in the GTD methodology, I focus on email for a set interval and work quickly to get to Inbox Zero. If I am not going to reply immediately to an email, I snooze it for a later time when I can reply to it. If an email has no purpose or further action needed, I archive or delete it.
Overall, I try to stay out of email as much as possible. I hate email.
What other productivity tips do you have for busy freelancers?
My final word of advice on productivity would be to streamline as much as you can. The fewer apps/tools you use, the better, and be obsessive about sticking to a sustainable Pomodoro/GTD system.
For more tips and tools, check out Dustin’s toolbox to see what he uses daily.