March 14, 2021

How to be More Productive

How to be More Productive

What productivity means to you and how are you measuring it?

It’s either that you have to multitask or be good at everything. When you freelance, you must be aware of things and actions that kill your time.

What is Shallow Work?

When I started to freelance, I noticed that I was a fan of shallow work.

Shallow work is the task that you do and does not require much mental focus. I was doing to-do lists, so I can, later on, roll on my tasks to the next and the next day. I was encouraging myself to get distracted with matters that would not benefit me in focusing on a single task: such as looking for jobs out there when I was already working with three companies, or checking my email constantly, or getting distracted by the same Facebook or Instagram scrolling.

There is a survey conducted by Adobe System, where they screened 400 people and their result is that ’‘The average office worker spends 6.3 hours a day checking email, both personal and professional one.’’ Now, if we could use this time wisely and strategically, I am sure we would have strong outcomes. 

If you noticed, even corporations promote this professional landscape of shallow work: to reply to your boss within one hour, or taking part in endless meetings that do not affect your work department, or having meetings that could be an email, or creating some PowerPoint presentations when the same information that could be communicated in an email.

As a freelancer, be careful of shallow work because you would be enforcing some bad habits, which in the end affects your purpose/ your goal of the day.

For example, if I measure my productivity just based on the emails I reply to, when my job is to recruit, I wake up at the end of the day that I did not approach any new candidate, I have no prospect for the job I have to fill- so all I did was shallow work.

Once I was all comfortable in the freelance world, I started to value deep work. I made a list of what shallow work activities were killing my productivity. I prioritized my work from what is most important to the least important. I reply to urgent emails first, I complete my tasks and once I put all my energy into a project, I can reply to the rest of the emails or schedule them for tomorrow.

And believe me, I saved so much time later on and I also noticed it on my invoice: I spent more meaningful time on things that matter and things that bring in money.

What is Deep Work?

Deep work is extremely important for your success. This means you are focusing on ONE SINGLE TASK for a specific period of time. Mind your multitasking activity. You will be a ‘’Jack of all trades, master of none’’, you will do bits of tasks here and there, and by the end of the day, you will not have a single one completed.

Earl Miller, an MIT Neuroscientist said that our brains are not wired for multitasking. When we are multitasking, we are more stressed and overstimulated and this brings a layer of fog over our thought processes. And when you start to work on a single task, your brain might ask for distractions, constantly seeking some stimulation: such as opening Instagram, checking your email, and so on. Here is where the power of a habit comes in.

How I approached deep work

I found out what my distractions are and I take them away before I start to work (for example, not keeping my phone on my desk while I work). I force myself to commit to a single task and in time, my brain developed a habit of knowing that hey, we are doing this now and nothing will stay in the way.

I don’t want this to sound philosophical to you in any way, I want to bring awareness that as a freelancer you have to be engaged in deep work because its results will bring in your paycheck. You will not be paid for the amount of time you are spending reading emails, you are paid for results.

Create your own principles of work, based on your weaknesses and on your personality. Approach matters from an angle that you know work out for you.

Five productivity principles that changed the way I work:

  1. I define my purpose every single day: I changed my mindset from WHAT I have to do to WHY I should do it.
  2. I target my priorities: I don’t start with the fun, super enjoyable tasks, I start with what’s more daunting so I don’t fall prey to procrastination.
  3. I measure my productivity: how many people did you sell your service to today, how many projects you completed today, how many clients you brought on board.
  4. I know what kills my time.
  5. I learned to work smarter, not harder.

Adopt your own principles of work and hold on dear to all of them.

Tips of the day to help you find your path to deep work:

  1. The secret to productivity is not about your ability, it’s about your vulnerability- you have to know how not to feed your weakness
  2. Put all your mental effort in one place at a time.
  3. Lean towards monotasking.
  4. Design your day- what is important to complete today.
  5. Stop asking yourself ‘’but why do I have to do this and change it to ‘’why not now”’?
  6. Know what your peak performance time is: some people work better in the morning, some people are night birds.

As a freelancer, what is valuable is not the money (though, this is also an important aspect), it is what you become, because you have to help yourself to grow. If self-help is not there, nobody else will knock at your door to push you towards it.

Learn to adjust to deep work is mastering your mind and you will not have outstanding success without effort. So, I know this will not be easy at first. 

How Napoleon Hill said ‘’you have the power to force your mind through a process of a rather quick change.’’

Let me know what works for you in an engaging matter to stay more productive.