Last week my attention was caught by an article from Forbes about how Millennials are able to successfully work from home. As one of those Millennials, I always read these types of articles and take notes – this habit has helped me find a lot of useful tips for my everyday work routine.
However, now that I have been freelancing for over 9 years, I feel as though I am ready to share with other freelancers a bit of what I have learned, through both my reading and real life experience. After being inspired by that Forbes article, I would like to share some of my favorite tricks to make working from home a smooth, productive endeavor.
1.) Early Wake-Up & Slow Morning
When I very first started freelancing, I was a night owl. It was very common for me to stay up until 4-5a.m. and sleep until 12-1p.m. At that time, I did not have a permanent schedule; my work would bounce from one freelance project to another, and I strongly believed that this was the best schedule for me to be super-productive.
Years later, I started getting more regular clients and realized that being productive didn’t necessarily have to mean being a night owl- I realized that it was much more about how much time I gave myself between waking up and starting my work day. This epiphany of shifting my schedule to early morning hours was quite the ‘lifehack.’
So, here is what I do now:
First and foremost, I make sure I give myself healthy “me time.” I wake up at 7-8a.m., and then spend 1-2 hours cooking breakfast, sitting on the terrace, and reading/watching news. That way, by around 11a.m. when I start working, I have my “me time” out of the way and I can keep myself fully concentrated on my work-related tasks.
2.) Physical Exercise Twice a Day
This is something new for me.
Previously, I had always tried finding some activity to do outside my house to keep me motivated. First, it was ballroom dancing classes; then, it was the gym. In both cases, I was devoting about 4 hours of my work time 3-4 days a week, which was a bit too much time when I had those super busy weeks.
Due to this, I started to neglect my gym membership, and instead started dreaming about having an elliptical trainer at home that I could use conveniently throughout my day. Well, dreams come true! I was gifted one as a New Year’s gift from my lovely husband! Ever since, my ‘staying active’ routine has consisted of 1 hour of cardio before sleep, and several minutes of a plank in the morning.
This has worked so much better for me as I now have much more time in my day and I never have to go to sleep right after work (do you ever have those awful work-dreams? Bleh). As well, I now sleep much better and sometimes even wake up before my alarm.
3.) Busy Schedule
Another trick I use is to create a busy schedule.
Although I am not a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I have definitely noticed a decrease in my productivity when I only have 1 or 2 small tasks on my plate. Since my mind seems to treat these less busy days as days off, I find myself to be kicked into a kind of “hyper-drive” when I am busier. For that, my ideal work day is a steady load of tasks, hundreds of emails, and non-stop conversations with translation teams via Skype.
For this, I try and still keep my less busy days full of the good real-life stuff, from traveling to another country to having a much-deserved dinner with my mother.
When I see a lot of tasks on my to-do list, I gain energy and motivation because I want to finish all these work-related tasks so that I can then enjoy my life outside of work (which can sometimes be a difficult balance for freelancers to make).
4.) No Working in Bed
Yes! Very important: home office.
Many articles geared toward freelance productivity will tell you that it is wise to have a separate place designated for work (like a home office) and to even dress nicely during work hours to get your mind in a “working mode.” While I see the logistics behind dressing nicely, I honestly still like to work in my pajamas. However, the aspect of creating a work space is very important to me.
For years, my favorite place to work was in my bed (it’s so cozy!). I always hated working at a desk because of back problems and (at least for me) the unbearable noise of a desktop computer. So, every time I worked, I was laying in bed, with my pajamas on and my MacBook on hand. That feeling of “I made it as a freelancer- I can finally work in bed in my pajamas!” was eventually overtaken by my lack of productivity. It’s easy to understand though, isn’t it? Laying in bed can oftentimes make us more sluggish, sleepy, and ultimately move slower.
Coming to reason with this, I finally bought myself two new “toys:” a 27-inch iMac and a “strictly business” Markus office chair.
Since then, I have developed a routine of working on daily/urgent tasks from my home office, and my not-so-urgent tasks somewhere relaxing, like my sofa. It really works!
5.) Muted Social Networks
Last but not least, social networks.
It’s no secret that they are a primary time-killer and attention-sucker. However, they have really become an integral part of our lives, and for people who have moved from away from their homes (like me), social networks really help to keep in touch with many friends back home and around the world.
So, since getting rid of these networks isn’t a viable option, to prevent social networks and their notifications from disrupting my work routine, I turn off all notifications and am only able to see them when I intentionally login to the website or open the app.
This small, simple trick also helps to prevent myself from losing motivation and giving into the temptation to browse social networks every time I get stuck with a difficult translation.