The perks of working at home as a freelancer mean you can typically set your own hours, work in your pajamas, and take a walk in the sunshine. But what happens when cabin fever strikes during the darkest throes of winter?
If you don't want your efficiency to take a nosedive, try these five expert cabin fever cures that can help you stay productive.
Freelancer Malady #1: Household Chores & Errands
What Ails You: An endless parade of chores and errands takes your attention away from work.
Maura Thomas (@mnthomas), founder of management and productivity training company Regain Your Time, says working from home presents personal procrastination temptations.
“You think, ‘Let me just empty the dishwasher. That’s a good use of my time,’” Thomas says. “But then you end up frittering the day away doing things around the house.”
The Cure: Use personal chores and errands as breaks, Thomas suggests. “If you’re doing brain-heavy work – spreadsheets, videos, computer work, etc. – mundane chores are a really great way to take a break,” she says. “Physical activity gives your brain time to relax and to switch things up.”
Freelancer Malady #2: Multitasking Mayhem
What Ails You: Multiple projects are vying for your attention.
You’ve got several deadlines looming, but working on them simultaneously won’t get the work done any quicker. If anything, it might take longer. A Stanford University study found that multitasking is less productive than completing a single task at a time.
The Cure: Try the Pomodoro Technique. Professional organizer and productivity consultant Penny Catterall, owner and founder of Order Your Life (@OrderYourLife), advocates this technique to help complete work in set blocks of time, complemented by short scheduled breaks.
There are many free apps and downloads that follow the principles of the Pomodoro Technique. Catterall recommends Focus Booster for its visual representation of your time.
Freelancer Malady #3: Digital Distractions
What Ails You: Technology notifications and incessant emails plague your working hours.
Technology connects your business to clients and helps you complete your work, but it's just as efficient at distracting you from it. Productivity consultant Lori Vande Krol (@lvandekrol), CPES and president of Life Made Simple, says anything that pulls you from your plan is a potential distraction.
“Ask yourself if the phone call, new email, or Facebook notification is worth time away from your defined plan and priorities,” Vande Krol says.
The Cure: Turn off all notifications (e.g., phone, email, social media, etc.) for a set amount of time, Vande Krol suggests. Don’t give into temptations to peek – it will still be there when you’re done working.
Freelancer Malady #4: Kids & Pets Underfoot
What Ails You: A whirlwind of kids and pets compete for your attention.
Whether they are too young for school or they’re on break, children often pose a distraction for freelancer parents working from home. And don’t forget Fido – he needs to eat and go for a walk. Technology may be the simpler distraction to thwart of the two.
As Charlie Gilkey (@CharlieGilkey), author and business adviser of Productive Flourishing, says, “Facebook doesn’t come banging on the door, but your kids might.”
The Cure: Gilkey says work can be more challenging with children and pets, so there may be times you need to work from coffee shops or offices. “To do so, you obviously might need to coordinate childcare and possibly speak with your partner about budgeting for it,” he says.
Penny Catterall says you don’t need to feel responsible for your kids 100 percent of the time. “On random snow days with the kids stuck at home, find a neighborhood teen to watch your kids for a few dollars,” she recommends.
Freelancer Malady #5: Overflow of Inspiration
What Ails You: An outpouring of ideas and an overwhelming list of tasks occupy all your time.
Productivity speaker and consultant Nicole Chamblin, owner of Visions Productivity Solutions (@visionsps), says she’s often distracted by all the great ideas floating around her head for classes, blogs, and solutions for clients.
Fortunately, Chamblin says there are many cloud-based tools that can “make a freelancer kick their productivity into high gear.”
The Cure: Try mind mapping – Chamblin says she uses this technique to help empty her brain and flesh out her ideas. To stay focused, she recommends using a master planning calendar to track your workload.
Additionally, Chamblin recommends tools like 17hats or Trello to set up workflows, reminders, and tasks.
Staying Productive Means Staying Proactive
Staying productive may also be your best form of risk management. While we love talking about insurance for freelancers and independent contractors, we realize most freelancers don’t think about making that purchase until they can maintain a steady stream of work. The more productive you are, the steadier your workflow and revenue stream will be, making it easier to afford smart risk management investments like small business insurance.