There are some (salaried) careers in which all people have to do is focus on a specific task – multitasking, though obviously great for productivity, isn’t a necessity. That’s not so in the world of freelancing, where multitasking is essential in order to make a decent income. If you’re a freelancer who’s finding that you’ve yet to master the art of multitasking, here are some ways to optimize each and every work day.
Separate the personal from the professional. If you generally work from home, it’s understandably all the easier to become distracted. We’ve probably all had that moment when we’re working on something and all of a sudden our thoughts switch to what we should have for dinner, or that we really should do laundry, etc. However, reality sets in when we don’t meet our income goals for the week or the month, or we find ourselves behind schedule.
If you have a designated workspace, make sure it’s off-limits for a set amount of time to anyone or anything that might be a distraction. Work when the kids are in school or if you know you’ll be alone for set times. Shut that door from any personal life things during your work time, with the only thing nearby being your phone in case of emergencies, or if that’s your main way to check work-related email. Removing the stress of personal life tasks frees you a bit to take on your freelancing tasks more confidently.
Keep a list of work tasks within arm’s reach. Another rule of multitasking as a freelancer has to be that once you start working, focus strictly on what you need to get done work-wise for the day. For this purpose, it’s ideal to create a list, be it handwritten or typed, and to refer to it often while you work. Group similar tasks together, and tackle each group in turn (no more than 3 or 4 items at a time seems the most reasonable) until the list is complete.
Stay portable. Sure, PCs are great in terms of space and size potential – especially for freelancers in the media industry – but if you really need to multitask, a laptop is the way to go. This way, you can bring your work with you if you need to find a quieter space, or even if you want to get out of your home office and get some lunch.
Leave no room for clutter. The thing about multitasking is that it can lead to a lot of extra paperwork/emails, which can be a real drain on time. So, whether physical or electronic, you could create a folder that’s specifically for files that need to be attended to, have a secondary folder for any information that might be needed as reference, and discard anything else.
Get “the difficult” done first. In every work day, some tasks are more difficult than others. You might want to put off those until later, but it’s actually better for the sake of efficient multitasking to get them done at the beginning of your work day, which is when you might generally be more rested and focused. You can gain a sense of accomplishment from getting those tasks done sooner, and a renewed motivation to get those simpler tasks done after.
Remember, there’s no one correct approach to multitasking, so take some time to really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, find a balance between the two, and you’ll be on your way to true efficiency.
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