How can freelancers get better at multitasking?

There are some (salaried) careers in which all that’s needed is to focus on a specific task – multitasking, though obviously great for productivity, isn’t a necessity. That’s not quite so in the world of freelancing, where multitasking is essential in order to make a decent income.

Sometimes it seems as if there’s just not enough hours in the day to achieve all that one would wish to in the freelancing world. If you’re a frustrated freelancer who has yet to master the much-coveted art of multitasking, here are some ways to optimize each and every work day…

The personal absolutely must be distinct from the professional.

Working from home is more of a necessity than it has ever been, despite the fact that distractions are amplified. How many of us have had that moment when we’re working on something and our thoughts switch to what we should have for dinner, or that we really should do laundry, etc.? Reality sure does set quickly 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, the pets have been tended to and are napping/happily chewing on toys instead of furniture, 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. Removing the stress of personal life tasks frees you to more confidently take on your freelancing tasks.

Make (and stick to) a list of daily work tasks.

Another rule of multitasking as a freelancer is (or should be) that once you start working, focus strictly on what you need to get done for the work day. Creating a list, be it handwritten or typed, and referring to it often while you work can be such a help, particularly as fatigue and forgetfulness set in as the work day goes on. Group similar tasks together, and tackle each group in turn until the list is complete.

Stay portable.

Sure, PCs are great – nay, essential –  for freelancers in the media industry. But if you really need to multitask, and are more text-based (Microsoft Word has practically become your coworker) then 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 stay productive while grabbing some lunch at, say, a local café.

Note, however, that if you purchase a refurbished laptop, you’re already at a disadvantage for hard drive space because a good amount of it can be taken up when the laptop gets wiped for a new user. Also, be sure that the wireless force is strong with said laptop (yes, yes I did just make a Star Wars pun). Otherwise it’ll be as if you’re out on the freelancing sea without a raft.

Kick out the clutter.

The thing about multitasking is that it generally leads to large amounts of paperwork/emails, which can be a real drain on time, to say the least. So, whether physical or electronic, create a folder that’s specifically for files that need to be attended to, then have a secondary folder for any information that might be needed as reference. Discard anything else for the sake of both your sanity and your productivity – streamline your way to success.

Get the “definitely difficult” done first.

Isn’t it fun how, in every work day, some tasks are more difficult than others? Yay for sarcasm. Anyway, you might want to put off those tasks until later, but get them done at the beginning of your work day, which is when you should (or at least might) be more rested and focused. Not only can you gain a sense of accomplishment from getting those tasks done sooner, you could just find yourself with a renewed motivation to get those simpler tasks done shortly thereafter.

Remember, there’s no one correct, fix-it-all approach to multitasking. Take some time to really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, find joy in even the most mundane work tasks, and you’ll be on your way to efficiency in its truest form.

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