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How to stay productive when you’re self employed

If you’re self employed or have your own business like I do, staying on track can be tough! Especially if you’re used to having a conventional job with a boss, or the fear of being fired motivating you to keep on track. But really, being self employed isn’t that much different. In a sense you still have a “boss” in the form of your clients, your family, and yourself. Not to mention an obligation to stay on track so you can keep earning money and maintaining the freedom and flexibility that comes with self employment!

I’ve been self employed for a couple of years now, and self discipline is still something that I struggle with, but here are my top tips for staying productive when you’re self employed:

1. Have a designated work area ONLY for work

20140801_162257It’s important to have a designed area just for doing work (and only work!) as it trains your brain to go into “work mode” when you enter the room, and it helps to avoid distractions . If you work from home, it also helps to keep some separation between your work and leisure time. If space is a problem, you might like to consider renting or bartering an office or desk.

2. Have a set morning ritual

This helps to keep you on track and trains your brain to go into “work mode” as well. It could be as simple as shower, breakfast, and at your desk by 9am. Other people who work from home physically leave their house in the morning so that they can simulate going to work. For me, getting showered and dressed in “work clothes” really helps to boost my productivity. I’d love to be able to work in my fluffy pink dressing gown, but I just can’t take myself seriously when I try!

3. Make a timetable and stick to it

Sticking to a timetable is challenging, but it’s a great way to keep yourself on track. Tailor-make a timetable that suits your lifestyle and your job so that you’re more likely to stick to it. For me, my work changes everyday, so on my timetable I allocate time for high priority, medium priority and low priority tasks, and I then grade everything on my to do list accordingly. I also have an hour break in the middle of the day so I can have lunch and take my dogs for a walk.

4. Development great time management skills

Developing great time management skills is a key factoring in maximising your productivity. I constantly have a notebook next to me with a running to do list on it, and I have both work and personal tasks on there because I find that keeping everything in the one place works best for me. I use a highlighter to colour code items by order of priority, and I cross things off as I finish them (which feels really, really good!). You can read more about my secret time management weapon here.

5. Embrace your freedom (sometimes)

I know that this contradicts my other points, but being self-employed gives you the freedom and flexibility to manage your own time, and there is nothing wrong with embracing that (s0metimes). So if you’re just not feeling productive, why not take the morning off and work in the evening to make up for it? If you want to spending the day working from the couch while you watch TV – go for it! Just don’t do this everyday because I can assure you, if you’re anything like me, your productivity will take a hit.

Personally I find that as long as I spend the majority of my time sticking to the above points, having the occasional “cheat” day is actually really beneficial because it reminds me of how lucky I am to have so much freedom, and makes me realise that it is worth all the self discipline that is required.

4. Develop a routine that suits your unique self

Don’t feel you have to be at your desk by 9am and schedule your timetable 9-5. If you’re more productive at night and you prefer to sleep in, there is nothing wrong with creating a routine that reflects this. Of course, if you have clients who work 9-5, you’re going to have to at least be available on phone and email during this time. The key is to create a routine that works for you, and allows for maximum productivity, and then stick to it!