In a world of instant gratification, a myriad of distractions, and a higher workload, the ability to stay focused has become more important than ever. It’s especially important for a freelance writer, or anyone in the freelancing business to keep their focus. Since according to the Huffington Post, 34% of the workforce in America are now freelancing, figuring out how to stay on track, get work done, and be efficient is vital to success.
To be perfectly honest, staying focused as a freelance writer is incredibly difficult. I can’t tell you how often I find myself completely distracted and going “squirrel” on the Internet every five seconds. Every time I complete an assignment for a client, I tend to get distracted for 10 minutes before I can move on to the next project. Distraction is incredibly inefficient and, to be frank, it’s also annoying as hell.
So how do you get past the distraction so you can get work done? I haven’t found a secret sauce, but these tips help me stay focused no matter what.
Do Creative Work First
Yes, you could argue that all writing is creative, but as a freelance writer, I have projects that are more creative and require more energy than others. Whenever I have a project that I know will require a high amount of my energy, I punch that project out first in the morning.
Let’s think about this realistically, by around 3:00 pm I’m done. My coffee has long since worn off, I’ve worked for six hours, I’ve used up every ounce of brain power that I have for the day. By 3:00 pm I’m waiting for the day to end and relaxing to start. If I saved my creative or energy consuming projects for the afternoon it would require twice as much time to complete and my work would most likely be less impressive and sub-par. Instead, when in the morning, it’s easier to stay focused and get difficult work done.
Train Your Mind
Entrepreneur Magazine explains how your mind is a muscle just like any other in your body. Because your mind is a muscle, it can be trained and strengthened. So, when you need to stay focused, it’s a good idea to start by training your mind to stay focused every day. But how do you do this as a freelance writer?
You don’t have to start big. If you’re just trying to stay on a project for 30 minutes at a time, start by focusing for 5 minutes at a time each day. Turn off all your distractions—yes, that means close the Facebook tab and throw your phone across the room. Then, once everything is quiet, work. Work for five minutes straight. Don’t allow your brain to wander. Once you can easily complete five minutes, build up your time until you’re able to stay focused as long as you need.
Use the 4 Ds
It started with President Eisenhower and is still prevalent today. Inc.com reminds us that there are 4 Ds to staying focused in your work:
- Do those tasks that are important and urgent.
- Delegate tasks that are unimportant and urgent.
- Defer tasks that are important and not urgent, but make sure you assign a due date and do those personally.
- Dump tasks that are unimportant and not urgent.
As a freelance writer, the delegate step is a little difficult, however, the concept is correct. Similar to completing your creative work first, work on things that are “must do” first. At least this way, you’ll punch out some important work early, and if you start losing your ability to stay focused in the afternoon, you’ll hopefully already have been successful in completing what you needed to complete.
When it comes to delegating, as a freelance writer, if it’s urgent, get it done. There’s no one else to do it. Make a set time in your day where you get through all your urgent tasks that are maybe not so important. Either way, to stay focused, list out everything you need to complete and then prioritize.
Listen to Music
I love music. In fact, I can’t work without music playing in the background. As a freelance writer, the right soundtrack can increase your focus exponentially. In fact, the Washington Post revealed that if you listen to your favorite music and songs, it will change the way your brain works and provide greater productivity.
If you can’t listen to music with words, then figure out which instrumental music works for you. There are a ton of great channels on YouTube that provide instrumental music for focusing and study. My two personal favorites:
At the end of the day, YouTube is one of my favorite options. You can find epic mixes and artists who know how to combines all those things you love into a single song or two-hour music palooza.
Take Real Breaks
As a freelance writer, I spend 95% of my time at home. I’m always in my den working. It’s easy to get caught up and never leave my den or talk to anyone besides through email. This is terrible for my work and my focus. One thing that I have started to make a priority is taking breaks.
There always comes a point in my day where I’m wiped. My eyes don’t want to look at the computer anymore. My brain doesn’t want to find any new words to write, and my body wants to go snuggle back in bed. When I hit that wall, I take a break. I leave my den, get up, and walk around my house. Sometimes I’ll go and stare out the front window. Sometimes, I’ll purposely go lie down in bed for 10 minutes just to find myself in a different room and a different position. Whatever you do, figure out how to step away and refresh.
When it comes right down to it, staying focused is about recognizing when you need focus and how you’re struggling with it. Once you understand how you work and where you need help, it will be much easier to dig in and keep your eye on the prize—a productive work day.