You need to know how to beat procrastination when you’re a freelance writer, ‘cos you’re the only boss!
You know that dreaded feeling. That nagging sensation in your gut when you realise you’ve got a looming deadline, and yet you can’t seem to focus on anything other than the Facebook tab open on your browser, but you need to get your freelance hustle on.
You tell yourself you’ll start working on it in just a sec, but somehow hours later, you find yourself in the same spot — with nothing to show for it. And the pressure doesn’t stop building until you feel utterly overwhelmed and don’t know where or how to start, so you close down.
The worse thing is, you’re then continually playing catch up, working round the clock to get your projects done on time. That’s when your freelancing dream seems more like a nightmare.
But you’re not the only one. Procrastination is the scourge of freelance writers everywhere. Fear not, though, even if you’re a procrastinator, you CAN still run a successful freelance writing business — no worries.
That said, addressing procrastination is key. You’ll have to change the way you operate to ensure you have enough time for critical stuff even when you’re buried in other projects.
With some cunning strategies, you can stop slacking, overcome procrastination, and get your bloody work done at last. So without any further dilly-dallying, let’s send procrastination on its merry way with my 11 fave tips for beating the P-beast and becoming more productive tomorrow.
Only joking, daftie, stop procrastinating! Let’s do it today!
Table of contents:
- The morning reset
- Eat the frog
- Find your most productive time for the freelance hustle
- Block out distractions
- Breakdown your work into bite-sized chunks
- Take a break
- Swap projects
- Tell perfectionism to piss off
- Stick to a routine
- Find your perfect workspace
- Catch some zzz’s
#1 The morning reset
Start each day knowing what you need and want to achieve. And yes, there’s a difference.
Take some quiet time to sit down each morning with a blank sheet of paper. You can even do it the night before if you wanna get a head start in the morning.
Then it’s time to brainstorm all the stuff that’s filling your mind. You know what I mean — the list of writing projects you want or have to work on, any stuff that’s hanging over your head like upcoming deadlines, and the really dull to-do list of life admin.
I like to include everything from all aspects of my life. That way, I’m not splitting my focus and fretting all night worrying about what I might’ve forgotten.
Once you’ve got it all out, prioritise your list into ‘musts,’ ‘shoulds,’ and ‘coulds’ for the day, week, and month. Give ‘must’ activities the biggest priority, meaning you do them first. Next up are the ‘shoulds’ — this is important stuff but not a priority — do it if you’ve got time.
Last in line are the ‘coulds’ — these tasks aren’t urgent, but they might still be important. So if you’ve got any time to kill later in the day, knock them off your list before they become a ‘should’ or ‘must.’
The idea is to clear your mind and know exactly what you need to do moving forward. So be as specific as possible. The more defined and detailed your tasks and goals, the easier they’ll be to track and measure in a way that keeps you motivated and feeling like you’re in the driving seat.
After your mind showering session, you should have a plan spanning the month. I’d check it and adjust each morning if necessary.
Next time your mind is filled with way too much, take a step back and refer to your plan. You should be able to home in on the task at hand with greater clarity now — result!
#2 Eat the frog
I know, don’t shudder. There’s a point to this! But what does it have to do with beating procrastination and getting your work done? Well, we procrastinate because we’re avoiding what we need to do — like answer an email or start an article — because it’s scary or it seems much bigger in our mind than it is in reality. We put it off till tomorrow because the prospect makes us feel all sweaty inside.
Eating the frog means tackling the most challenging, or least fave thing, first. So once you have your to-do list for the day, start by tackling the least pleasant task.
The theory is that you usually have the highest energy and the clearest mind first thing in the morning, meaning it’s easier to focus on the yuckiest tasks. Also, it sets a positive, go-getter tone for the day, and you’ll have a nice, rosy sense of achievement.
#3 Find your most productive time for the freelance hustle
Despite froggy tip number 2 and the morning rule, it’s also important to understand when you feel most productive.
Everyone has a specific time of day when they’re in the focus zone and feel like they’re smashing it. Sometimes it’s early morning, sometimes it’s afternoon, or maybe even late at night. This is when you should try to prioritise and focus on work.
Determine when your golden time is and don’t schedule anything during this time that interrupts you, like meetings.
You may need to experiment to find your most productive times, particularly if you’re used to living and following a specific routine. You could try getting up a tad earlier and getting stuck into some writing before the rest of the house wakes up, or try going to bed later and capitalizing on the evening hours. Maybe you’re always tired in the afternoon, and you’d be better off having a nap, and working more effectively when you’re rested.
As a freelancer, you’ve got the freedom to work when (and where!) it suits you. Take advantage of your freelancer’s privilege by planning your schedule to optimize your working hours.
You’ll stay motivated when you recognize and harness your ‘deep-work’ window because you’ll get more done in less time. meaning more time for coffee, play, and fun!
#4 Block out distractions
Put a big ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door, or at least a virtual one to isolate yourself from distractions.
The number of distractions we face daily is enormous — from friends and family pulling us in different directions, to temptations like Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix that are constantly vying for our attention.
When you’re laser-focused, the buzz buzz of Insta, Facebook, and emails can derail your attention and disrupt your flow. So it’s critical to put up barriers between you and the distractions and minimize distractions while you’re working. Mute is your friend. And there’s likely nothing that requires your immediate attention for the next couple of hours.
It might be more challenging to get the people and pets in your life and home to leave you the hell alone. But there are options!
You can try using headphones to signal that you’re busy, or put a subtle ‘GO AWAY’ announcement on your door. You may also need to set some boundaries with people in your life who aren’t respecting your time.
If all else fails, you could always bribe them with treats. I have a bag of bones in the freezer for the doggies, so I wap one of those bad boys out if I need peace and quiet for a couple of hours. Not sure if they work for kids though?!!
If home is too tricky, you could look for a co-working space or go to a library. If you can focus in environments with lots of people and noise, you can head to a coffee shop, or dare I say, the pub?!
Love tunes? If it helps, have a massive scrumptious list of music at the ready for this purpose. Tunes shut out all other noise so you can concentrate. On the flip side, it might make it more tricky to focus, so it’s your choice.
#5 Breakdown your work into bite-sized chunks
Writing a 2000-word article might feel overwhelming and daunting. But if you break it down into small, manageable chunks — like writing 500 words then taking a 10-minute rest — it’s way more achievable, doable, and less stressful.
When you do this, you’re accomplishing something and putting the wheels of action into motion. You’re making headway, and you’re no longer stuck in frozen panic mode.
Let’s take that lengthy blog post as an example. First, write the outline and choose your subheadings (H2s, H3s, H4s etc). Then it’s time for research. I like to add sound-bites of relevant info under each H2, links, facts, etc. Then, you can write each section as a singular chunk after that.
It’s no longer a vast, unmanageable task. Instead, it’s merely a series of teeny, little, harmless tasks. Better huh?
#6 Take a break
It’s knackering writing for hours and your brain takes a beating. So, after a while, it’s time to chill. When you’ve been staring at that screen for hours on end, like a zombie, it’s easy to lose focus and engage in day dreaming, social scrolling, and other bad habits.
Instead of struggling to stay on task, put a time limit on your work sessions and then take a rest.
Just 5-10 minutes of real, proper break time will do you a world of good. So do what works for you: have a cuppa, go grab some water, switch off your WiFi and take a distraction-free wander around the block, stretching your legs and breathing deeply.
My fave helpful tool for time management is using the “Pomodoro Technique,” and yes, there’s an app.
Using a Pomodoro timer, you’ll work for 25 minutes, then take a short 5-minute pause before it’s back to work. Then, after four cycles, take a long recess of 25 minutes..
It works because when you take a breather, you regain focus, meaning you work more efficiently and get more done. It’s awesome for time-management
You don’t have to stick with those Pomodoro periods, as you can experiment with what works for you. I use 60-minute work, 10-minute short break, and 30-minute-long break cycles.
It means you’re committed to working because you know you’ll have a break soon. Plus, you’re always working feeling clear-headed and refreshed rather than frazzled.
#7 Swap projects to beat procrastination
Pulling your hair out with one project? Top writing tip incoming — try switching it up and jump onto another one.
An easy way to beat procrastination is by picking something different to work on when your brain’s turned to mush. So try something new, perhaps something simple. That way, you’ll complete it in no time at all. Then, once that’s done, you can take satisfaction from your smaller win and head back to the beast of a project you’re struggling with.
The bonus is that when you return to project one, you’ll have a fresh burst of enthusiasm when it comes to finishing what’s in front of you.
#8 Tell perfectionism to piss off
Perfectionism zaps productivity. I know it sounds like one of those horrid canned interview responses, but one of my strengths or is it weaknesses, is perfectionism.
There’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to writing, so the best writers create work that’s good enough for the reader. No two people would write something in the same way with the same words, so even if you’re looking at it from an editor’s point of view, there are no guarantees that two pairs of eyes will perceive perfect in the same way. There are a million and one ways to say the same thing.
Yes, you want to create a great piece of work, but don’t let it consume you. It’s a process and a journey, not a destination.
Trying to produce perfect work takes longer, so you earn less. But, providing the content is of decent quality, flows well, is relevant, accurate, and you’ve proofread and edited, then hit publish or submit.
Clients will likely make amendments, and you can make improvements in the future, but getting attached to every single word and perfecting it ad infinitum will drive you round the bend.
Remember…Your client wants good content, and perfect doesn’t exist!
#9 Stick to a routine
Think about doing recurring tasks on the same day each week, like focusing on social media on Mondays, LOIs Tuesdays, Wednesdays, strategy, etc. A specific routine keeps you on task and can stop procrastination.
Using a different theme for each day and assigning tasks to a time slot on those days helps you dig into the concepts at hand without getting distracted by anything unrelated.
A routine is especially helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. It gives you a plan and something to work towards, so you make the most of your time.
It’s important to find a routine that works for you, something that’s achievable and realistic. If it’s too rigid, yep, you guessed it, you’ll find a way to break it and that’s when procrastination kicks in. Remember that when it comes to beating procrastination, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so you do you!
#10 Find your perfect workspace
Setting the right mood is key to buckling down. For example, the bedroom is super zen for some of us—we sleep there and then wake up feeling rested and ready for a day of work tucked away into the corner. Yet others prefer a separate zone. In which case, try and locate a tranquil space elsewhere in your house to get down to work.
Either way, it’s usually best to have a desk dedicated to your work. It helps you feel more profesh and sets the tone for work. Don’t forget how critical a comfy chair is too. Your bum will be in that seat for a fair few hours each week, so look for spine support and an ergonomic design.
And don’t let lighting slip your mind. Natural light emulates a different energy and vibe, so be sure to position yourself near a window if possible. And what’s more, natural light has been shown to make us happier and more efficient.
#11 Catch some zzz’s
Sleep is essential for good mental health and alertness, not to mention productivity.
Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you’re feeling tired or lethargic during the day, try taking a quick nap. I’m not talking ages, just a 20-minute power nap to boost energy and refresh for the afternoon. You’ll be a more effective entrepreneur with healthier cognitive performance.
Sleep is a crucial component of success, and a brilliant day starts the night before. Remember that overworking can hinder your performance and lead to burnout.
You can beat procrastination, baby!
When it comes to beating procrastination, remember what works for one person might not work for someone else. So experiment and find out what suits you best when you’ve got important tasks to face. Then, find your groove and get into a rhythm and routine that works for you and your business.
Don’t lose focus of why you’re doing what you do, but don’t be afraid to have a break too. It’s a delicate balance between being disciplined and driven while also remembering to treat yourself well and live your own life with enough non-work free time.
The overall message is that you have to find your own way of staying productive, whatever that may be. So grab some self control, try these tips, stop procrastinating, and let me know how you get on.