computer screen

Follow your deepest dream,

the one you had as a kid…

but stay focused.

Donal Logue

As a self-employed professional, your livelihood depends on your ability to consistently remain productive. Bit, it is all too common for a work session to turn into a blog commenting session, a YouTube video marathon, or a championship game reaching new levels. These distractions will cut into your bottom line by decreasing your output exponentially.

If you have trouble staying on task for long periods of time, here are a few tips to help boost your productivity:

1. Minimize socializing. Keep your social networking to a minimum. Avoid checking each of your accounts several times an hour. Social media marketing can be valuable to your business, but checking in on your Twitter, Facebook or other social networking messages too often will often waste hours throughout the course of your workday.

Limit the number of times you allow yourself to check your messages each day. Consider checking for new messages in the morning, during your lunch, and in the evening before bedtime. That way, social networking keeps its proper place instead of robbing you of opportunities.

2. De-clutter. Maintain a clean office. A cluttered space can cause a mental blocks that are difficult to shake. Be sure that your work surface is clutter free and that any unnecessary paperwork is tucked away. Make use of file cabinets, storage boxes, and bookcases.

Before you leave your office area each evening, take a few minutes to clear any newly acquired clutter. Just five minutes of maintenance every day will make a huge difference in the peace you feel as you begin each new workday.

3. Segregate your times. Define your “visiting hours.” If you work at home, you are likely familiar with the frustration of family members popping into your office to chat. Make it clear that when you are working, trivial interruptions need to wait until your scheduled break time. If necessary, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office door to keep interruptions at bay.

If you work from home, but your workspace is set up in a highly trafficked area, try using noise-blocking headphones to eliminate the sounds around you. Separate your workspace with a curtain or a bookshelf to maximize your privacy.

4. Remove the distractions. It can be very easy to allow your mind to wander, especially when working on something you do not enjoy. Consider using software to block websites that are known to cause dips in your productivity. And ignore calls that are not related to your business while in the office or on the clock.

As long as you are usually prompt in returning a call, it is perfectly acceptable to send a client’s call to your voicemail. In fact, you can probably save some time by offering email as your main point of contact. Often, a 45-minute conversation could be reduced to one or two very short emails back and forth.

5. Stay healthy. Make your health a priority. To keep your mind strong and maintain an appropriate workflow, make wise choices and take care of your body. If you do, you will be rewarded by having more energy to tackle your to-do list and more work will get done. Stay away from heavy foods. Exercise on a regular basis and make sure that you receive an adequate amount of sleep each night.

Most people get their best results by exercising in the early morning before starting work. This will give you an energy jolt that will help boost your mood without the midmorning caffeine crash.

6. Work in spurts. Most independent professionals find it best to work in sets of 15 to 45 minutes. Work through this time without any bathroom breaks, telephone calls, or time-wasting Web surfing.

After completing your sprint, take a short five to ten minute break and begin working on your second spurt of uninterrupted work time.

7. Break often. Take regular breaks. Once you get started on a project, it can be very easy to lose track of time and forget about your breaks. However, short, regular breaks are essential to the overall effectiveness of your work and health. Take a five minute break every hour or so in order to reap the highest rewards.

Step away from your computer screen on a regular basis to prevent repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, backaches, and eyestrain.

8. Make and work according to your own schedule. Many freelancers find that they are most productive in the early morning hours between 5 am to 12 pm. Or, if you are a night owl, turn those sleepless nights into money making hours by cranking out some work.

9. Create a comfortable work area. If you have to breakdance and screw up your back to reach your short desk, back pain and discomfort will ultimately hinder your effectiveness. Furnish your office with a desk and chair that are the right proportions for you. Stay away from bright wall colors that may distract you from your work.

Cooler tones are ideal wall colors for an office area. These help promote effective thinking and soothe your eyes.

10. Visualize your reward. Motivate yourself to increase your productivity by imagining how great you will feel once your current project is done. Imagine the financial rewards. Feel the pride that you will experience when your work is celebrated.

For instance, for many people, money is their biggest motivator. Create a wish list on your favorite shopping website, and buy an item on the list each time you complete a big project or achieve a challenging goal.

As an independent professional, you can function at maximum capacity. You have control of your time, and these ideas will help you to make the most of it. Choose one or more of these ideas and begin to move toward the personal, business, and financial success you deserve.


Photo Credit: mauritsdoetjes via Compfight cc

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