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Category: Productivity

5 tips to improve your productivity as a freelancer

Productivity tips from me published over on Start and Grow Enterprise.

This is one of my favourites.

To-do lists work because they help you stay on the path to getting your most important work done – but they work even better when you write them as an action! So instead of ‘get more paper’, write ‘buy A4 laser paper from Amazon’ and add a due date. If the to-do is to call someone, write their contact details, that’ll save you from having to hunt later.

The aim is not to have to think about a task when you come to do it. Also, don’t pack numerous tasks inside one to-do item. Instead of ‘finish project’ break it down into many smaller actions and you’re more likely to get them done.

The ideas originaly came from webinar IMC13 Productivity at work and are a distillation of ideas from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen – well worth a read – among other books I’ve read over the years. Having a background in programming I’m often like to take the lazy path and am always looking for a simpler way to do work.

Hanlon’s Razor and its effect in social media

I’ve often heard the term ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ – usually on tech podcasts – in relation companies doing the wrong thing and where people assume the worst and jump to conclusions. so decided to look it up.

‘Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity’

Robert J. Hanlon

An example of this can be seen when Apple was accused of slowing down old iPhones to force people to upgrade, where in fact an update was made to improve the performance of phones with older batteries by slowing them down a little to prevent a high peak power drawn causing the phone to crash.

The same effect can be seen on social media when people jump on the back of a scandalous story.

Modern media treats outrage as a profitable commodity. This often takes the form of articles which attribute malice to that which could be explained by incompetence or ignorance. We see examples of this play out in the media multiple times a day. People rush to take offense (sic) at anything which contradicts their worldview or which they imagine to do so. Media outlets are becoming increasingly skilled at generating assumptions of malicious intent. When looking at newspapers, websites, and social media, it can be beneficial to apply Hanlon’s razor to what we see.

The lesson I take is not to see the worst in peoples mistakes but to assume they are busy, forgetful or hassled like the rest of us and to give them the benefit of the doubt. At least the first time. Not only will it help you to stay calm but it will also moderate your response and prevent a situation from escalating.

The quoted article from FS above, dives into detail as well as explaining other popular terms like Occam’s Razer. Well worth a read.

Boost your productivity: Take breaks and go outside

Suzanne Scacca writing for Smashing Magazine

‘I’d also look at where you naturally start to “fail” and lose focus. It’s the same thing that happens in workouts — when you reach your breaking point, your body just gives up. Unfortunately, some people try to push through it when it’s the brain screaming, “Stop!”’

My low activity times are just after lunch at 1pm and around 4pm. At these times, I aim to do easy tasks such as admin or tasks I particularly enjoy, such as a personal coding project.

Focus: Not too wide, not too narrow

Seth Godin on Applying effort.

‘Even if we don’t know precisely where to put the effort, a focus on the right categories pays off. Too often, we aim too wide (it feels more deniable). And sometimes, more rarely, we aim too narrowly.’

Seth is very much an advocate of marketing to a core audience, starting narrow and widening out as your reputation grows.

Marketing to a single person can be very effective at building a relationship, and over time that person may buy from you but what if they don’t. Building a relationship with a small group or community allows you to focus on their needs, test out ideas and hone your product while minimising the risk that they won’t buy.

Taking better notes will make you a better writer

I take lots of notes from client meetings, conference, podcasts and blogs and while I am reasonably comfortable with my process I do feel I should have a more consistent approach to collecting and recalling them. I know I could build a better resource to drawn from.

Once of Drew’s ideas is to not worry about what you should be collecting but to collect the ideas that occur to you as you let information flow over you. This idea is very freeing when I have long list of podcasts to consume but get caught up in where to start rather than just starting, listening and making notes as an idea occurs to me.

Drew also mentioned about how the act of writing notes, leaves brain free to better connect ideas. This reminds me of how effective the Getting Things Done task system can be for exactly the same reason.

Don’t wait

Seth on his blog

If we decided to simply reduce our waiting and worrying allocation by 50%, just imagine how much we could discover, how many skills we could learn, how dramatically attitudes could shift.

If you have time on your hands, don’t wait until COVID or the Lockdown is over. Use the time now to learn something new.

Tips to help you work from home during lockdown and beyond

Advice from home workers on from British Red Cross training, including one from me – I’ll let you find it.

One of the tips was from friend and colleague Catherine Every. It’s actually a great idea and would work well for some but I like to work solo and woe betide any who disturb me.

‘In terms of staying in touch, I sometimes have all-day Zoom sessions with fellow freelancers, both one-to-one and in groups. There are two ways I’ve done it: the first is having a new call at set times, and the second is where we’re on the call the whole time but on mute with the video off for most of it. Either way, the idea is you check in every hour or so to say “hello” and talk about progress. It helps me stay focused if I need to get something done because there’s some accountability – it’s also just nice to know someone’s out there working ‘with’ you.’

There’s also a tip from Sarah Townsend (who I interviewed recently), on setting work/home boundaries.