When I first turned freelance I felt exhilarated at the thought of choice, being independent, creative, productive and all the positive words you associate with going solo. The reality was far from glamorous. The choice and freedom sometimes crippled me with indecision and left me feeling really unproductive. My frustration was amplified as a freelancer because my productivity is my income.
Something had to change, so I researched ways to improve productivity and help creativity. I had no other choice. I wrote this article to share some of the knowledge nuggets I’ve learnt about time + location + productivity, and to also share the sentiment behind the snap-happy laptop shots from a coffee shop.
The freedom of choice
Choice is a double edged sword.
It can be awesome on days when you want to mix it up, but for the days where you’re a little bit busy and very indecisive, you find yourself sat in coffee shops momentarily packing up your laptop before saying, possibly out loud, ‘no, that can wait until tomorrow’. I was once a project manager who dutifully helped 20+ of my colleagues to pick up project work. I managed diaries and made quick-fire decisions based on priorities and yet, here I was, looking at my own diary and scratching my head.
The best work setup for you
By turning freelance, I learnt more about myself than I ever did working for someone else. All of the little habits I had, came out in full force, whereas in a project team, I could discretely sweep these things under the desk. I started to realise that some of these habits weren’t actually habits but in fact my mind’s personal preferences when it comes to working.
Read more about the highs and lows of working for myself
Bad habits are a sign you need to re-assess how you work
I changed the way I worked to accommodate the way my mind works. If I procrastinate, it’s because my brain is craving a creative project. I take out an hour to read, draw or do some creative marketing. Procrastination suggests there is a lack of a clear goal OR you are trying to put off a difficult task. If you don’t pick up on it, it will just come back to de-rail you tomorrow.
Have a look at the following factors in your work setup and as you go about your day to day work, just think about how these can be improved:
- Time of day I start work
- How long I work for before having a break
- How long I have a break for
- What food choices make me lethargic/want to snack
- Most importantly, when do I finish for the day?
The timing is key. 9-5:30 won’t work for everyone, me included. All of the core working values I had learnt since my first job, aged 14, taught me to clock in early and stay on late. I realised my brain couldn’t keep focus for 7.5 hours because that’s actually a really long time.
I soon burnt out trying to apply the same approach to my freelance projects. With experience, skill and confidence in the mixing pot I learnt to perfectly complete a task within less time. It’s not about racking up the hours for the sake of it, and for want of a better phrase, I realised I needed to work smart.
What is smart working? Clearly identify what you need to do and work out the best time and place for you to do this.
These questions take time to answer and I hate to say it, but it’s often in the face of challenging conversations or creative blocks that make you look further afield for your answers.
Get creative with your remote working spots
Mixing up the location is the best way to inspire creative ideas so I decided to work in different spots in London. I researched cafes, restaurants, or bars where I could sit by the window and people watch. Lantana Coffee (pictured above) in Camden is great little quiet cafe in the heart of Camden market, ideal for people watching and thinking creatively.
I am still learning the pros and cons behind different work spots including bad WiFi and noise pollution. Busy coffee shops increase the risk of a screaming baby quashing all creativity in one big, never ending scream. Some restaurants, like Bill’s, provide affordable good quality coffee and spacious tables but they can get busy at lunchtime. Pubs are quiet during the day and are generally receptive to punters pulling out a laptop over a lemonade and lime.
Ok, I know some of you check my Instagram stories so you know I’m partial to a regular half pint.
Beer aside. Some of my best content has come from a chilled out pub environment. Grow your list of public work spaces where you feel comfortable, free from irritations and mental blockers and I promise, you will notice a difference!
I wanted to share the things I’ve learnt from reading countless articles and adjusting my working day to make it work for me. I hope it helps your productivity too:
- Identify the time you work best – it doesn’t have to last 7.5 hours long. I work well in the mornings so I know this is the best time for writing good quality content.
- Schedule meetings when you’re more prone to distraction – I schedule meetings for the afternoon to counteract the dreaded 3pm lull. I do this because I love a good chat with my clients and I’m better at firing off creative ideas when I’m in that mindset.
- Know when to give yourself a break – Friday afternoons are often write offs, which I’m OK with because everyone else writes them off too
I am a freelance copywriter writing good quality online content for ambitious brands who need support in talking about what they do.
Now I want to hear from you, where do YOU work best? What are your best working hours? How else do you inspire the creative juices?