“[I]nterruptions are the enemy of work. They are the enemy of productivity, they are the enemy of creativity, they are the enemy of everything.”
–Jason Fried of 37Signals
Distractions! They're everywhere! Clients ask for "just one quick change." They call up with "just one question." Each one may take just a few minutes, but they breed like tribbles. Before you know it, it's evening and you've done a million little things but none of them have advanced your projects, or your business.
These distractions sap your energy, your creativity… and your bank account.
Get more done in the New Year. Build a better biz in the New Year. Feel more relaxed while doing it!
Here's how to wrangle distractions without losing your clients (or your mind!)
1Set boundaries & create anti-distraction habits.
2Teach your clients.
3Assess your progress.
#1: Set Boundaries & Create New Habits
This is the most important step:
Creativity requires a lot of Executive Function (aka willpower), and EF is totally destroyed by millions of little tasks. Interruptions are the opposite of flow.
So first things first: You want to carve out a lot of distraction-free work time for yourself.
Your needs are unique to you, but here are some ideas to help you get started:
1 Don't email early… save your Executive Function-rich morning time for tough creative tasks, when you're freshest. Save emails for after lunch.
2 Separate work & personal email. And only let your clients use your work address.
3 Check work emails just once or twice a day. (The world won't end! Really!)
4 Batch all your "just one little thing" requests. Collect them in a to-do list, and tackle them all together, after you get your big, hard creative work done for the day.
5 Advanced technique: Tiny Change Tuesday! Keep your tiny changes for one special, low-energy day a week. (Once you train your clients to expect this behavior, you'll have no problems!)
6 Manage your phone. If at all possible, direct your clients to email you. Can't avoid the phone? Answer it "live" only during specific hours; if clients call outside those hours, let them leave a voicemail. See "Teaching your clients" for detailed techniques!
Here are some questions which will help you identify your new boundaries:
1 How often do my clients ask for changes, tasks, etc. which take less than an hour?
2How often do I check my email / answer my phone?
3 Which days are my worst, productivity-wise?
4 Which days are my best?
5 How many different projects/tasks do I work on on my worst days, and my best days?
6 How long does it take to get back into the zone after a < 60 minute interruption, checking email, answering the phone?
Now write up your new boundaries in a list and post it next to your desk, or wherever you do the most work!
Once you've set your boundaries, you'll want to teach your clients about them. That's coming up on Day 14!
P.S. Don't know the answers to these questions? We designed our time tracking tool, Noko, to help you find out! It's painless to track even the tiniest amounts of time, and you can even look at your work on a calendar to help you identify your best & worst days.
At Noko Time Tracking, we believe that everyone wins when freelancers like you charge what they're really worth. So for Freelancember, we've lined up lots of great gifts to help you do it! Keep checking back.Feeling guilty for not tracking your time? Noko can help!