As a solo consultant I don’t make money unless I’m billing it to clients. That means coffee breaks and lunches aren’t paid. Talking with the neighbour is not paid. Getting the mail not paid.
So how do I keep myself on track with projects so I can be sure I’m getting paid each week?
Define Your Distractions
The first step is defining your distractions so that you can come up with an effective plan to combat them.
Part of my job does involve dealing with email, but email is tricky. It’s really easy to start a day on your email and end the day with a bunch of email shuffling done, but no real productive work. It feels like you got stuff done, but you did little real billing to clients.
Most freelancers I know have a really hard time with social media. My vice is Twitter but yours could be Facebook or Google+. Whatever one it is it’s so easy to waste hours of time not getting any paid work done.
I even lump Reddit, Youtube, Vimeo, Hacker News and Stackexchange in to this category. They are all Skinner boxes and we get just enough pay off (because someone replied to us) that we keep coming back for more.
A great benefit to working at home is getting some things around the house done during the day. We would never keep on top of laundry if I didn’t do a bit most days of the week. It’s really easy to let a ‘bit’ of laundry overflow in to a large portion of my day.
I love to ride my bicycle I like to ride my bike. If I’m not careful I can just head out on a nice day and go riding. No one can stop me at all.
I keep my riding under control by allowing myself Friday afternoons off and I check out about an hour early on Wednesday’s. If Friday afternoon is looking to be full of rain I switch to the sunny morning but I make sure I work that afternoon to make up for it.
I could also spend a huge amount of time hanging with my awesome kid. Yes playing with My Little Pony is cool when your 2 year old wants you to do it.
Tips for Keeping Focused
If I’m having a particularly unfocused day I start up my Pomodoro Timer (I use BreakTime). You can focus for 25 minutes pretty easy then you get a 5 minute break.
I pretty much always turn on the Pomodoro timer when I have a bunch of emails. Then I just give email 1 25 minute segment. It’s amazing how fast yo can sort that inbox when you know it’s going to be over in 25 minutes. It’s also sad to realize how often you just burn away hours doing nothing really productive in that inbox.
Another great benefit of Pomodoro is your health. It’s just bad to sit for to long each day. Getting up for 5 minutes every 25 and taking a bit of a walk or stretching is good for your health.
If you want to learn more about Pomodoro I recommend this book. I read it and learned a bunch.
If social media is particularly troubling on a few days I will actually remove Tweebot from my computer. Yes that’s right completely uninstall it. I’ve also been known to edit my hosts file and point all social sites back at my personal IP.
Yes I can install Tweetbot again and I can edit that hosts file. The simple act of having to install or edit gets be back on track.
photo credit: bass_nroll via photopin cc