As a freelancer, when you tell people that you work from home, you get used to a few predictable reactions. People assume that we stay in our pyjamas all day, having lazy lie-ins and watching daytime TV. And yes, there probably are a few people who find it productive to work like this, but for most of us, it’s actually really important to establish a freelancer routine to get the most out of our working day.
Setting a Freelancer Routine
Everyone works differently, of course. But I have learnt that these five things are an essential part of my freelancer routine. They help me to be at my most productive, meaning I get my work done quicker and more efficiently. Which also means I get to finish early some days. Hooray!
Set an Alarm
It doesn’t have to be horrifically early. But setting a specific time to get up each day will really help you to establish a proper schedule. Personally, I always aim to be sat at my desk ready to start work at 9 am. One of the wonderful things about the freelance life is setting your own hours, so if you’re a night owl you can schedule your day to suit you. I like to start early-ish and get things done, so my evenings are free. And without a pesky commute, I can sleep in a lot later than I used to, and still be ready to clock in at 9!
Work at a Desk
How many times have you scrolled through Instagram and seen someone posing on their bed with their laptop? Now when I see those pictures I just think, “Oh, your poor back!” I spend a lot of time working as a digital nomad, with no fixed base, but let me tell you that working from a hotel room bed is not all it’s cracked up to be! Pick somewhere to work where you can sit with proper posture. Hunching over your laptop will cause you no end of problems. I like to work at a desk or kitchen table, but for a change of scene, I’ll head out to a local library or cafe a couple of days a week.
Always Keep a To-Do List
If I have one tip for better organisation, it’s the to-do list. I swear by lists and I would be lost without my daily roundup of tasks. My freelancer routine starts with a fresh to-do list every morning. It’s the first thing that I do before I start any other work. There are plenty of tools or apps to help you manage your to-do list, for example, Todoist. I still find the best thing for me is a pen and paper! My list evolves throughout the day as I cross things off and move them around. It helps to know how many tasks you have on your plate, so you can manage your time effectively.
Take Scheduled Breaks
I used to joke that I’d been programmed by my 8 years of working in public libraries to get hungry at certain times of the day. Tea breaks were staggered between 10.45 and 11.15 and on my days off I found myself automatically reaching for my banana and cup of tea at the same time! I’ve carried this habit over into my freelancer routine. No one is able to concentrate fully for long periods of time without taking a break. Find a schedule that suits you – get up and walk around for ten minutes, timetable tea breaks or only allow yourself to look at your phone for certain periods. Even on busy days, I try to get outside for a quick walk and some fresh air at lunchtime.
I know there are plenty of freelancers who do work in their pyjamas, and if that suits them then that’s fine with me. Personally, I need to get dressed for the day to mentally put myself in work mode. I would never have gone to work in my pyjamas before I started freelancing, after all. (Well, apart from that time we did a bedtime stories session in the library!) I don’t dress as smart as I used to for work, sure. But I at least make sure that I’m wearing something that wouldn’t get me funny looks if I have to answer the door!
Is there anything that you swear by when setting your freelancer routine? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
I am a freelance writer and virtual assistant for hire. Find out more here.