When I first began working as a copywriter in Wales, my lack of productivity was something of an eye opener. Although I am notorious amongst my friends for getting jobs done quickly (often despite horrendous barriers), I’m equally well known for my propensity to dawdle.
While researching for this article, I stumbled across several lists featuring dozens of productivity hacks. Many were infinitely useful, especially those that made suggestions I am yet to try. Rather than attempt to emulate their length, I am going to delve into the methods that genuinely enhance my productivity skills.
Work in blocks with breaks inbetween
One of the biggest threats to productivity is boredom. The next biggest is exhaustion, because that’s when those of us who are freelance copywriters begin producing content in pigeon English.
Whether you’re a copywriter, web designer, or any other work from homer, maintaining variety and replenishing your energy supplies are both central to productivity. Boredom often breeds frustration, which means you won’t inject as much pizzazz into your work as usual. Exhaustion prevents you from being your best. Those clients that adored you when you submitted your first few pieces? Well, they’re still going to complain when you churn out work that’s a little meh.
What does working in blocks involve?
As the header suggests, you’ll work in blocks. However, if you’re a freelance copywriter such as myself, you’re going to use this technique to your advantage: you’ll change tasks with each block.
Now, before you accuse me of being crazy, hear me out. According to one survey, 50-percent of workers see variety as being central to their workplace satisfaction. When you feel happier at work, you become more productive. Seeing as you’re your own boss, what’s to say you can’t throw a little variety in there?
As a copywriter, I use one of my favourite productivity apps to set a limit on the task at hand. It involves planting a virtual seed and not touching your iPhone. If you touch your iPhone, the seed won’t grow into a towering tree. Although this may sound a little insane, it’s quite satisfying watching your virtual productivity forest develop. Oh, and you can eventually work towards planting real trees too.
I give my tree 50 minutes to grow, then I stop what I am doing and move onto another topic. As a copywriter, I tend to have three to four clients at any given time. Providing my approach doesn’t affect the deadlines I agree with them, I’ve found that moving between tasks creates a sense of (home-based) workplace satisfaction that propels my productivity.
How often should you take a break?
As stated above, taking a break every 50 minutes seems to work for me. There are a few reasons for doing this:
- Recent evidence suggests that those who work in sedentary roles could benefit from periodic bursts of movement. You don’t need to exercise. However, you do need to move around every so often. Doing so reduces your risk of developing insulin resistance, and you’re less likely to fall into the depths of obesity. Keeping both physiological states at bay enhances your overall health. Healthy people are productive people.
- Generally, as a freelancing parent I have a million and one chores outstanding on my to-do list. Combining those regular bursts of moving around gives me a chance to break out the Zoflora so I can do some cleaning.
- According to Learning Solutions Magazine, the average concentration span has declined to the point where most can only focus for 20 minutes. It’s important to get in touch with your personal limits. I often start to wane at around the 40-Minute mark, but I push myself to 50 for the sake of excellent timekeeping.
Taking a break at 50 minutes isn’t a hard and fast rule. Try to figure out what works for you, but do incorporate those little bursts of movement into your daily routine if you can. Aside from keeping insulin resistance and obesity at bay, regular work breaks promote wakefulness and reduce exhaustion.
What do you do when exhaustion creeps up on you anyway?
As I detailed in my posts last week, exhaustion is going to creep up on you at some stage. Whether it’s a rapidly declining sleep bank or your cat keeping you awake at night, you’ll find that you still need to work.
As a copywriter, I detest missing deadlines. It has a negative impact on my clients. When they pay for a service, they don’t expect a late delivery. Similarly, I don’t feel as though I can demand timely payments when I’m not leading by example.
Because of this, I won’t fail to hit a deadline unless there’s a true emergency unfolding at home. I even take my iPad Pro away with me, so that I can remain productive while on the move. As a result, I tend to work through exhaustion.
If you’re a freelance copywriter who often faces working while tired, here are my top tips for doing so:
- Take a nap; Even though taking a nap will eat into your working hours, you could save many a precious moment later on. One hefty study looking at 23,000 participants found that naps make you more productive. So, get your head on that pillow and add a little more time to your sleep bank.
- Take a sensible approach to coffee; When you drink a cup of coffee, you gain around 45 to 60 minutes of its full energy-boosting benefits. While coffee should play a role in tackling your freelance workload when tired, avoid it after 2pm. It has a half-life of around six hours, which means you could face another restless night if you don’t pace yourself.
- Get up and get moving; The chances are, moving around is the last thing you want to do when tired. But, the little burst of energy that follows could carry you through the day. You don’t need to embark on a mammoth run. But, you should walk around and try to grab some fresh air.
If all else fails, consider delegating. Only reach out to another writer if your client gives you permission to do so, though.
Say goodbye to your notification mentality
Do you think you can ignore those push notifications on your phone and remain productive? Research says otherwise. One study details how simply hearing your phone buzz can result in reduced productivity levels. As humans, we’re unable to multitask or concentrate when more than one demand is grabbing our attention. Now’s the time to put your phone to one side, and set it to silent while you do so.
According to the researchers, simply knowing that you’re receiving a call or text is as distracting as engaging with it. You’re 28-percent more likely to mess up the project at hand when you let your phone buzz, so now’s the time to say goodbye to your notification mentality.
To those of us who depend on their smartphones (myself included), this presents a world of problems. For example, I work for one client who sends emails when they require projects to be completed with a rapid turnaround. Said projects usually pay quite well, which means I don’t want to miss out on them. If you’re a parent, you’ll probably baulk at the idea of setting your phone to silent while your child is at school. I mean, what if they have an accident and you can’t rush to be by their side.
Fortunately, there are ways to ditch your notification mentality without saying goodbye to all of the advantages your phone confers:
How to manage emails and stay productive
Using my example above, sometimes there are emails we simply cannot miss. One helpful post from How To Geek details how you can customise your Gmail notifications. If there’s a client you simply cannot ignore, but you don’t want to see that 28-percent decline in productivity, follow the tips in the post.
Otherwise, mimic the behaviour of other productive copywriters and dedicate portions of the day to email checking. Some stand by never checking your emails first thing in the morning. I am one of them. It can set the wrong tone for the day, which means I depend on customised notifications instead.
My approach involves committing half-an-hour of my afternoon to my emails. I then repeat said tactic in the evening. If clients need to get hold of me swiftly, they’re free to reach out to me on WhatsApp. You don’t need to remain available at a moment’s notice for every project. It’s not conducive to productivity, and anybody who decides that you must operate differently is likely too demanding to work with at all.
Maintain notifications for those things that remain important
I’ll use my example as a parent. Yes, I need my daughter’s school to contact me swiftly. However, such incidents are (mercifully) rare. They happen once a year, which doesn’t justify leaving my notifications on throughout the day. Understandably, some copywriters who are parents will encounter regular calls. But, you can still work your away around this without descending into notification madness.
If you’re an iPhone user, switch off your notifications for everything other than your phone calls. To take matters a step further, choose to only receive calls from those marked as important in your contact list. iMore offers an incredibly comprehensive guide to tweaking your iPhone notifications.
Acknowledge that a quick dip into your daily conversations isn’t a good thing
Let’s just straight up acknowledge that there is no such thing as quickly dipping into your daily conversations. At the moment, I am part of a Facebook messenger group dedicated to a girls’ holiday to Kefalonia. If I acknowledge one notification, I can almost guarantee that 30 minutes of my day will go towards discussing the matter (on an on and off basis).
If I then acknowledge a seemingly harmless four conversations each day, I’m losing two hours of valuable productivity time. As any decent freelance copywriter will know, those two hours could go towards pitching, writing, and marketing yourself. Descend into a notification spiral after hours, by all means. Don’t convince yourself you can do so during the working day and remain productive, though.
Start each day with a goal reminder
Finally, this is arguably my fluffiest suggestion: reminding yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing at the start of each day is a great motivator. In contrast with opening your emails the second you wake up, you’re giving yourself a small reminder of why you’re choosing this lifestyle. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Why did I want to start freelancing?
- What’s the best outcome of all my marketing efforts?
- What can I do with the money I earn?
- What are the benefits to working as a freelance copywriter?
If you’re saving money towards a special activity, remind yourself about that. For example, I am flying to Orlando in 25 days. Every word I write for my clients goes towards a potential theme park visit. I love the thought of delighting my daughter, and I like reminding myself that my work has allowed me to pay for seat upgrades and nicer hotels.
From motivating yourself at the start of the day with positivity to shutting out notifications, my three tips for remaining productive can suit any freelancer. If you have winning tips of your own, feel free to share them.
A note on honesty: Like many of my posts, this one includes affiliate links. Rest assured that I only link to services and products that I have used and find useful.