Tim Aldred - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelance commercial writer, successfully navigating self-employment one unexpected obstacle at a time. Contact me at twitter.com/tim_aldred

7 ways to survive long freelancing days

As freelancers, we spend a lot of time making new contacts and trying to win new work. It’s a bit of a thrill when someone hands us a huge project to tackle, and the thought of the pay day at the end of it is great motivation.

Then, all of a sudden and before we realise what’s happening, there’s too much work and panic sets in – when am I going to find the time to actually do the work? We knock the phone off the hook, brew up and put our heads down for an eight, ten, twelve hour shift in the office.

Long days are sometimes unavoidable, and if you’re facing one, here’s seven things you can do to ensure you survive and keep churning out quality work.


1. Prepare with a good night’s sleep

Lazing around in bed can seem like the last thing you should be doing when deadlines are mounting, but sleep is crucial. Getting an early night in allows you to recharge. The result will be more energy the next day, a clear mind ready to focus and a better standard of work will be completed.

An extra hour or two under the duvet might sound counter-productive, but without it you’ll work slower and achieve less. When all’s said and done, depriving yourself of sleep may mean you work more hours but you’ll actually fall further behind.


2. Breathe in some fresh air

Ideally you’ll get out of the office before and after work, and hopefully at lunch, too. The very least you should do is crack open a window and let fresh air circulate.

Stuffy rooms are not productive environments. Spending half an hour outside will clear your mind and give you fresh energy to tackle your workload with new enthusiasm.


3. Eat well

This isn’t specifically about eating the right sorts of food – although you should probably be doing that too – it’s more about the temptation to skip a meal to claw back some precious working time.

The human body doesn’t work like that. Food is vital fuel. You wouldn’t try to save time on a car journey by not visiting a petrol station, because eventually you’re going to run out and slowly roll to the side of the road and  grind to a halt. Refuel often and you’ll stay at full speed for longer.


4. Stay hydrated

Coffee may be appealing right now for the quick buzz it gives, but the benefits are short-lived. Caffeine is not good for hydration and will make you feel worse in the long run. Unfortunately this too goes for that bottle of ‘something a little stronger’ you’ve got in your bottom draw. That won’t help at all.

In it’s place, water is magic, even if it sounds a little dull. Mix it with fruit juice if you can’t stand water by itself, but get plenty of it. Experts say eight glasses a day will keep your brain sharp and firing on all cylinders.


5. Take breaks

Much like spending a little longer on your night’s sleep, leaving the office for half an hour seems like the opposite of what would make sense when your time is limited.

Sitting in the same position is no good for the body, and staring at a computer screen is bad for the eyes. You can only concentrate fully for so long, and the body can only stay in one position before it stops functioning fully.

Stretch your legs every hour by going to fetch a drink or some nibbles from the kitchen, and take half an hour out for lunch to recharge. You’ll get far more done immediately after your break than you managed before it.


6. Make a list

Whether you’re working on several smaller  projects, or one huge project with several components, your busy day will be made up of lots of different pieces and this can sometimes be overwhelming.

A trick many freelancers use is to start a to-do list at the beginning of the day and to cross things off as they go.

The obvious advantage of this is never forgetting to do something that needs to be done, but the other advantage – which I personally very much enjoy – is the feeling of satisfaction when putting a line through a particular task to note its completion. The best way to survive a long slog of a day is to recognise your achievements as you go along. These little victories can make all the difference to your mood.


7. Enjoy your workplace

Freelancers working in other peoples’ offices may be more limited by how much they can control compared to those working from home, but every bit of effort spent on making your workplace welcoming will boost your efficiency.

Most people work better with music playing, so sort out a radio or a CD player. Dark spaces are less conducive to productivity, so open the curtains and let some natural light in. If there’s no windows, or it’s late at night, at least keep the place well lit. Put some pictures on the wall that make you smile. Bring in a pot plant to keep the air fresh. Chuck out your clutter.

There’s a number of things which can be done, but the key is to make your workplace somewhere you don’t mind spending time. If you dread going there, you’re already at a disadvantage before you arrive.

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Written by Tim Aldred on May 24, 2012 and filed in Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, Freelance Jobs, Freelancers, Opinion , , , , ,

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