“Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

This could be my motto and Procrastination could be my middle name.

I’m a procrastinator, I admit it and could possibly be in rehab for it. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. In design school, I’d stay up all night working on my latest project instead of spending the last two weeks on it.

I’ve never been one to get up, sit right down and get to work. I have to review my schedule, work on making coffee…and then the internet happens. According to Digital Marketing Ramblings, 54% of Facebook users log on more than once a day with it consuming 6% of their online time each day. To keep this statistic true, I scroll through Facebook, which then leads me over to Pinterest where I then have to design my new bathroom. Then back to the news. And Twitter. By then my coffee is cold, it’s 10:00 a.m. and I haven’t touched my first project. Each time I vow I’ll buckle down and stop procrastinating yet the cycle continues.

This year I’ve committed myself to being productive, creative and running my business efficiently. Below are the usual productivity killers for many people, including a few I’ve vowed to overcome once and for all.

1. Spending too much time on social media

This one is a given for just about everyone. Surfing social media feeds has to be one of the biggest distractions for most people. It’s easy to get sucked into reading, liking and sharing but not being efficient with your business’ social media scheduling could also nibble away your day as well. You need to market and promote yourself and your services but you need to be smart about it. Set aside a time or day once or twice a week to schedule posts by setting them up in Hootsuite or Buffer. Using If This Than That: {IFTTT} is a life- and time-saver! Plus you can get pretty creative coming up with recipes for your posts.

2. Being frozen by resistance

You have a difficult client, or an overwhelming project, and just don’t know how to handle them or where to start. Instead of actually starting, you freeze and get nothing accomplished. You lose sleep and put off that phone call or project. How do you get past that? Having an accountability partner is a great idea if and when you need a push. Not only is this partner a great resource for working on your business plan and ideas, they’re also there when you need advice. Next time you’re stuck, write a list of what it is that’s blocking you to see if you can find a pattern. Or don’t even think about what’s freezing you — just sit down and start. I’ve always found that just by starting, the ice starts to melt and I wonder what the heck was delaying me in the first place.

3. Not getting creative in different ways

Are you on your computer eight hours a day, five days a week cranking out client work? Constantly designing websites? Maybe only working on illustrations? It’s time to break out of the comfort zone or that rut, get off the computer and try something else that’s creative. Maybe it’s knitting or pottery making. I’m currently working on learning to hand letter and reading Cultivating Creativity Rituals Visual Inspiration by Maria Fabrizio to inspire me to try new creative outlets daily. It keeps the creative juices flowing and stems any boredom that may rear it’s ugly head.

4. Striving for perfection

I’ve worked with writers that can’t stop editing a newsletter and will keep adding commas until the deadline is looming. Other writers know when it’s as close as it’s going to get and are ready to put it to bed. Some designers are afraid to send final work off until they can’t tweak another text box, proof copy for the hundredth time or change colors just for the sake of changing them. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t proof the phone number or web link for your call to action but at some point, you have to stand back and be happy with what you’ve created. A design project could really be an ongoing project if you let it consume you. My college design professors advice: “Once you think you’re done with a project, remove two things.” She always said designers have a tendency to keep adding images, colors or techniques trying to make a project perfect. This could be said for almost every other profession as well.

5. Stuck with the same scenery

Do you sit at the same desk, with the same view, drinking from the same coffee cup? If so, it’s time to pack up the MacBook and head to a new space — a coffee shop with your headphones, the library when you need to buckle down and concentrate or a funky co-working space when you crave having someone to collaborate with. The freedom of freelancing is great but it could also be isolating at the same time. Being in a new space can also get new ideas flowing and be less distracting.

6. Not batching tasks

Are you like me and like to cross of a bunch of quick, small projects before tackling the large, looming one? Is your mind all over the place going from one project to the next without completing one? Batching tasks makes you more productive and gets similar tasks done at once. Do you have a pile of emails to respond to? Open your email, click through each one and respond or file it accordingly then move on to the next. Once you’ve gotten through the batch of them, close your email! You can also set a time limit for each project to keep you focused. Devote one hour to a newsletter design or 30 minutes for invoicing. Do you notice you’re more creative some days than others? If so, plan on a day that’s your creative day. I know I’m not very creative on Mondays so those are my administrative days. I do my week’s schedule, answer emails, send invoices. Fridays are my most creative so that’s when I plan on designing large projects like annual reports or sitting down writing my blog posts.

7. Keeping email open

As I write this post, I have 16 browser tabs open (actually it’s grown to 18 now). One of the biggest distractions to my design flow is seeing the numbers climb higher and higher on the email tab. Every time I click over, I lose more and more minutes responding to emails that really don’t need immediate attention. Or when I’m hunting for a missing file a client needs. By the time I’m done with that task, three more emails have popped up that need my attention. Kick that distraction to the curb by either closing the email window and setting a certain time to spend on email or set up an away message during your work hours. This lets people know you’re hard at work, in a meeting and will respond to their email within a certain time frame. This also trains people to not expect an instant reply from you. Also, think about using a service like Boomerang to schedule batches of emails at once.

8. Procrastinating

You have a great idea for a project and can picture exactly how it will work but it’s also a gorgeous day so why not play hooky with a friend at the beach? You can crank that project out in no time tomorrow, right? Then a client contacts you with a rush project and now you’re behind the eight ball and stressed because you might not have enough time. The creativity has gone out the window because you keep looking at the clock. I like to plan ahead for my procrastination. When I have a slow day and have gotten everything done that needed to be done, I’ll look ahead to the rest of the week and grab a few projects to tackle. This is also a great habit to get into in case of sick days. When you’re a freelancer and you fall sick, who’s going to do your work? Sure, some things you can design while on the couch watching Mad Men in your PJs but large projects could come to a screeching halt if you end up with the flu.

Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before. Click To Tweet

 

9. Not having systems in place

Have you ever had a super creative day going, music is cranking and coffee is hot and then you forgot to write up that client proposal or respond to an email which you think you may have already deleted? Having systems in place can really eliminate that frenzy or looking for files and recreating documents. Using Basecamp, Google Docs or something similar will keep all files and correspondence in one place. Also, make sure all of your files match your brand with colors, fonts and style.

10. Not having a schedule

Do you really emphasize the “free” in “freelance?” Flying by the seat of your pants each week can zap your productivity in a heartbeat. The beauty of freelance is that you aren’t chained to a cubicle eight hours a day. Having freedom to go to a 10 am yoga class is awesome, I like to think it’s also great for creativity, but you have to work that into your project schedule. Not being regularly available for your clients will also add a backlog to your productivity. Keeping a journal of your work days is a great way to figure out when you’re productive, creative or can’t concentrate. Look over your notes after a couple of weeks and nail down the days and times when you’re at your best, then create a weekly schedule that will make you the most productive.

I’ve been guilty of a few of these workflow killers and have changed my ways, some because I’ve learned the hard way. But adding more clients to my roster and enjoying my new Florida life has also made me take a look at my schedule and add more flow to my workflow.

Have a tip for adding more productivity to your day? Drop it in the comments below to share the love.