Monthly Archives: June 2011

Keeping Productive While Freelancing

Image representing RescueTime as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve done a few different posts on being productive, or rather, how I wasn’t being productive and of course, this last financial adventure has pushed me into production overload.

I am easily distracted. I admit it and I own it. With that said, I therefore need tools to keep me productive, especially when I spend the majority of time online, being decidedly unproductive. Actually, this post is coming by way of not being productive when I should be, but I thought it an important thing to discuss with my fellow freelancers.

Let’s first set the scene – due to my unproductiveness, I was really far behind in bills, including the Internet, which I of course need in order to work. Long story short, I ended up getting back online and decided that I need something or several things to help keep me focused. This isn’t to say that I can’t be focused on working; on my good days, my productivity levels knows no bounds.

On the worse days…yeah.

So with this new “I need to get shit done, so how do I do this?” mentality, I went looking at the first place that could help. The Internet. Now, as long as I’m online all the time, I obviously need something that keeps me on task (read – keeps me on the pages that are work related) and away from distractions (read – keeps me away from sites that are seriously distracting).

In my search, I did find some things, but they were scattered about and honestly, sorta not what I was looking for. Well, let’s say it this way – I needed something so strict that it would keep me focused for say 3 to 4 weeks (which is how long it takes for it to become memory motion) so that I could be productive and get writing done. I’m the type of person who needs to utilize calendars, to do lists, reminders, etc in order to get my work done, at least in the beginning.

And of course, all of this needed to be crossed referenced for my desktop, friends’ computers (when I’m over), any laptop that I should purchase or borrow, and of course my phone. So, as I said, I went looking. Here’s my list of some pretty good productivity tools, gadgets, and widgets that I’m currently finding helpful.

  1. Wunderlist – I had heard this was a good to do list, so I decided to check it out. Available for free (cause, as a freelancer, free is awesome!) for desktops, Macs, smartphones, and even has an online interface, so far so good on this. You can set up a bunch of to do lists with tasks that you add can to the lists. You can also promote tasks, add due dates, and notes. Currently, I’m using the desktop version, the Android version, and the online version. Other than not cleaning my apartment last weekend, I’ve pretty much done a ton of stuff last week.
  2. DropBox – Another app that I had heard was good, I didn’t actually start using this until I released that I could finally bring over those pictures for a friend of mine. This of course made me go – “hey, with this, I don’t need to bring my thumb drive everywhere!” And that’s the basic premise of this – like Wunderlist, there’s a phone app, online app, and desktop app that sync all together so that you can access your files, docs, and pics anywhere. For any freelancer that doesn’t like being stuck at home all day (like me), this is great for keeping your stuff together.
  3. Rescue Time – Rescue Time is professional time tracker, basically outlining what distractions you’ve been involved with on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. In my defense, the first two days I used this, I was trying to update my computer after a month of not using the Internet to update stuff. There are several different pricing, but I’m using the free version. There’s also a Chrome extension, but I haven’t read good stuff about it, and there’s an Android app as well that I’ve been toying with getting.
  4. StayFocusd/LeechBlock – Seeing as my greatest enemy is that of webpages, the best advice I can give is to find add ons and extensions that will block websites. Seeing as I use both Firefox and Chrome (though Chrome is kinda winning now), the first thing I did was find extensions or add ons that will block my distracting websites. Stay Focusd is a Chrome extension that will block sites for you at certain times of the day. LeechBlock is the Firefox equivilent. Now, I’ve used Stay Focusd and the similar Chrome Nanny and I have to say SF works better. The downside however is that, while customizable, it’s not that customizable. For instance, for this month at least, I’ve designated Fridays as all nighters, so I’d like to be able to have certain sites blocked for that time, without blocking out the other days. EDIT – I’m now using Concentrate, which is a bit better, but does the same thing. The problem I have is remembering to turn it on.
  5. SplitScreen – offered for Chrome, this basically allows for you to have two websites in one screen. I’ve used it twice this week and it is as awesome as you would think. The downside however is there’s no separate back button for both windows; so basically if you need to go back a page, the entire window goes back. Kinda not cool, you know.
I’m still on the hunt for more productive tools, so this might just be part 1 of several. Ironically, the 45 minutes of distracting tasks that Rescue Time records is me trying to find productive apps to be more productive.
As long as we’re talking about being productive, next week I’ll take about some add ons and extensions (Chrome and Firefox of course) can make things easier for you.
EDIT – I managed to cut down my distracting habits to 30 minutes! I know, not anything huge, but it means that I’ve spent fifteen minutes doing something productive, which brings the near hour down to half. One day, I’ll get it down to maybe fifteen or ten minutes of distraction.