The Productivity Mindset

Every one of us probably falls into the productivity self-sabotage category at some point. For me, there have been multiple causes along the timeline of my adult life, and in every season of self-sabotage, comes an opportunity for solutions and personal growth.

My work as a freelance writer and visual arts dabbler demands a more creative and dedicated approach to time-management and chunking work-blocks effectively. In season of toddler parenting and pregnancy, it often falls to the wayside due to family life; but not having a 9-5 job that allows–demands, even–the dedication to work, means I find weeks passing without much satisfying workflow.

The cycle is never-ending, and it usually ends with me demanding a change because one more day of dishes, laundry, and screaming offspring without a single “grown up work achievement” is going to drive me into the madhouse.

Everyone wants to keep mom out of the madhouse.

So I return to the pages with a freshly minted mindset of productivity and dedication–and it works. It works well! But in another six weeks, I can tell you where I will probably be…

Yes. The madhouse.

All that said, this list isn’t just for you, Dear Reader. It’s more for me, and I’m optimistically hoping that maybe it will help another work-from-home-parent out.


5 Tips For the Work-at-Home-Freelancer

  1. Treat your job like a…well…job. I’m really guilty of saying, “well, I can make any appointment at any time because my schedule is flexible.” And while this is true–truer for those with a brick-n-mortar workplace with timesheets and managers–it doesn’t mean that I can fill up four out of five work-days with back to back appointments and keep up with my freelance workload.
  2. Block out FOUR HOUR work periods during your self-imposed work-week. I say FOUR with such emphasis because, like me, freelance probably appeals because it isn’t strictly and eight hour work day all the time without variation. I do recommend committing to four hour chunks, though, because now you have allotted time to work productively without interruption. You will be less likely to schedule appointments or cut your day short because of other peoples’ needs if you create four hour work-blocks. Anything less, it is easier to lose productivity; anything more, you may feel it hinders the flexible appeal of freelance.
  3. Set THREE small goals. Then kill them. Kill them dead! I like the number three because it is doable; even if one of the goals is bigger–like “finish writing client’s 10 page content packet,” I know I can accomplish it within my four hour work-block (with the help of the right soundtrack, that is). And usually, accomplishing three goals snowballs to five or six–depending upon the task size. It is a good number to aim for when I need help boosting a positive trajectory.
  4. Keep a journal and list notebook. As with everything on this list, modify whatever items you need in order to make it work. Discard the advice that doesn’t resonate with you. Many creative freelance types, however, may like the idea of keeping a tangible notebook with lined or unlined paper to capture their thoughts, notes, lists, and letters. I personally have a lot circulating; stationary and unique notebooks is a sort of collector’s-hobby for me at this point in my life, and I don’t like wasting so I have many notebooks dedicated to lists, doodles, work-related notes, home-related notes, personal journaling, and personal art journaling. ET CETERA. This is probably not the best pointer for productivity, but I think my bigger point is: find something to keep near your work-desk that makes you happy and reminds you to be you. You will be happier, and this will lend itself to greater productivity.
  5. Teach others to treat your job like a job. This ties back to point number one, and it demands that you honor point number one and take it seriously. In every aspect of our lives, we essentially teach others how we want to be treated. When you work from home, are self-employed, and call yourself a freelancer, the need to define your work time and your scope of work as a real thing demanding time and space to accomplish is paramount. People will think of you as a stay-at-home-parent, a part-time dabbler, and a hobbyist if you do not teach them that your work is valuable and the time and space needed to do it is mandatory.

Number Five is my current struggle. Today I received a text asking for my time for an important but rather personal matter. As we scrambled to pass out cereal bowls, dress kids, organize the day, and generally eject from the house, I told my husband, “I get it, but I absolutely have to get some work done or I am going to lose my mind and lose the weekend because stuff is piling up.”

“I get it,” he said. “I’m honestly grateful I have a desk and an office to go to, nobody questions that. If I had to work at home and see stuff piling up, I think I would lose my mind too.”

Never underestimate the power of feeling validated. But, beyond that, I “teach” him that my work is real. He sees the assignments I have, we talk about my clients, and because we run a household together and my job requires that creative flair of scheduling work time, he is usually the only other adult to actually see me demand time to meet a deadline or finish a project. He is easy to teach, and respects my work, but generally speaking I do the most self-advocating to him, and really I should have that attitude with appointment-making, volunteering, committing to social or sport events, and otherwise spreading myself too thin.

Were these tips helpful? What tips do you have to add? I’d love to hear what works for you and what you’re doing to conquer and thrive the work-from-home challenges!


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