Here's How to Deal if Your Freelance Focus is F$%^&@!

Posted by   Annette on    August 2, 2013

small__281640001.jpgAs a digital nomad, your time is entirely yours to use, exactly as you need and want to. 

Sounds good, huh?

Maybe you've discovered that you have no idea how to navigate the massive ocean of scheduling freedom upon which you've just embarked.

No worries. Here's a plan.

1. Figure out how your own unique brain likes to work. Once you have, let it do just that.

Your brain, as with the rest of your body, has a unique schedule of natural highs and lows. Your job is to know what they are, and to ignore the stories you tell yourself about them long enough to become consciously aware of them. These rhythms govern your energy level, your level of focus and your motivation to complete tasks. Are you actually a morning person? Is your concentration at its finest after lunch, or is that a "slump time" for you? Does your energy spike in the early evening? Figure it out.

For a week, get very scientific about it. Record snippets of data -- on your smartphone memo pad, if you're on the go -- on an hourly basis. Gather metrics. Take notes.

Your data may fly in the face of what you've always believed was your "best" schedule. If it does, release the need to have been right about it in the first place and go with the new information. For instance: it's common for people, especially freelancers, to convince themselves that they work best late at night; by that time, loads of pressure has built up and they're left with no choice but to be productive. Take a serious look at how you might be more productive during the day, even -- gasp -- the early morning.

Once you've determined your best time of day, you know when to schedule your most brain-busting work. Keep that work strictly to those times, and set aside all other activities when your brain is working at optimal.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique.

At first blush, the Pomodoro technique is simply a means of managing breaks, cutting down on the impact of interruptions and completing specified tasks. The value goes beyond that, however. Habitual Pomodorists discover that the system helps them systematically "observe, track and evaluate their time" -- and use that information to make self-improving adjustments. 

The Pomodoro Technique works quite well for digital nomads and other location independent pros, for the simple reason that we have an enormous amount of control over how we spend our time -- almost too much control, sometimes -- and benefit greatly from a nudge towards (but not too much) imposed structure.

Here's a nice article on Pomodoro from LifeHacker -- and an overview cheat sheet to help you dive in. The official Pomodoro technique book, published in the 80's, helps you get deeper into the practice.

Learn the technique, then use the free Focus Booster Web App to run a timer on your intervals.

3. Let yourself stop working.

At the end of the day, turn it off. Completely. This is the hardest part. Do it anyway.