Productivity for Self-Employed Individuals

Productivity for Self-Employed Individuals

It’s a very tough challenge to remain productive when you’re self-employed because you have a number of disadvantages that work against you compared to people with more typical jobs. First and foremost, you do not have the pressure of a schedule or instructions from your boss or supervisor to help push you to get things done. Instead, you have to rely completely on yourself and your own ability to self-motivate.

If you don’t know how to do this, then it can be disaster for your productive efficiency. I’ve done a whole lot of work with self-employed people who wanted to make more money by getting more work done, and I’m going to break down my framework for helping those individuals here.

Work Productivity Tips for the Self-Employed

We’re going to start out by going over a number of the most common ideas that you could find with a quick search, and we’re going to look at why they don’t necessarily work out for people. By looking at what doesn’t work, we’ll get a better idea of what does:

  1. Set a schedule for your work day just like you would if you had a more typical job.
  2. Take frequent breaks to give your mind a chance to rest.
  3. Have a dedicated space for your work to function as your personal office.
  4. Connect with other entrepreneurs to form a network of motivation and support.

All four of these points are good advice in the sense that they are all great things to do that will help to increase productivity at work for those who work from home. However, they all have a weakness in that they assume that the individual has control over these things and can self-motivate. If you could consistently make yourself do the things that you want yourself to do, then you probably wouldn’t be looking for this type of advice.

That’s where most people who try to give advice on these types of things miss the mark, and it’s where you can tell they haven’t ever worked with actual people with actual issues. However, it does give us a launching pad to dive into how to really get things done as an entrepreneur.

A man working at a table with a laptop and notebook

Self-Employed Time Management Skills and Organization

There is only one skill for managing your time that you need to have. If you decide you need to do a certain task at a certain time, you need to have the confidence that you’ll actually do it. That’s much easier said than done, and for those who are self-employed, it’s the one skill that a lot of people don’t have. That can lead to them just barely getting by instead of absolutely crushing their industry. Moreover, since they know they have a ton of potential that isn’t being tapped, it can also bring along a lot of guilt, anxiety, self-loathing and depression.

You only need to focus on one skill: doing the things that you know you should do.

When people ask how to increase productivity in the workplace from a managerial standpoint, the answer is almost always to give clear instructions, to make sure the employees are capable of following the instructions (ie: they have been trained and/or certified) and to provide clear and known consequences for either meeting those expectations or not.

Self-employed individuals have to be their own manager, so the same advice applies, but it just has to be handled in a way that takes into account the fact that you’re managing yourself. We’re going to walk through the steps of appropriate self-management, which is the core of the ability to self-motivate when you work for yourself.

Increase Productive Efficiency With Environmental Management

To get more done in less time, you need to have fewer distractions. You can either count on fighting off distractions once they’re trying to get your attention, or you can create an environment where you encounter fewer distractions overall. The former will leave you stressed, aggravated and drained of energy after a fairly short period of time. The latter will leave you with an abundance of energy after you have gotten a lot more work done than you normally would have.

The first step towards productive self-management is managing your environment, and that starts with systematically eliminating the sources of the most common distractions you run into. Only you will know what those are because they are specific to your own situation. With that having been said, here are a few of the most common problems with distractions and what you can do to limit their impact on your work.

  • Keep Getting Distracted by Your Phone – Leave your phone on silent in another room, preferably in a dedicated space just for this.
  • Keep Getting Distracted by Websites – Use a program like Cold Turkey or a web browser extension designed to keep you out of certain websites for a period of time.
  • Keep Getting Distracted by Noises or Talking – Listen to a long track of rain or the ocean from YouTube with headphones in (note that listening to music with words can be a further distraction, which is why I don’t recommend it).

There are other distractions you can run into, but you get the idea with how to systematically remove them from the equation with these three examples. Of all of the work productivity tips we could give the self-employed, this is the easiest to implement for the largest immediate result.

How to Increase Productivity in the Workplace Without a Workplace

Many self-employed individuals do not have a dedicated work space, and they don’t have the option to create one. Instead, their workplace has to be a more abstract construct through the combination of a mental attitude and an organizational system. Most people have the organizational system worked out for something that works for them (and if you don’t, then I suggest the Getting Things Done system). That means we’re here to work on the mental management aspect of the situation.

What you need to make happen is that you have a mental switch that puts you into “work mode” or whatever you want to call it. People who go into a regular job have this switch built into their routine without ever thinking about it through the process of getting dressed, going to work, going into the building, getting their materials together, etc. You need to create the same mental switch yourself, and it’s an absolutely critical part of self-management that is a key reason so many people fail at self-employment.

This mental switch will not go off in just a moment of time. Instead, it has to be done as a part of a routine that prepares you for your work.

Developing a Switch to Increase Productivity at Work for the Self-Employed

Your switch is going to consist of a bundle of inputs to your unconscious mind that will put you in a mode of working and getting things done. Essentially, what you want to have happen is that your unconscious mind decides, “Okay, we’re in work mode now,” as a result of the inputs you have given it. So what kind of inputs can you give it?

Think of the inputs that someone gives their unconscious to get into “work mode” whenever he or she is getting prepared to go to work. That person gets dressed a certain way, gets their things together a certain way and has a certain time in mind that work is going to start. These are all inputs into the unconscious mind that work together to make this mental switch happen. When you put these together, you get the type of self-management that allows you to self-motivate and get a lot more work done with a lot less effort.