For freelancers, productivity can be a huge challenge. This is especially true in the world of digital marketing, where the definition of productivity isn’t always clear. Is it the amount of time you spend working? The number of hours you bill? The number of words you write?
The Need for Greater Productivity
Productivity has become such a buzzword over the past few years. It’s the hip thing to discuss in freelance circles – and rightly so! But have you ever paused to consider exactly why productivity matters to you, as a freelance digital marketer?
From a very practical point of view, productivity is valuable as a mechanism for output. The more productive you are, the more projects you complete. The more projects you complete, the more revenue you generate. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward mathematical calculation. But it goes much deeper than this.
Productivity is just as important from a psychological perspective. The process of productivity is arguably just as valuable as the byproduct. As human beings, we’re hardwired to seek growth. We want to be stronger, sexier, skinnier, smarter, wealthier, etc. So to get from where we are to where we want to be, we set goals. But it’s not the goal itself that keeps us moving from here to there – it’s the process of change and improvement.
Contrary to popular belief, most people actually feel better when they’re in pursuit of their goals than when they actually accomplish the goal. Don’t believe it? Take a moment and think about the last health or fitness goal you had. Whether you realized it at the time or not, you almost certainly felt better about yourself when you were moving toward the goal – i.e. eating healthy or running three miles a day – than you did when you reached your goal and stopped. That’s because you’re hardwired for progress. It feels good to do and to take control. The journey matters more than the derivative of the goal. Just like any other worthwhile endeavor, digital marketers need to start somewhere.
Returning our focus to marketing, productivity matters because it keeps you focused, helps you feel invigorated, and amplifies creativity. The combination of these three byproducts will ultimately allow you to generate greater revenue over a larger period of time. Thus, indirectly, productivity is also about financial profitability. The problem is that, if you view it as nothing more than a vehicle for generating revenue, you’ll miss the opportunity to maximize the very thing you’re seeking.
5 Tips for Greater Marketing Productivity
Freelance digital marketers are in a bit of a unique position. With no corporate structure surrounding you, there’s a feeling of independence and autonomy. In one sense, this is a welcome reality. In another sense, it’s intimidating. The key to maximizing productivity in your situation is to use your resources well. Here are some suggestions:
Understand Your Motivation
Do you know what motivates you at your core? A lot of people think it’s money, when it’s really something else. It’s something like comfort, significance, freedom, or autonomy that you ultimately seek. Then there’s the issue of passion. Consider what you’re passionate about. Is it being creative? Helping business owners? Educating people? Making beautiful things?
The convergence of your intrinsic motivation and your passion is a proprietary concoction you can use to improve your productivity and output.
“When you’re internally driven toward new opportunities that match your skill set, you’ll continue to challenge yourself and expand your horizons. It basically becomes your mission to refine your expertise and continue your education while searching for new, more efficient and faster ways to achieve your goals,” Jenna Gross writes for Forbes. “Continuing to grow as a person is intertwined with a never-ending quest for knowledge and improved results.”
Choose the Right Working Environment
At a very practical level, think about where you’re working. Your work environment impacts you through osmosis. If you’re in a boring, sterile cubicle, you’ll find your work to be tedious and lifeless. If you’re in an exciting office where people are motivated and creative, your internal levels of motivation and creativity will naturally rise.
The problem with being a freelancer is that you’re often forced to work from home. And while this can be enjoyable, too much isolation is a drag on productivity and creativity. The best suggestion is to supplement your working from home with a membership at a local coworking space. A coworking space provides a structured environment in which you’re able to rub shoulders with other ambitious and innovative thinkers, while still retaining your autonomy and focus.
Eat the Frog First
Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Okay, what now?
No, Mark Twain wasn’t going crazy. He was simply using an unappealing object to drive home a larger point. What he meant was this: If you have a difficult or unappealing task on your daily to-do list, it’s best to knock it out first. Not only will this give you optimal energy and focus, but it’ll also make you more optimistic about the rest of the day. With the hard/unwanted task no longer on your plate, you’re free to tackle the more enjoyable responsibilities.
What’s your frog? Spend the next week eating it first and see how it impacts your productivity the rest of the day.
Kill Distractions at the Source
Distraction is the archenemy of productivity. When distractions are present in your daily routine, you have to cut them out at the source.
For many marketers, email is the number one distraction. If this is true in your case, the best thing to do is log out of your email and set aside specific 15- or 20-minute chunks of time throughout the day where you check and send messages. When this time is up, you log out and get back to work.
Be Proactive in Your Personal Life
If you’re having relationship problems with your significant other, this is all you’ll think about during work. If you’re struggling with credit card debt, you won’t stop thinking about the debt collectors who call five times per day. If your health is falling apart and you’re in chronic pain, it’s hard to ignore the discomfort.
The fifth and final suggestion is to be more proactive about how you handle issues in your personal life, lest they seep into your work life and limit your focus and productivity. Proactively deal with your issues so your mind is free to focus on the task at hand.
Fostering Continuous Growth
You don’t have to become a thought leader on the issue of productivity overnight. That’s not realistic or necessary. Instead, ask yourself this question: What tangible steps can I take to become more productive today than I was yesterday? If you ask yourself this question each morning, your mindset will shift. This shift will challenge your way of thinking and force you to adopt a posture of constant improvement. Over time, this habitual emphasis on being productive will have a far greater impact on your career than a focus on meeting specific productivity goals and milestones. Remember: The journey matters more than the byproduct of the goal.
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