A freelancer’s guide to declutter the mind and jump start projects!

Sometimes the most seemingly unrelated things can help you destress, de-clutter and refocus your mind & projects!

As a freelancer, self discipline is one of the most important attributes you need to have. Especially when you are starting off, work coming your way is often sporadic and you might find yourself with lots of free time between projects.

If you have ever worked for yourself you know this for a fact,

When you are on your own, you can get away by not doing anything and nothing will ever happen!

So you’ve got to constantly push yourself no matter what and sometimes you realize waiting is inevitable.

Here I’ll discuss some of the tricks I have found to be most effective to push through such periods of lull, short and long!

Shorter Time Intervals..from long weekends to holidays!

For me these are like mini “hurdles” which I face soon after a break. These breaks could even be as small as weekends. Unless there is a client meeting or an active project that I’m working on, Mondays are the worst. You can’t just turn up to work and expect the daily grind to suck you into its vortex.

So for these periods specifically I use home cleaning as a therapy

putting everything in its place..

I keep all the mindless menial home cleaning jobs for a Monday morning! It sounds a bit radical, to be wasting precious Monday morning, which is supposed to lay the foundation for the big week to come.

But here is the thing…

We are talking about mindless jobs that need taking care of, like vacuuming the carpet or rearranging a completely disorganized closet.

While these may not seem like a priority on a Monday morning, doing such easier tasks which doesn’t need much thought is especially good to declutter your mind.

After a few minutes into one of these tasks, you will automatically start to feel your head starting to get clearer. Your mind will start to flip through the different items on your ‘work to-do list’ and an action plan transpires effortlessly.

Come to think of it, cleaning is just a power-mediation session in which I’m getting two things done at once. An hour later, I’m all pumped up to get some real work done!

Sometimes all I need is 20 minutes of email inbox organization to help regain focus

On my busier days while I have no time for this, it certainly does slow me down when I’m urgently looking for something important. So I just sit down and create email filter rules, labels etc. or even unsubscribe to email marketing newsletters which have become obsolete.

After shorter breaks, the KEY IDEA is therefore to find something that can be done almost mindlessly but at the same time needs attention (before it breaks down) to make life easier on your busier days.

Longer time intervals..between projects!

As a freelancer, you are expected to have such periods of low or no activity between big projects. While easily understood in theory, these were the hardest to tackle when I started out.

While its good to strive hard, what you really don’t want is desperation to creep in leading you to take on clients or projects you would rather pass up on!

I now have a formula to deal with this. My approach is threefold and here is what I do to stay upbeat and positive.

  • Touching Base with Friends and Acquaintances

When I’m actively working on a project, I find it difficult to keep in touch with people who aren’t part of my everyday work life. I also find it distracting to heed to the constant bombardment that happens on social media.

So when I’m between projects, instead of beating myself up and pushing myself too hard to find my next project, I use this time to touch base with friends, family and acquaintances.

I agree, not everyone might be free to catch up, but that’s fine. I just use this time to slow down and look around. This could mean even time to travel!

  • Finding Inspiration — in People, Books and Podcasts

I find this activity the most rewarding of all.

I’m naturally attracted to people. So I actively seek out opportunities to network and meet inpirational people. I have found Meetup to be particularly useful for this. While there is no particular agenda turning up at an event, other than casual networking, at times you meet some amazing people from your industry. Last time I was at a Meetup, I connected with Bernard Schokman an expert in the field of UX and also a remarkable person!

I also try and get my hands on books by inspirational authors. I might even have left a few books unfinished, so I try to get through them too. Off late my go to books have been authored by Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell.

I just can’t speak enough of the amount of great content books have!

These days there is so much of free information that is readily accessible, I tend to bookmark them to read or hear (podcasts) later. Now is the time to catch up on those too. From TED talks to other independent websites like Hack the Entrepreneur, there is a huge gold mine of knowledge out there on the internet, waiting to be explored!

  • Avoiding the DEMENTORS in life

If you read Harry Potter, you will get my drift.

This is a biggie. I’m sure you have come across people who generally tend to have a rather grim disposition of things or just life in general.

There are also others who constantly remind you of the “harsh realities of life” or talk excessively about their achievements which still don’t seem to have solved life’s never ending list of problems. These Dementors are experts at sucking happiness out of other people.

On a good day, when my energy levels are fairly high I can possibly humor them or even have a large positivity shield around me; at other times when I’m fighting my own self-doubts, they are the last people I want to be around.

When your breaks are longer, the KEY IDEAS are to catchup on everything important, find inspiration and avoid negativity at all costs!

I have found these techniques invigorating to keep my energy levels up and power through. I hope some of these may help you too.

What else works for you? If you have any thoughts or tips you have found to be particularly useful, I would love to hear them.