To Optimize Your Freelance Routine, Understand the Hidden Mechanics


With each passing year, advances in technology continue to empower the gig economy. A growing number of people feel that freelance work has passed the tipping point where it has gone from being a side hustle to a viable full-time job.

Tech enables more work to be done outside of the traditional office setting. The pandemic has proven that and accelerated the widespread adoption of remote work in the process. But succeeding in an unconventional setup still comes down to the individual.

You may be enjoying freedom from the office environment, and the favorable shift in work-life balance that goes with the freelance lifestyle. But when you operate without a rigorously enforced schedule, are you taking your own measures to stay focused, disciplined, and productive? Here’s how you can find your optimal daily routine as a freelancer.

Different tips for everybody

The question of how to work better as a freelancer is as old as the industry itself. And with the increasing popularity of freelance work, it’s being posed and answered countless times on the internet. People share their productivity hacks and tips for improved performance under work-from-home arrangements. Others have sought inspiration from the daily routines of famous and successful people.

These methods may prove helpful, but they always come with a caveat: your mileage may vary. What has worked for others might not work for you, and vice versa.

Understand the mechanics

To improve upon this process of trial and error, you need to understand the principles at work. Even a simple surface like a wall can hide electrical wiring or elements critical to structural integrity. Thus, when undertaking a renovation, experts like Longhill Contracting won’t just take a sledgehammer to the walls; they coordinate with other trades.

Everyone’s ideal productivity routine can be different, and the underlying reasons are biological. You may already be familiar with the terms ‘morning lark’ and ‘night owl,’ which are roughly analogous to our circadian rhythms. In a podcast with Bulletproof, sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus takes this a step further by outlining four sleep chronotypes.

The animals associated with these chronotypes are the bear, lion, wolf, and dolphin. The bear describes most people; their energy levels are fairly steady, with a mid-afternoon dip, and they sleep according to the day-night cycle. Lions peak in the morning and burn out in the evening; wolves peak later in the day and tend to be nocturnal introverts. Finally, dolphins are light, sometimes irregular, sleepers; they also tend to be productive from mid-morning to early afternoon.

woman working

Align your routine

When you do some further research and understand these mechanics through this framework, the common productivity tips become easier to apply. Instead of blindly following advice that worked for someone else, you can customize it to fit your personal chronotype and circadian rhythm.

Many successful people, for instance, like to get their work done early in the day. But that might be a pattern exemplified by lions, who tend to be type-A personalities and natural leaders. If you take that routine, copy and paste it into your workday, you might not get the same results if you aren’t a lion. In fact, your productivity might take a blow if you’re a wolf.

The concept of front-loading your schedule can still work for other chronotypes. You simply need to align your routine with your peak hours. Wolves even have two peaks; one in the early afternoon and another later in the evening. So you could try to get your most challenging tasks done just past noontime and leave whatever remains unfinished for the second peak around midnight.

Resolving schedule conflicts

This awareness of your natural preferences can also help you work out scheduling issues in your favor. We don’t always get to control the events of each day. Social commitments, family duties, and other emergencies can override those times which you’ve blocked off for your work to be at your most productive.

But freelance work allows you to be flexible with everything else. As long as deadlines permit, you can avoid bumping your work to a later time in the day when your productivity is at its low point. Instead, set those challenging tasks for the same time the next day, and continue to address high-volume, low-complexity tasks for the remainder of today.

Take out your journal and start tracking your sleep patterns and daily fluctuations in your concentration and energy levels. Once you’ve figured out your circadian rhythm and sleep chronotype, you can systematically apply all those other productivity tips you’ll encounter to succeed at your freelance job.

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