As a freelancer, I sometimes find it hard to be creative when I have several projects going at once and multiple deadlines to attend to. Even the best planning and forecasting can sometimes fall to the side when issues come up or more urgent requests come up. When this happens, it’s easy to work long hours with little sleep to try to accomplish everything that needs to be done. What’s happening is that we’re tricking ourselves into thinking we’re being more productive when in fact we’re getting outside our regular routine which causes us to be less productive in the days ahead. We need a certain amount of sleep, food and breaks to stay creative and productive. When we don’t receive these things, we start to lose focus and struggle to stay on task. Think of our days activities as a rhythm we repeat day after day. When we get outside of that rhythm, that’s when things start to fall apart. That said, here are a few things I focus on when I’m busy to stay focused and creative.
Take regular breaks
I find that I typically work well in 90 minute sprints. After the 90 minutes, I feel myself starting to lose focus. At this point, I’ll read a book for 10-15 minutes or take a short walk to get the blood flowing. I try to take this break away from my computer screen or phone since I get plenty of that during the day. After that 10-15 minute break I get back to it for another 90 minutes. This creates a rhythm throughout the day to keep yourself energized and creative.
Get plenty sleep
I try to go to bed around the same time every day. For me, I’m in bed about 10:30 at night and get up around 7:00. This is going to be different for everyone depending on how much sleep you require, family schedules, etc. The important thing is to keep regular times so your body knows when to start winding down and when it’s time to rise and shine. Without this regular routine, it’s possible you’ll feel groggy with a later bedtime or restless with an early bedtime. All resulting in less productive time during the day.
I try to exercise everyday. Some days it’s 30-40 minutes, others only 15-20. To me the daily frequency is more important than the length of a particular day to stay with the habit. It’s the days when I’ve had two or three days between workouts that are the hardest to exercise. Exercise gets the blood flowing which is great for creativity and maintaining focus. It’s not unusual for me to have ideas or solutions come up while I’m exercising. For that reason, I’ll keep my phone or a notepad nearby to jot down notes.
Don’t skip meals
Food is fuel for creativity. Trying to sketch ideas for a new logo, or planning a new website are nearly impossible for me on an empty stomach. This is one of the easiest things to overlook when you’re busy working toward a deadline or trying to launch a website. You work, work, work until you’re exhausted and hungry which reduces you’re energy levels to a point where you’re running on fumes. It sometimes takes hours to recover and at that point the day may be close to being over. Eating regular sized meals at regular times of the day keep you fueled throughout the day without running out of gas.
Stay with your routine
Like I mentioned, even though you’re busy it’s important to stay with your regular routine. If you’re a successful freelancer, chances are the work is going to be there regardless of if you’re working until 1am or 2am every day or if you’re taking care of yourself by getting proper sleep, eating correctly and exercising. Burning the midnight oil night after night may feel like you’re getting more done, but you’ll eventually find yourself experiencing burn out caused by lack of sleep which will show in your work. Take care of yourself and you’ll find yourself more creative over the long haul and you’ll do better work as a result.