Productivity and focus as a Marketing Freelancer.

Ah the mythical words “productivity” and “focus” as a Freelancer – often spoken of, most sought after and forever feeling unattainable! 

This blog is inspired by Beth Gladstone’s post on Instagram talking about the five things that have made the biggest difference to her business turnover. If you don’t know of Beth or follow her / subscribe to her newsletters, I highly recommend it as Beth is a marketing and content powerhouse and so giving with her knowledge and experience!  In her post, Beth talks about things like project rate vs day rate, understanding the business’ goal, reducing procrastination time, retainer and contract work and setting boundaries. 

I had commented on Beth’s post giving it a “hard agree” and Beth had replied saying that I always seem productive and focused. I laughed at first, thinking “Instagram vs reality” you know … but then remembered that Beth and I only know and chat to each other on Instagram and I am intentional and focused with my time on social media for business. 

The hamster wheel of productivity. 

As a self-employed Marketer and a single parent, productivity and focus are at the forefront for most of my days and in the early years of my business I was on a bit of a hamster wheel with trying to achieve said productivity and focus to maximise my time – in any direction really. 

It wasn’t ideal … limited sleep, zero social life or exercise time, working 7 days a week, mum-ing on autopilot type vibes and after a few years I realised this wasn’t very sustainable for me, my family or my business.

I started to look around my life / home / business and pull things out that needed to be worked on and changed up. Some of the biggest things I can say on this subject is a) get to know yourself and b) understand what you (and your family) need from the most basic level. Oversimplified in a statement of course, but that is how my head works when it comes to planning and decision-making. 

Disclaimer: this is what works for me and my circumstances. Every one of us is different and unique, which is the cool thing about being human. No one else is us. When I first started reading stuff like this I’d get all “well they don’t have this [insert big thing or circumstance here] to deal with”; and they don’t and that’s ok. The idea is to take a little from a lot and build your own, there isn’t a template for this stuff or a download someone can share for us to fill in. 

Building a sustainable business. 

Get clear on your strategy. 

Nothing beats clarity, strategy and a vision for building a sustainable business. So when I worked with Sophie Livingston on my website copy back in early 2020 it really helped me understand my work strengths and weaknesses, the “why me” piece for the industry I work in, what sort of business I wanted to build, who I wanted to work with and how I wanted to do that (think things like marketing my business and how I use social media for my business). 

Now there are plenty of downloads, templates and other businesses who can help you with questions like that and it would be worth your time. Strategy saves many hard decisions or sticky moments in a business. 

Know your numbers. 

Spend the time understanding what you need to earn, where the income comes from and where it goes (factor in insurance, tax, etc). Do this with help (holler to my steady GoldStag Accounts) or do it yourself, but just do it as it goes a long way to give you peace of mind which in turn helps your “work time” be way more productive and focused. 

The pattern emerging here is all about trying to remove (limit) little stress factors and barriers to your time and attention. 

Get a rock solid to-do list system. 

Some of the daily struggles that crop up are lack of time, lack of knowing what to do first, feeling overwhelmed, tired (cue not exercising and poor food choices), lack of space for creativity and playfulness and information overload. All pretty standard I’m sure and it also became pretty obvious to me that my writing out a to-do list everyday and rewriting the tasks I didn’t get to again the next day wasn’t going to cut it. 

Enter Trello (other digital project software available, this is just my favourite)! I run a monthly client overview Trello board that holds the monthly tasks or any deadline-driven business objectives for each client, then a weekly to-do list and a daily priority list. This may sound pretty robust and a lot, but really the whole system is designed to give me breathing space. 

The month overview means I can get a quick look at that month at any given time and be comfortable everything is in line, the weekly to-do list means I can see gaps where I can exercise or have a breakfast / lunch with a friend or get an afternoon nap in and the priority list means stuff that absolutely has to happen on any given day happens and if plans change for any client or life reasons (like I need a nap) the priority stuff is sorted at the every least. 

Hopefully you can start to see how just being a little more organised at the start of a month or week means I create space for randomness and playful things, which is important to me and leads me on to the fact that none of that would be possible without knowing a bit about myself and what works for me. 

Self-awareness is key to a sustainable business. 

You got to know what makes you tick and what you need to be able to tick! This (of course) looks different for every one of us and I can only share what I found to work for me. Before I do that though it’s time for another disclaimer: I think our best can look different each day and that is ok. It doesn’t feel very realistic to be able to run at the same pace for each race right? So the same can be said of us. 

The 9 to 5 working model isn’t for everyone.

First up for me was to get comfortable with the fact that I don’t work a 9 to 5 job – that means sometimes I work in the evenings and sometimes I work weekends, so trying to push myself to do a 9 to 5 and then keep at it for social media requirements in the evenings or weekends was a little silly. The better option is to work to a schedule that meets my business and family needs. 

So simple and yet so effective.  

What’s your personality type?

Back in 2020 I spent some time with a business coach and I remember a session where I was like “I just need a plan for my days” and Maxine going “that’s cool so how would you feel if I just gave you one now” … my immediate reaction was oh hell no! That solved that then. Turns out I didn’t need a plan, I just needed to get comfortable with myself. I’ve done the Gretchin Four Tendencies Quiz a few times over the years and each time I come up as “The Rebel” (LOL), I spent some time reading up on that too and found it so useful! Cue the to-do list paragraph further up this blog – I create lists in order to create space for myself to just be able to go with the flow. 

The Introverted Marketer. 

I describe myself as the most introverted marketer out there and for me, this means that I know I get amazing energy from people, meetings or a group situation but also need to make sure I have quiet days and plenty of alone-ness after something like that to recharge. Understanding that taking meetings every day didn’t work for me took about 4 years of being a Freelancer and nowadays I try to keep Mondays and Fridays meetings free so I have plenty of space at the start and end of the week to recharge or organise the ideas, actions and thoughts. 

I also try to avoid the “hamster wheel effect” of doing all the stuff all the time, without stopping to think, plan, shuffle ideas around or actually do the work. 

My cycle, exercise and a step count. 

This one is a work-in-progress and will likely stay that way for the rest of my days. Even though I know that exercise and daily movement is key for me, it doesn’t make it any easier to do it all the time… ditto with nutrition, my cycle (hello hormones) and that whole getting enough sleep thing. 

Back to over-simplifying things so that they make sense to me, but essentially: I track my cycle so that when slumps of anything kick in I can check in and understand the effects my hormones are having on me and cut myself some slack / give myself what I need to function as necessary. I.e a nap. 

I exercise regularly and that is a combination of running, walking and strength training in whatever combo works for me on any given day. The thing that works for me is to move and get fresh air, so I focus less on how fast I go or what weights I lift and more on just doing it (shoutout to Rebel PT and Vanessa Stead who, over the years, have helped me build good habits in this department – not an ad or a gifted but literally people who I have paid to train with and been on their programme before). 

Showing up daily as a Freelancer.

I saw a sketch on Instagram recently around the idea of “showing up daily” (in life, work, relationships, social media, whatever that means for you) and the top line was all 100% full circles – the “what we think it looks like” part – and the bottom line was a mixed bunch of 25% circles or 50% circles and some 100% dotted in periodically – this is the “what it really looks like to show up daily” piece.

And next to “start your day with a glass of water and a coffee”, this is the daily mantra I feed myself. Doing your best every day looks different every day, but it is still your best*.

*other mantras available upon request

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