Aaah, the freelance life. Isn’t this every cubicle dweller’s dream? You make your own hours, set your own agenda, work wherever you feel like working…
And then you wake up.
Being a freelancer is not all about being “free.” Certainly there is a ton of flexibility and independence, but along with this comes the need to be very organized and self-driven. And in the absence of having a regular office to report to every day, one of the most important things a freelancer needs to do is create an optimum work environment.
Like many of you, I spend considerable periods of time sitting at my keyboard. Although working on a lightweight laptop allows me great mobility, I do have a few requirements for a productive work environment that I’m happy to share with you.
1) Find a space that allows you to focus.
Like many of you, I mostly work at home. I need to have a clean desk or table area, without too many piles of paper or unfinished business. I like to have the dishes clean. Even though I don’t work in my kitchen, I can tell they’re in there. Just knowing that my kitchen is clean (and for that matter, my bathroom), allows me to breathe a little easier and focus on my to-do list.
I live in a small apartment with an adolescent child. When he’s home, it can be very difficult to stay focused on my work. For this reason, the WHEN becomes just as important to me as the WHERE in creating my optimum work environment. When my son is at school, I feel freer to spread out on the dining room table. After school when he needs the table to do his homework, I’m more inclined to move to the desk in the corner office of my bedroom.
Sometimes, when I’ve got time to kill during one of my son’s out of the house activities, I’ll find a nearby coffee shop with Wi-Fi to sit for an hour or two until he’s done. I look for places that are relatively quiet, where no one will bother me as I work on my computer. I find working in a fresh space every once in a while to be kind of invigorating.
2) Figure out a way to cut out social media distractions.
Your desktop environment is as important as the space where you are sitting. Like many of you, I can succumb to the rabbit hole of Facebook in a heartbeat. It’s one thing when I’m working in that platform on behalf of one of my clients. It’s another thing when I’m getting distracted by messages, new posts on my home page or likes and comments on my timeline. Now, I give myself long chunks of time when I don’t even have the Facebook tab (nor Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) open on my browser. I have to unplug from the ever flowing, cosmic conversation, or I’m not getting anything done.
3) Pick an environment that allows you to periodically move around.
Please, give your body a rest. It’s important. You may be young and supple now, but you won’t always be… and without realizing it, you can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic low back pain and headaches, or a stiff neck, to name a few physical ailments. Besides, it’s good for your mind and your eyes to have a break from the screen every once in a while.
When possible, I like to periodically stretch out a little, do a few yoga poses, or just put on a good song and dance around a bit. In addition to keeping me from getting stiff, it helps shake the cobwebs out of my brain. I remember things I meant to do and get fresh ideas for writing and correspondence. I’m pretty sure being able to dance around my house whenever I want to is the best thing about being a freelancer!
What are some ways you create your optimum working environment? If you have some other advice for your fellow freelancers, do share!!