Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Tips for Managing Your To-Do List

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

todoTo-do lists can be a writer’s best friend. Making lists not only helps you figure out everything you really need to get done, but also provides a sense of satisfaction as you check off finished items.

On the other hand, the humble to-do list can also become a driving force that dictates everything you work on—if they’re not managed well, you can end up constantly working in reactive mode instead of gaining steady ground on your mountain of work.

How to-do lists evolve into taskmasters

It’s natural to group tasks on a to-do list according to urgency. In fact, one of the most popular ways to categorize to-do lists uses the “four quadrants” defined by Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These quadrants create groups of tasks that are:

  1. Important AND urgent
  2. Important but NOT urgent
  3. Unimportant BUT urgent
  4. Neither urgent nor important

Most people assume that tasks under the first group, important AND urgent, should be tackled first. But Covey has stated that the second group—important but NOT urgent—should actually be a higher priority.

Why? When you’re focused on doing nothing but important, urgent tasks, you’re constantly in putting-out-fires mode. You only handle things when they absolutely have to be done, and as a result you fall behind on larger projects that have long lead times.

For a freelance writer, working on the most important and urgent tasks often means putting off that huge 10,000-word assignment that’s due in three weeks, because you have plenty of time and more urgent things to do—only to suddenly find yourself with just three days to write 10,000 words.

How to change your lists and master your tasks

If your to-do lists have gone from inspiring to daunting, a shift in your priorities can help you work more efficiently, stop procrastinating, and get out of rush mode more often. Here are some tips to help you tame a runaway to-do list:

  • Break it down: This is an elementary to-do list step, but many writers still skip it. If you have a big project, don’t write it down as “finish a 10,000-word ebook”. Instead, list smaller tasks such as “research ebook, write ebook outline, write 2 ebook chapters,” and so on, spacing the tasks out until the deadline.
  • Use a “WANT to do” list: Add a category of tasks you want to get done today to your lists. You’ll feel more motivated to get to them, and more confident when you check these items off.
  • Keep the “MUST” list short: If your to-do list has ten items under the “do this today OR ELSE” category, you’ll end up feeling demoralized and overwhelmed. Consider your musts carefully, and decide which 2 or 3 things really have to be done today—and which ones can be moved.
  • Make a “quick tasks” category: Add a list of things you can complete in 5 minutes or less, and tackle those tasks when you have a break—such as between phone calls, or in the middle of a larger assignment. Your lists will start showing more accomplishments, and you’ll feel like you’re making progress.
  • Consider outsourcing your optional tasks: If you have a list of things that would be nice to get done, but they aren’t important or urgent, think about outsourcing. There are inexpensive sources for overflow tasks, such as eLance and Fiverr—and if you have teenagers at home, they’d probably be interested in earning some extra cash.
  • Emulate the experts. Check out these 6 things successful freelance writers do every day.

With a few simple changes, your to-do list can be more manageable than ever. How do you tame your to-do list?

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

multi-task-mom-stress-400x400Ever wonder what it’s like to be a freelance writer? Naturally, most of it involves lounging by the pool with a cool, refreshing drink in one hand and a laptop by the other, idly typing away on assignments you’re really excited about while the money just pours into your bank account—or maybe not.

Here’s a look at a real day in the life of one freelance writer who doesn’t currently own a pool and hasn’t started drinking by breakfast (yet). Working from anywhere has its perks, but it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds…

5:30 a.m. Before I’m truly awake, I lace up and head out for a quick five-mile run. My body must move first before my mind will follow suit.

6:00 a.m. Mornings start the same way as any other family—get everybody up, fed, dressed, and ready for their respective days. Kids to school, adults to work. The big difference for me: “going to work” does not involve any driving. I can just walk across the hall into my office. Hooray!

8:00 a.m. Consider a shower, but that’s preempted by some early work. First order of business is to check my — oh, wait, the school’s calling. Someone’s forgotten a lunch, and someone else may or may not have lice. Good thing the school’s only five minutes away. BRB

8:36 a.m. The workday begins (seriously this time). First order of business is to check my email. I’ve set a rule in the interests of productivity: email is checked only three times a day. Morning, lunch, end of day. I respond to everything and feel very productive. No more email until noon—on to checking today’s calendar and getting things done.

9:00 a.m. Finish up an article I started yesterday that’s due today, and send it off to the client. Now everything I have is new work, so I pick the most complex one and start researching. It’s easier to write about a topic if I’ve read up and let it simmer in my brain awhile before I get started. Get a little sidetracked and lose 15 minutes following random links, but I’m back on track soon.

10:00 a.m. Thinking about that shower again… it’s okay, it’s not like there’s anyone around to smell me. Still plenty of time to shower before school’s out.

10:27 a.m. Broke my email checking rule (it was an accident) and found an emergency request from a long-term client, sent three minutes after I signed out earlier. They really need this press release to jump on an opportunity due to breaking news, and could I possibly have something for them by 2 p.m.? Fire off a reply—of course I can, I’m super freelance writer!—and start on the press release.

12:00 noon: Supposed to break for lunch right now but I’m almost done with this press release. I’ll grab a sandwich and eat at my desk. Take a break later.

1:47 p.m. Press release done, three assignments researched, one article outlined, one intro written. I could really use a nap right now. But the bus is going to be here soon, and that shower is still calling me… maybe I’ll just grab a Diet Coke and see if there are any Kit-Kats left in the kids’ Halloween baskets…

2:45 p.m. Heard all about the kids’ days at school, reviewed homework, got everyone a snack, and now they’re watching a movie while I get back to work. Must finish at least one of these assignments today. Background noise and the afternoon blahs break up the concentration a little, but I’m still making progress.

4:08 p.m. Wrapped up a blog post and made headway on a case study. Had to stop when one of the cats chased a squirrel up a tree and got stuck 10,000 feet in the air, promptly sending the kids into panic mode. After an hour of balancing precariously on a 12-foot ladder and plying Skippy with treats, he rolled his eyes and calmly climbed back down all on his own. Back to work.

5:00 p.m. The workday is over! Now to close the office door and spend quality time with the family, and relax for the rest of the night… just kidding! It sounded good, anyway.

6:00 p.m. Making lunches for tomorrow, battling homework wars, signing tests and permission slips, letting the husband vent about his hectic day in the corporate grind, cleaning the kitchen, navigating the rough terrain of prepubescent girl drama…

6:30 p.m. Dinner? A simple phone call puts an end to that dilemma.

9:00 p.m. Now that the kids are fed, (somewhat) clean, and in bed, it’s time to wrap up that case study I almost finished earlier, write the intro for the assignment that’s due first thing tomorrow, set up the next day’s calendar, update the website, check messages, reply to a few clients, and get that query out I meant to send three days ago. Oh, and maybe I’ll manage to scrape up half an hour to work on that novel that’s been mocking me from the taskbar for weeks…

10:45 p.m. Just remembered that shower… oh well, too late now. There’s always tomorrow.

11:48 p.m. Finally going to bed. Tomorrow I’m going to have everything done by 5, I swear. Okay, I’m at least going to finish everything by 5 on Friday and take the weekend off. All right, maybe just Sunday…

5 Simple Things Stopping You From Succeeding as a Freelance Writer (Before You Even Start)

Friday, October 10th, 2014

rejection copyIf you’re just getting started or thinking about becoming a freelance writer, the first step is identifying the ingredients for success. The obvious requirements are strong writing skills, a computer, and preferably a dedicated website for your freelance business. Throw in a LinkedIn profile for networking, some home office essentials, and maybe a few profiles on freelance job boards or message sites, and you have a solid foundation. But what else do you need?

The answer is…surprisingly little. Here are five things many aspiring freelance writers think they need in order to find success—that can actually hold them back from building a thriving freelance career.

Lots of free time

Many people hold off on entering the freelance writing industry under the assumption that they need to dedicate all of their time to succeed. Like any other venture, freelance writing is a business. But the great thing about freelancing is that you don’t have to take the full-time plunge immediately. In fact, it’s better to start out part-time and gradually build a portfolio that you can use to land more freelance gigs.

Most of the common excuses begin with “as soon as…” and end with “then I’ll start freelancing.” People fill in the blank with phrases like:

  • Quit my job
  • Cut my work hours
  • Save money to buy professional services (web designer, job board memberships, logo commission)
  • The kids start going to school

Starting right now, ignore these excuses. You can start freelancing any time, no matter how many or how few free hours you have—whether it’s getting busy writing articles you can sell, or sending pitches to publications or companies hiring freelance writers.

Full support from your family / friends

Some people stop short of launching a freelance writing career because of the disapproval (or imagined disapproval) of the people closest to them. You may believe your spouse will be upset when you’re spending time working instead of with him or her, or that your parents will nag you to get a “real job,” or that your best friend will think “freelance” means “you aren’t doing anything, so you should babysit my kids / run an errand / go to lunch or a movie with me.”

But you’re the only one who has to give yourself permission to be a freelance writer. It’s great to have support, but if there are some people who don’t understand what you’re doing, you don’t owe them anything. And their perceptions will likely change when all that hard work starts paying off.

Total mastery of all things freelance

As a fledgling freelance writer, you probably don’t know the secrets to writing the perfect pitch or query letter, or how to build a stunning freelance website, or the best prices to charge clients, or where to find the most lucrative gigs. And that’s okay.

Many aspiring freelance writers fritter away months or years researching the industry—when the best way to learn is to jump in and start doing it. Of course you’ll make mistakes along the way, but you’ll learn from them. Your skills will gradually increase, your professional network will grow, and you’ll reach your definition of success much faster than you would have by reading a stack of industry books.

Fear or hatred of rejection

This one should be a given—after all, no one likes being rejected. But when it comes to your freelance writing career, rejection is your friend. You will be successful only when you’re ready to embrace it.

Freelance writers who are getting rejections are sending their work out. If you’re not getting rejections, that means you’re not trying to sell your work—and you can’t make money in freelance writing by keeping your work to yourself.

Rejections can indicate whether or not you’re on the right path. Form rejections can tell you that your approach (or your writing) needs work. Warm rejections that invite you to submit future work say you’re getting close. And rejections with feedback mean you’re almost there, and may even be able to sell to the editor who rejected you, if you make the requested changes.

The need for perfection

When you’re writing a freelance assignment or something you’re going to query, you naturally want to craft the best possible piece of writing. But if you aim for perfection, you’ll never get to the query stage (or you’ll miss your deadline), making it impossible to earn money for that piece.

There is no such thing as perfect, especially in freelance writing. There is good enough, and sometimes there is great—but nothing will be perfect. And you don’t want perfection, anyway: you want solid, well-researched, and engaging content.

What’s holding you back from succeeding as a freelance writer?

5 Things Successful Bloggers Do (That You Should Too)

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

blogIf you’re actively running a blog, whether it’s to promote your business or support your personal passion, chances are you want it to be successful. You want a high search engine ranking, a loyal readership, and some return on your investment—whether that’s increased visibility and profits for your business, or a revenue stream that buys you more than a cup of coffee every month.

While there is no “secret” to being a successful blogger, there are common habits shared by every blogger who’s living the dream. If you emulate these habits, you’re likely to find yourself with a growing blog that’s on track to reach your definition of success.

1. Successful bloggers love what they do

The idea that being passionate about your particular subject fuels success is such a cliché that many people have stopped considering it. Passion is supposed to be a given—of course you’re passionate about your business (or you wouldn’t have started it) or animal shelters, or vinyl records, or nanotechnology (or you wouldn’t be blogging about it). But do your readers know how passionate you are?

For successful bloggers, that passion shines through in every post, on every social media account, and with every guest blog or article. Your core readers will share your passions and love coming back, again and again, to find out what else you have to say.

2. Successful bloggers blog a lot

Once again, this “secret” should be obvious—but many bloggers don’t realize just how important it is to be prolific. The first benefit to writing a lot of blog posts is that the act of writing makes you better at it. The more you write, the more your craft will improve, and the higher quality of your writing draws in more readers.

Another advantage of prolific bloggers is on the search engine front. The more content you have, the more frequently your blog is indexed by search engines—and a continual supply of fresh content also gives more algorithm weight to your posts. Every time you post something new, search engines consider it more important. It’s a cumulative effect.

Finally, regular blogging—whether your schedule is daily, Monday through Friday, or just one or two posts per week—tells your readers that they can expect new content at certain times. This makes them more likely to come back and find out what’s new with you.

3. Successful bloggers are concise

With this habit, keep in mind that “concise” doesn’t necessarily mean “short.” You don’t have to restrict your blog post length to tweet-sized comments in order to be successful—in fact, long-form content can boost your search engine rankings and conversions (or subscription rates).

So, what is concise? It means making every word count, leading with a killer intro, and arranging content in an easily digestible format.

Successful bloggers mix long-form and short-form content, and break up longer content with short paragraphs, intriguing subheads, and bullets or numbered lists. Concise content delivers what readers are looking for without the fluff, in a way that keeps even 1,000-word blog posts engaging and fast-moving.

4. Successful bloggers stick to the plan

Blogs that are scattered, random musings on whatever the author happened to be contemplating that day rarely succeed—unless it’s the blog of a celebrity or notable industry guru, who can get away with saying anything because people will hang on their every word. For the rest of us, the path to success involves choosing a topic and sticking to it.

The best bloggers will relate everything to their core topic, even if it seems to be about something completely unrelated at first. What’s more, successful bloggers have a long-term plan, and they don’t let minor details get in the way of the big picture.

5. Successful bloggers are always learning

The biggest reason there are no secrets to blogging success is that things are always changing. There are always new rules, new formats and platforms, changing audience tastes, new SEO strategies, and myriad factors that grow and evolve along the digital frontier.

Successful bloggers love to learn and try out new things. It keeps things fresh for their audience, and interesting and challenging for them. They’re always on the lookout for the next big thing—and they’re willing to evolve with the times.

So if you’re passionate, willing to work, and ready to plan for now and the future, you can be a successful blogger. What habits have you found most effective for growing your blog?

Want to Be More Successful? Paint Your Home Office

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelance writer, or telecommuter, working from home means spending a lot of time in your home office. You probably make sure that it’s organized and quiet, but aesthetics are often put on the backburner for many home office workers—so it might surprise you to learn that a fresh coat of paint can improve your productivity.

Why wall color matters

The colors that surround you affect your mood, energy levels, and job performance. According to interior designer and therapist Christa O’Leary, “Our bodies react to color on a physiological level. The color red stimulates our appetite and increases our heart rate. The color blue has a calming effect on the nervous system.”

In addition to these human-wide reactions, colors also have a personal effect. You may consciously or subconsciously associate a color with a certain person, location, or event—and that, in turn, affects your work habits.

Choosing the right color for your home office

The color you paint your office walls should be based on the effect you need on your work. As a basic guide:

  • Blue colors and shades affect your mind
  • Yellow colors influence your emotions, ego, and self-confidence
  • Red stimulates your body
  • Green colors and shades affect your essential balance (mind, body, emotions)

The intensity of the color also has a strong influence on your state of mind. Bright, strong colors serve to stimulate the areas they effect, while paler shades with lower saturation produce a soothing effect.

So, for example, if your work involves stimulating your mind (such as accounting), you might choose to paint your office blue. However, it’s a common misconception that blue is best for creativity—yellow works better, as it can make you more optimistic.

Red can be a counterproductive color for a home office, as it stimulates your body to do something physical. And finally, if you paint your home office green, you’re likely to enjoy a calming and reassuring sense of balance—so if your work is stressful, such as customer service, this may be the color for you.

Bonus tips for painting your home office

Paint color is important, and using the right accent colors can be even more beneficial. While red is a poor choice for the main color, red accents can help you stay bold and confident—a good selection for salespeople or negotiators. Placing yellow accents in a primarily blue room can produce an overall calming effect with energizing focal points.

The type of paint can also matter. Glossy paint tends to generate higher energy, while flat paint can create a soothing environment. It’s a good idea to use environmentally friendly, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, especially in a room where you’ll be spending a significant portion of time.

How long has it been since you’ve painted your home office? What colors would you choose?

5 Great Tools Google Offers for Freelance Writing Businesses

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

These days, any small business looking to succeed must have a functional, stable website. But for busy freelance writers and other small business owners, creating and maintaining a website can sometimes fall to the bottom of the to-do list—in fact, nearly half of small businesses don’t have a working website.

This is a huge mistake that will cost you business. Andrea Faville of Google says that up to 97% of U.S. searches performed on the world’s largest search engine are for local goods and services. If you’re not online and findable, with a user-friendly and intuitive website, you’re missing out on the #1 way your customers are looking for you.

Fortunately, Google wants to help small businesses succeed. They offer a number of tools and features that enable you to compete with larger companies and establish a strong, customer-friendly online presence.

Free website builder, web hosting, and more

Google maintains a website called GYBO.com (Get Your Business Online) for small businesses. Here, you can register a domain name, create a great-looking and functional site with easy-to-use website builders, and have your website hosted online—all free, for up to a year.

GYBO.com also offers a series of free, interactive video tutorials that cover everything from the basics of getting a website up and running to creating mobile-friendly websites, and much more.

Affordable, real-time document creation and collaboration

With Google Apps for Business, you can create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations; access your files from anywhere; share and collaborate in real time; and get email addresses for your domain—all for as little as $5 a month.

This service is an affordable and feature-rich alternative to Microsoft Office, which provides the same functionality—and in some cases, better features—for a lot less. And what small business wouldn’t want to save money?

Hang out with your customers online

Making personal connections with customers is crucial to boosting conversion rates. Google makes that easy with Google+ Hangouts for small businesses. You can place free one-on-one or group video calls to talk with key customers, hold team meetings for geographically diverse staff, offer seminars and Q&A sessions, and more.

Improve online marketing strategies with analytics and trends

With so much data flowing across the Internet, analytics are critical to online success. You need to know things like how many visitors your site attracts, where they’re coming from, what they’re looking at, and what makes them leave—or what converts them to customers. You can learn all this and more for free with Google Analytics.

For further improvements to your marketing campaigns, look to Google Trends (also free), where you can search trending terms over time and apply them appropriately to your strategies.

Showcase the quality of your small business

It can be hard for online customers to distinguish reputable businesses from not-so-great ones. Trust and a good reputation are essential for any small business, especially online. Google can help you gain consumer confidence with their Trusted Stores program.

A Trusted Stores badge from Google assures visitors that your website will provide them with a great experience. To qualify, you’ll need to have good customer service, shipping rates, and online reviews for your business. You can apply for a Trusted Stores certification here.

With so many powerful and free tools from Google, it’s almost impossible for your small business website to fail. Which features will you sign up for? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

6 Things that Successful Freelance Writers Do Every Day

Friday, January 17th, 2014

The key to succeeding as a freelance writer is developing good habits. Emulating the strategies used by seasoned freelancers can help you build a thriving career and keep it going strong, day after day.

How do top-performing copywriters make a living doing what they love? Here are some common habits shared by writers who consistently land quality clients, earn good money, and enjoy life as a free agent.

1. They write

This is the most fundamental habit for success. Freelance writers write. They write just about every day—not just because they have to, but because they want to. They enjoy writing, and would continue doing it even if they weren’t getting paid (although payment is, of course, preferred).

2. They ignore the myths

There’s a common, glamorous image of freelance writers as people who lounge around in their pajamas all day, except when they’re taking their laptop poolside or to the beach. But successful copywriters take their profession seriously, just like any other job. You have to get up, get dressed, and report to work every day.

(That’s not to say you can’t knock out assignments in your pajamas sometimes. After all, one of the greatest benefits to freelancing is the flexibility. Just don’t make it a daily habit.)

3. They have a space

It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and concentration to work “anywhere.” Sure, it’s possible to write in a coffee shop, or your bedroom, or even a park bench—but the effort it takes to sustain yourself with so many distractions often isn’t worth it.

Successful freelance writers have a designated workspace. It might be a home office, or a converted closet, or just a corner of the living room or kitchen. But wherever it is, it’s where they work, and their productivity benefits from using this space consistently.

4. They start early

Mornings are typically the most productive time of day. Successful freelancers know this, so they get going early to capitalize on that time and put a dent in their to-do lists. If you have productive mornings, you can give yourself a break in the afternoons and spend less time working every day—while still getting more done.

5. They’re always marketing

For most people, the art of pitching doesn’t come easy. But self-marketing is an essential skill for a freelance writer, and those who succeed in this industry understand its importance. You ARE your business—and if you don’t promote yourself, no one will.

Incorporate marketing into your daily freelance life, even if it’s just making sure you send at least one pitch to a new client every day. This is how you reach the point where clients are coming to you, instead of the other way around.

6. They change what isn’t working

Who says “no” to paying jobs? Successful freelance writers. They know when to let go of assignments that aren’t paying what they’re worth, or clients who are too demanding and diva-like to be worth their time and effort. When you let go of the obligations that cut into your time, you’re free to focus on landing better opportunities.

What’s your most successful habit as a freelance writer?

5 Quick Tips for Beating Procrastination

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

do it - procrastination concept

So you’re facing a huge project that’s going to take days to get through. Or maybe a series of small, unpleasant tasks you’ve been dreading. Or perhaps you simply don’t feel like getting any work done right now.

Whatever the reason, we all battle the procrastination monster at some point—usually more than once in any given workweek. Try these tips to tame the beast and conquer the stress of having unfinished work hanging over your head.

  • Start with the hardest task. Beating procrastination is all about momentum, so it may seem like a good idea to begin your day with easy tasks—you can knock them out quickly and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. The problem is, that sense of accomplishment can sap your motivation to keep going. Tackle the toughest projects first, and work on easy things when you don’t need the motivation you’ve already expended.
  • Break it down. Facing a huge or seemingly never-ending project? Take a few minutes to break the project out into stages, and then tackle one stage at a time. You’ll end up with a series of small successes, eventually leading to the big goal.
  • Sit up straight. Believe it or not, your posture can have a strong effect on your mood—and if your mood is slouchy and bored, your motivation to get things done will reflect that. The simple act of sitting up straight in your chair can help you feel like you’re ready to work.
  • Adjust your environment. Sitting at your desk all day can quickly get monotonous, and monotony detracts your focus from work, toward all the other things you could be doing away from your desk. Move to another computer, grab a laptop, or try the radical pen-and-paper method for a change in routine that will shake your productive mind loose.
  • Take a break. Use this strategy to beat the type of procrastination that comes with “I’ve already been working four hours straight.” Countless studies have shown that regular breaks actually improve productivity. Get up, grab a drink or healthy snack, and spend a few minutes cleansing your mental palate so you can come back refreshed.

What are your favorite procrastination crashers?

Solving the Biggest Work-From-Home Challenge: How to Stop Working

Monday, September 16th, 2013

For anyone who works from home, or wants to make the transition, there’s plenty of information out there about how great it is. No more commuting! Work in your pajamas! Follow your passion! It’s true—working from home is undeniably awesome.

Except when it’s not.

If you’ve been working from home for a while, you probably roll your eyes whenever someone tells you how lucky you are. There are definite advantages. But there are also pitfalls, and one of them is figuring out how to stop working. Preferably before your family forgets who you are, and then calls the police the next time you sit down at the dinner table because they don’t recognize you.

So how do you leave work when you’re living with it? These tips will help you occasionally take the office out of home, so you can remember what it’s like to sit on your couch without your laptop and a pile of projects, wondering who brought the cat to work with them.

  • Define your space and stick to it (that goes for everybody). If you don’t already have one, you absolutely need a home office. You might not have a spare room, or a closet you can transform. If that’s the case, stake out a corner of a room and declare it your office. Explain to your family that when you’re there, you’re working (and when they stop laughing, tell them you’re serious).
  • Give yourself a schedule. Yes, one of the benefits of working from home is scheduling freedom. You’re flexible and you know it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least plan on working certain times of the day—because it makes it that much easier to quit when your “day” is done. If you have to stop for an emergency, you can always tack on hours later. That’s flexibility.
  • At the end of the day, quit. You’re done. Turn off the computer and don’t look at it until you start work the next day. This takes practice, but it can be done. If you have to, you can let clients or supervisors know to text or call after a certain time with emergencies. But only real emergencies.
  • Schedule an activity to reinforce quitting time. Your willpower might not be enough to keep you out of your home office at the end of the day. To combat this, give yourself an appointment after work. Use that dusty gym membership or go for a nightly walk, catch the next episode of the show you’ve been diligently not watching during work hours, or just make a date with your family for dinner.

Make a habit of separating your work from the rest of your home, and watch your stress levels drop!

 

Small Business, Entrepreneurs & Freelancers: Optimize Your Lunch Break

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Eating at the desk

If you work on a self-imposed timetable, you might be in the habit of working through lunch at your desk. For many freelancers and small business owners, this feels like the most productive way to do things. You need to eat, but if you can work while you’re doing it, you can finish your day sooner. Right?

Ironically enough, studies have proven that taking breaks actually make you more productive—not less. If you work eight hours straight, your brain will slow down on you, and you’ll find yourself burning the midnight oil yet again.

Here’s how to make the most of your lunch break, and come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle your schedule so you can enjoy some actual free time after dinner.

Leave your desk

It’s not truly a time-out if you’re still on the computer—even if you’re only catching up on your favorite blogs or hitting friends up on Facebook instead of working. The simple act of standing up and walking away from your desk is enough to signify to your brain that you’re truly taking a break, which gives you a more effective recharge.

In fact, leave all electronics, period

During your lunch break, put everything aside—even your smartphone or tablet. Telling yourself, “Oh, I’ll just answer a few emails” is cheating. You’re still working, and your brain will feel it later.

If you’re truly on a tight deadline, take it mobile

Some days, you really do have to work through lunch. After you take a minute to verify that it’s honestly inescapable, consider downloading what you’re working onto a laptop or tablet, and heading outside (or to another room, at least) to eat while you work. If you have to keep going, the temporary change of scenery can help to keep your mind stimulated.

Enjoy what you’re eating

Regardless of how or where you take your lunch break, treat yourself well by eating something that tastes good and gives you the fuel you need to get through the rest of the day. Save the lighter fare for dinner, and allow yourself a few extra calories at lunch for the sake of pleasing your taste buds.

And if you can’t remember the last time you took an actual lunch break, now is the perfect time to start!