If you were self-employed or worked as a freelancer prior to March 2020, you would already have been familiar with the daily struggles with procrastination, meeting and setting (often self-imposed) deadlines and accountability to self and others. Frustration and guilt can become constant companions when not entrenched in an office-based work environment with clients, colleagues and managers in constant attendance.
For those who have become (un)willingly indoctrinated into this ‘way of working’, it has been difficult, at times, to adjust and cope. It is said that we have limited capacity for self-regulation and willpower. If we are tired or stressed, the ability to tape into these and once the dregs of willpower are used up each day, it becomes really difficult to keep going. It is why having set routines and relying on automated behaviour is such an important part of us being able to be more effective at what we do on a daily basis.
Since the start of the pandemic, many workers have found tools and techniques to attempt some element of focus and motivation. The most effective of these is accountability to others. A friend of mine (a freelance food writer) started virtually attending the London Writers Salon online writing hour on a daily basis. Having accountability with anyone, even strangers can help one to focus on a particular task that needs completing. Focusmate is one of those ways of doing exactly that.
What is coming to light is that our focus and attention are being eroded, both through the technology we use (and how we use it) and potentially through our lifestyle norms that include: higher levels of workplace expectations and stress, lower levels of exercise, less focus on good nutrition and lower quality and quantity of sleep. Technological distractions are a great temptation when hard-cognitive work is required of us. Social media feeds and web browsing is like ‘brain candy’ when we are faced with harder cognitive gymnastic-like tasks.
Having someone you can be accountable to for a short period of time, that forces you to achieve tasks is a useful way to make that happen. Alternatively, teaming up with a work-buddy, a coach or an accountability partner can also help.
There are plenty of apps and programmes that can help you physically minimise your digital distractions. Find tools and processes that work for you. Whatever you find most effectively, start building that into a daily habit and build on that by finding something else that works well for you. Technology should be used as a tool to make you more productive and efficient. If there are apps or tech behaviours that are too distracting or reducing your ability to get work done, reach out to others (especially if they were already self-employed or freelancing prior to the start of the pandemic) to find out if or how they are trying to maximise technology more effectively.