Online Freelancers: How to stop procrastinating and develop a productive work habit

Many people think working from home is easy. Yes, you can work any time you like but can you actually make yourself work at those times? Flexible work schedule tends to give people reasons to procrastinate. “I will take Monday and Tuesday off and work extra hours later”.  Not all freelance clients are going to give you flexible hours. Some have strict daily deadlines, and if you don’t manage your time properly you will end up working late every day. Frankly speaking, freelance work can be more stressful than full time work because you have the “luxury” of scheduling your tasks for late hours or at the end of the week.  In a full time job, you work 9 to 5 but after that you are pretty much free to chill at home. However, freelancing doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s meant to be an enjoyable work experience. You can achieve this by becoming efficient in your work and by disciplining yourself to complete your assigned tasks within a set period of time.


Above all, to become a successful or to achieve anything worthwhile in life, you need to eliminate procrastination from your daily routine. Procrastination is a habit for some people and habits don’t go away easily. So you should make gradual but consistent changes that are going to turn you into a person who gets things done rather than a person who can get things done later because right now he/she wants to watch Netflix and drink beer.  As a new freelancer, I faced a lot of problem with procrastination and I still battle with it from time to time. One of the positive outcomes of procrastination is that it will force you to become organized and find new ways to handle it. In this post I am going to share with you some of the methods I use to deal with procrastination. By strictly following these steps,  hopefully one day you will be able to stop procrastination completely.

How to handle procrastination for freelancers

Make an effort to start

Sit down and make an effort to start. If you habit developed a lazy habit then you might have  to force yourself to begin. Someone said sometimes 20 seconds of daily courage is all you need to get your work done. Take the first step and do not overthink it. Many times you will not feel like doing anything. Sometimes you are flooded with creativity and  motivation but something holds you back from making a move. Unless you’re suffering from an illness or some serious emotional trauma, you can finish your work if you just gather the strength to start the first few sentences or lines of codes.

Remind yourself about your end goal

If you have an end goal of finishing certain project, remind yourself of the outcome. The benefits of finishing a project could be – satisfaction, payment, getting praised by clients and getting early time-off for yourself. Also remind what will happen if you procrastinate: stress, missed deadlines, late payment and disappointed clients. Remember, a single day of procrastination can stress you out for the rest of the week, so it is not worth it.

List tasks to-do beforehand

At the end of the week, list down all the tasks you are going to do in the coming week. The “To-Do” list is going to get your mind ready for the upcoming work and help reduce your tendency to procrastinate.

Clean your desk beforehand

Before you go to bed, clean your desk. Neatly place your pen, paper, laptop or whatever that you need to do your work.  Also, swiftly revise the to-do list you created earlier. When you wake up and see your work desk ready, you will be motivated to sit down.

Sleep and wake up early

This has been vital for me. I used to be an “invincible” night owl who worked late hours (sometimes as late as 4AM). It was cool the first few months, but then this habit started having some weird effect on me. I started waking up late than usual and then felt groggy all day. Soon, the tiredness started affecting my usual late work hours. I became less efficient and couldn’t focus on my tasks properly. I had to do something about it if I were to keep my clients. So I took a whole week off to work on a different schedule. I setup reminders to go to bed by 9PM. The first day I ended up going to bed at 1AM even when the reminder kept buzzing. The second day I went to bed at 11 but woke up very late and tired. Finally the third day I managed to sleep at 10:30 and this is now my normal bed time. Sleeping early and sleeping full 8 hours has had the most positive impact on my work efficiency.  Nowadays, I wake up at 6:30AM and by 9AM I am ready for work. Sometimes I finish the entire work in few hours and then have the rest of the day all for myself. Hence, practice this habit of sleeping early.

Finish the hard tasks first

Because procrastinating big tasks will cause big stresses, you should assign first hours or beginning  your day with tasks that you are more important.  Most people finish easy tasks first and then leave the more important/difficult tasks for later, which means the tendency to procrastinate such tasks is high. So, gather 20 seconds of courage and try really hard to at least start the hard tasks. Once you finish the hard part, the easy ones will be much easier.  Develop a habit of assigning priorities to tasks and then do it in the order of importance. Another important tip: do not overthink otherwise you will only worry more and procrastinate. Just think about the task you want to do today, finish it, and then move to other tasks.

Schedule tasks

Schedule and assign tasks on a daily basis. Assign specific hours of the day to do  specific tasks, and strictly stick to that schedule.  There are several tools you can use to remind yourself of your daily task. Some of the tools I use include Google Calendar, Google Keep and Asana. I also write a small motivational quote on my reminder which gives me an extra push when I’m feeling down. I will be writing a detailed post on these organizer/task-management tools soon.

Do your work in smaller chunks

Many people procrastinate time-consuming tasks, and many times such tasks turn out to be the most important ones.  Long tasks when put off for later will cause a lot stress as the deadline .  So it is recommended that you divide big project into smaller sections and then focus on finishing each portion separately- instead of constantly thinking about the entire project. Learn about the Pomodoro technique.

If you procrastinate, don’t be hard on yourself

Slip ups are common. So if you procrastinate don’t be too hard on yourself. Getting rid of this habit takes time. Every step to improvement, no matter how small, makes you a better person tomorrow.

Take some time off

Yes. It mind sound like procrastinating, but if you are experiencing a burnout, it’s time to take a break. However, I recommend this only to those people who have not been procrastinating for a long time.  If you are a hardworker who have been working consistently for months, you will come to a phase when your motivation to work gets depleted. You will gradually start becoming less efficient and take longer time to do a task that you’d normally finish in a jiffy. If you are experiencing this problem, take a step back and take some deep breaths . You are not a procrastinator but you need to take some time off to cool down. If you still have a big project to finish, ask your client if they’re willing to give you a break for few days. If not, ask for reduced number of hours so that you can finish up your weekly work early in the week and then take time off till the weekend. During your break, go outside and visit places that soothe your mind, and spend time with people who motivate and make you smile.

Now that I’ve shared by personal experience on procrastination and how I manage it on a daily basis, I am also posting below a couple of useful videos on procrastination.  I should tell you that these videos don’t mean anything unless you discipline yourself on the first point I mentioned above i.e. stop overthinking and make an effort  to start your work even for a few minutes.

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  • gamesnepal

    Great insightful article. I heard that we shouldn’t “Force ourselves” to do anything. So forcing ourselves to start will only enable us to do something a couple of times. It won’t stick. Nice tips, though. I hope to follow on them.

  • Tony

    I agree. However, some people who are habitual procrastinators need to take drastic measures, understanding that it’ll lead to a positive outcome.

  • gamesnepal

    It will lead to positive outcome but it will be shortlived.

  • Tony

    Repeat and it becomes a habit.. Habits live long.