Freelance procrastination is a very real issue. We all know it happens from time to time. The conversations in the Freelance Jungle and the countless memes online are proof of that.
What we don’t often stop to consider is why it happens.
Let’s take a look at freelance procrastination and what we can do to manage it
Identifying freelance procrastination moments
It sounds like a no brainer but taking the time out to identify when we’re prone to freelance procrastination goes a long way towards ensuring it doesn’t become a regular feature.
Take a deep look at when you procrastinate.
Ask yourself: when do I procrastinate the most?
Give yourself the opportunity to look at subconscious issues just as much as the ones standing naked for all to see.
Common triggers for freelance procrastination include:
- When you are working on work that no longer interests you. Sometimes, the reason why you take days to complete something that took you hours a year ago is because the challenge is gone. Maybe it’s time to put that task or service out to pasture?
- The client you are working on is difficult. Procrastination can be a response to avoiding negative situations. You may be subconsciously looking to avoid bad attitudes, criticism, work that you can no longer take seriously and so on. Can you change the relationship dynamic? Or is it time to replace that client with one that is more appreciative?
- You are afraid of the work. Have you launched yourself into a project that makes you feel unprepared? Do you need more information to complete the job? Are you operating out of your comfort zone? If so, is it too much of a stretch?
Whatever the case, you need to ask yourself:
- What are the emotions behind my reaction?
- How do I think and feel right before I start the freelance procrastination cycle?
- What am I telling myself about procrastination when I do it? Am I justifying it? Am I using it as comfort? etc.
Try and dig into what emotions you are protecting and cultivating.’
Challenging the dialogue of procrastination
We all tell ourselves stories, negative and positive, about our abilities. We buy in on mythology about how much power we do or don’t have. We’re often at the mercy of popular opinions, other people’s ideas and society’s rhetoric.
When we engage in freelance procrastination, it’s often because we’re telling ourselves what we’re doing doesn’t matter.
And we deliver that message in so many different ways, it’s not even funny.
Here are some common scenarios that enable freelance procrastination:
- Mistaking external obligation for motivation. We forget that working on our products or marketing is an opportunity to get something done. Instead, we treat it like guilty time extracted from clients or from other opportunities
- Forgetting to qualify a valid idea from a nice to have. We’re so excited by the collection of ideas, we don’t stop to articulate them before including them in our mental load. Instead, we end up carrying loads of ideas with no plans to activate any of them
- Chasing low hanging fruit. We spend too much time watching what everyone else is doing (and looking at how to copy it) and not enough time playing with our more novel ideas to see whether they have merit. Then, we get stuck resenting the path of least resistance
- Ignoring the importance of purpose in your working life. Some people can do whatever they need to in order to get money. Other people need to have a far more meaningful relationship with work. Trying to kid yourself that money is enough when it isn’t invites procrastination via avoidance and boredom.
Whatever the dialogue or the reason, identify it, accept it- and then do something about it.
Building an anti-procrastination strategy
If you want to change a habit you are not particularly fond of, you need to find it a replacement.
Whether your particular brand of freelance procrastination is tied to your emotions, intellect or something else entirely, it doesn’t matter. Your next step is to counter that reaction when it happens.
If you are racked with guilt or self-doubt, lean in on evidence. Remind yourself of the things you are good at. Review the projects where you have triumphed. Give yourself the proof you need to let yourself believe in your abilities again.
Maybe you are procrastinating because the work bores you to tears. This is valid, but what are you going to do about it? You can’t magically become interested in things you’ve already mastered. You can however exercise other parts of your brain and get the challenge elsewhere. Maybe you need to add another level of challenge by making yourself do it right before a meeting with a deadline to complete it. Or as a time challenge to get a personal best.
Or you can outsource the boring bits and fill more challenging work in the space this creates. You never know, it might even end up being the start of mentoring a junior freelancer or building an agency.
Maybe, it’s about accountability through masterminds and accountability pods. Or sharing your problem in a group and allowing people to cheer you on while you finally nail the task in question.
But most of all, your best strategy against combatting freelance procrastination is:
- Recognising when it’s happening
- Putting a stop to it then and there
- Forgiving yourself and moving on