Five ways to procrastinate productively as a freelancer

Someone once asked me if I’m ever tempted to lie on the sofa all day and watch TV. The honest answer is very much ... no.

People in full-time jobs who ask these kinds of questions are generally confusing the idea of being freelance with working-from-home. The latter is often code for dosing-from-home, whereas when you’re freelance, no one is paying you to do nothing. Time spent on anything other than work directly translates into money lost.

From a getting-things-done perspective, going freelance has been hands-down the best productivity hack I’ve ever tried. That being said, no matter how much you love what you do, or how focused you are on your goals, it’s impossible to sit down and work for eight solid hours. Everyone needs a healthy dose of procrastination every now and then.

But there's a difference between putting something off by wasting time on pointless tasks and just taking a moment to do something mindless (but useful) that gives your brain a chance to reset. I realise that now more than ever. So here are five ways I procrastinate smarter as a freelancer.

Do chores when you get stuck

When I’m really stuck on a story or have just been staring at my screen for too long, I wash the dishes or put a load of laundry on. Since going freelance I’ve found that I actually have more free time on the weekends because I inevitably do all housework incrementally throughout the week.

List out your boring admin tasks

My weekly to-do list is divided into three sections: things to finish this week, things to start and the boring admin I can do when I have some downtime or am in need of a mindless task. This is where I put all those boring admin-y bits that crop up throughout the week, like updating my online portfolio and calling the bank. Do that instead of looking at Instagram stories.

Go to the gym in the middle of the day

I am at my most productive work-wise first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. Early afternoon is my lowest point, although interestingly enough it seems to be when I’m most up for going to the gym. So rather than drag out a task that I don’t have the brain capacity to take on, I go and workout and come back to it later. Pro tip: if you do work out during the daytime, ask your gym about off-peak memberships.

Walk and talk

I have a dog so this is kind of a cheat, but I often take calls while I’m walking. I can’t really do interviews on the move, but calls with editors or preliminary conversations can very much be taken on the move. And if you don’t have a dog, this is a great way to get out of the house and avoid cabin fever.

Be smart about the scroll

Inevitably there will be moments when you all want to do is scroll. And that’s fine, in fact as a journalist you really should be on social media. Just be smart about it: catch up on the news or the beat you cover, or tweet something astute.