Task Swapping: a Key to Freelance Productivity?

Tweet

If you’re reading this blog post because you’re trying to avoid doing something you don’t enjoy, I have a suggestion for you.

Stop.

If you’re not enjoying the task you’re on, do something else.

Stop?! But I’ll never get anything done!

The employee mindset tells us we must do the ugly work, and face the things we don’t square on. Don’t delay, don’t procrastinate, just do.

The freelancer has an option, though. No one’s keeping tabs on us. We can structure our days, our weeks, and our working life as we like.

So if you don’t like the task you’re on, you can delay it.

Yes, you’ll have to come back and do it later. That’s true. But often, it’s our mood that makes an unappealing task — the proverbial molehill — seem like a mountain.

Recently, while sitting at my desk grinding through an unappealing task, I realized that my lack of motivation was causing the job to take about ten times longer — and be about fifty times more stressful — than it needed to be.

“Man, I hate this,” I kept thinking. “I wish it was finished so I could do that other thing.”

The tension built and built until, a split second before my brain exploded, I decided to just stop what I was doing, and pick up that other task instead.

Giving myself that latitude achieved two things:

  1. I threw myself into the other task, and really enjoyed it.
  2. When I came back to the first task later, I was in a completely different mindset. What had been an insurmountable, mind-numbing task had become a breeze. I had it done in minutes.

Why it works

By allowing yourself to give up (even for the time being) on a task you’re not enjoying, you can regain a sense of control over your work — which is, after all, a reason why many people choose to freelance in the first place.

When you regain that sense of control, you’ll likely feel more motivated to do the tasks you do enjoy, which means you’ll be more likely to focus, and complete them in a shorter time, to a high standard.

And, having spent some time on fun, inspiring tasks, you’ll probably feel more positive about tackling the boring bits. Like me, you may find when you come back to them that they seem to take no time at all.

If you can do it without taking it to the extreme — missing deadlines, failing to deliver — then you might be able to build this trick into your productivity arsenal.

Do you ever swap a boring task for a fun one, mid-job? Has it helped you to be more productive?

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deleagagu Dele Agagu

    I have experienced this first hand too. Nice post :)

  • Michael Kemp

    Good article! This has worked for me many times… There have been numerous times when I’ve been “stuck,” not just because the task is unpleasant, either, just “stuck,” and switching to any other easy-to-complete task usually breaks the “jam.” Simple, physical tasks seem to work well for me – like vacuuming! :-)

  • georgina laidlaw

    Hey guys, thanks for the comments — and glad you liked this one :)

    Michael, I particularly like your idea. Well, not the vacuuming. But doing something physical to clear the mind is a great way to break the jam, probably because it gets us away from the computer too.

  • Shawn Davis

    Nice article. I always keep a number of little side projects on hand for just this reason.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_L5AVXSH7OFHI5YSAJYCO2GGCDU Savannah Hogan

    I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, CoolCent. com