By Georgina Laidlaw

Extreme Productivity: Freelancer Lockdown!

By Georgina Laidlaw

This week and next, I’m in freelancer lockdown.

I have a few big projects that I really need to focus on. I delayed all my other plans and commitments so that I could hole up in my office and focus. I work remotely, in the country, and I live alone, so I’m kind of taking isolation to a new level. Why?

  1. It means there are no distractions that I don’t want.
  2. It lets me give the projects the dedicated attention they deserve.
  3. It increases my headspace significantly.
  4. It lets me do better work, and more of it.

How does freelancer lockdown work?

If you’ve never tried it, here are the boundaries I put on a lockdown.

First, I don’t do anything but work, and take work breaks at home, during the day.

Usually, I travel and meet clients during the day. Or, if I’m in town, I’ll have lunch with a friend. But on lockdown, all that’s off the agenda—it’s focus, focus, focus. Plus a lunchtime run or walk to refresh my, er, focus.

This level of isolation is easy to achieve at this time of year, when most of my clients are away on break, but it can be difficult to manage at other times.

Second, I don’t do much in the evenings.

If you’re thinking right about now that lockdown sounds kind of dull, stick with me. Yes, I could make up for the dearth of human contact by going out with friends each night. But I’ve found that this kind of intense work is pretty exhausting. The reason I’m taking a lockdown is because I really need to meet my clients’ deadlines, so I can’t afford to get sick or not sleep.

Instead of seeing people, I might speak to them on the phone, or write a couple of emails. But usually, after eight or nine hours of relentless creative work, I’m fine just to sit the heck down and zone out with a DVD or a book.

That said, the weekend’s all mine: lockdown ends on Friday afternoon and starts up again on Monday morning.

Third, I save up any “bits and pieces” for the end of the day.

Usually I chunk emails and calls so that they don’t create time drains in my day, and I start the day with email and social media. But when I’m on a lockdown, I bounce out of bed and sit down to work pretty much immediately. By the time I hit my desk, I’m already rearing to get started on the day’s work.

At the end of the day, I’ll take a look at my email. But if I do respond to someone, it’s usually to tell them that I’ll get back to them when the lockdown’s over.

When does a lockdown help?

Okay, so few of us want to live our lives in lockdown. But a freelancing lockdown can be handy if, like me, you have several deep projects you need—or want—to immerse yourself in for a short period, or you have some tight deadlines to meet.

Perhaps the projects are different from what you’re used to, or you want to use them to try different approaches, techniques, or ideas. These are all good reasons to have a lockdown.

While it might sound a bit arid, the beauty of a lockdown is that you’re not rushed. For these two weeks, I’ve reduced my to do list to just three things: the three projects I need to complete.

And since there aren’t a billion small, nagging obligations and requests cluttering up my day, if I want to take five minutes to answer the phone or make a post to Twitter, I can. If I want to go out and catch up with someone at night, that’s fine. But in many ways the lockdown gives me permission to opt out of distractions—of any sort, at my choosing—for the duration.

Do you ever undertake a freelancer lockdown for a week or more? I’d love to hear how you handle it—and whether you feel it improves your work output—in the comments.

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Capgros.

  • ZZ

    This sounds great and I wish I could do this!!!! I do freelancing on the side meaning I have a 9 to5 job during the day. Also with a wife and 2 kids I know “freelancer lockdown” will never work for me. I do have couple of projects that I would like to focus on in that way. Want to know if you have any ideas or comments on how someone in my position would take advantage of a “Freelancer lockdown”.


    • I did the same thing going from full-time freelance to full-time in-house and now just consider my 9-5 schedule to be a 5-9 schedule… weekends get about 8 hours of work in too… burning out. need to say no sometimes… so tired can’t even write in full…. sentences…

    • Georgina

      Oooh ZZ, that’s tough. Since I published this post I thought of another name for freelancer lockdown: a freelancer’s retreat. I know some parents give each other the occasional retreat from life—the dad gets away for a “boys’ weekend” or the mum goes to a day spa, for example.

      If you could wangle (or should that read “negotiate”? ;) ) a freelancing retreat for a day one weekend with your family, that might be a good way to get the headspace you need?

  • Hi Georgina,

    I agree it does sound very arid but it also sound an idea that could result in real productivity. As a freelance internet copywriter myself I often get up in the morning with the sole intention of devoting every hour to a certain project. then the phone rings…or i get an email etc. End of day I feel has been totally wasted. The difference with your method here is you are giving it a name – so it becomes an animal that has rules that have to be kept to. And even though I could not see me doing it for something like a week I think it would be really useful to have freelancer lockdown for a day whgen things are urgent. As well as that I would give myself a treat for keeping to the rules (a take away; or something like that). so the outcome could not only be productive but enjoyable as well!


  • Shana


    Thanks for the article I will try this to see how best it works for me. From the reading it should work beautifully, but we will see.


  • Yes, Geogina, I can totally relate to this need for focused solitude in order to produce my best work. Thanks for a great article and best wishes for your continued success!

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