Task Swapping: a Key to Freelance Productivity?

Georgina Laidlaw
Georgina Laidlaw

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.


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?