Working as a freelance designer, I love every aspect of my job (yes, even the taxes part occasionally). However, I sometimes struggle with how to turn off work when I “go home” for the day.
These past few weeks I’ve gained more insight into my vision as a freelancer and the work that I do. I’ve fine tuned the vision of my blog and I’m actually blogging on a regular basis again. I’ve been successfully pursuing other things I love to do. I’m even getting better at a balancing the different projects and side projects that I have.
The problem comes at the end of the day when I’ve gotten a solid amount of work done, it’s time for me to wrap things up to spend time with friends, and I just can’t seem to turn my brain off. Last week, I finished updating a slider for my soon to be released web page. I got it looking and working exactly how I wanted it and the plan was to pick up where I left off the next day to work on the content for that page. I just kept thinking about what I needed to still do and ideas just kept racing through my head. This isn’t the first or only time this has happened. Similar situations like this keep happening. So, I’ve started to ask myself, what can I do to turn this stuff off? Here’s what I found helps:
Write Things Down
Writing has been the most practical method I’ve found to help me cope with massive amounts of inspiration. I use Evernote for all of my note taking, so as soon as I get an idea I jot it down in Evernote. It’s an excellent strategy since it preserves the note from being potentially lost or forgotten, but also lets me move it out of my brain and onto something tangible. Writing is an excellent way to process information.
When the digital world becomes overbearing, it’s always safe to trust analog. Sometimes Evernote can be a temptation for me to jump back into work mode since all my information and services are accessible from my phone. When I’m having trouble breaking the connection with my phone, I go analog. Writing things down in my Moleskine or even jotting down a quick thought on a napkin works just as well. And because digital is so powerful, I can easily bring written notes back into Evernote to live with the rest of my digital information.
Make Action Items
Sometimes the ideas you have don’t need to be kept in a note taking app, sometimes they just need to be put on your to do list. Often times I’ll be meeting with someone and remember “I need to do that.” When I find myself in those situations, I’ll quickly write down a new task on my to-do list and get back to what I was doing. A quick tip for to-do lists: Start your to-do items with a verb. Verbs are what make these items actionable and will help you keep that initial momentum when you go to work on it later.
Control Your Schedule
Even with a good writing system in place, I still often have the temptation to open up Evernote, Writer Pro or even WordPress and just start writing, going back to work mode. Too often I have to remind myself that I control my schedule, it doesn’t control me. As much as I would love to run with the good ideas, I’ve decided that when work is done for the day (unless previously planned), I will save ideas and pick them up when I’m back at work.
Set Rules Ahead of Time
These tips are all great, but in order to really make them work, you have to plan ahead. Know your plan for capturing ideas when you’re hanging out with friends, at dinner, or even in a client meeting. Knowing how you’ll deal with these barrages of ideas will make sure you don’t lose them, set you up for success when you’re back at work, and keep you focused on the task at hand.
These are just a few of my methods that have been effective lately. What are some things you do to handle copious amounts of ideas?