One of my biggest time wasters as a freelancer has been spending time on productivity apps and time management systems.

Ironic, right?

Well today I want to talk about how to recognize and resist the temptation to waste time on productivity apps, systems and shiny things so you can actually get more done.

In this post you’ll learn:

  • Why productivity apps and systems are procrastination pitfalls for freelancers
  • How to use productivity apps to actually be productive
  • The mindset shift needed to resist this temptation and get back to work!

Why Productivity Matters

Who doesn’t want to be more productive? For freelancers being able to get more done in less time has an immediate affect on your bottom line. It can be the difference between making $50/hour or $150/hour.

So if being more productive equates to a $100 an hour raise then yes, productivity is worth figuring out.

But it’s important to remember that being more productive has little to do with finding the magic app and more to do with how you think.

Technology is a wonderful thing. I’m a tech-savvy 32-year old who grew up online. I love it. But I’ve realized technology can’t fix the way I think. Technology can “help” fix big problems but the solution must start with some deep thinking.

The Allure of Productivity Apps

Why do productivity apps and systems mesmerize us so much?

What is it about Nozbe, OmniFocus, etc. that get us all excited?

I won’t claim to understand all the psychology behind this phenomena but it’s the same reason why we get excited and will spend hours shopping for the right exercise equipment but so little time using it once we get it.

It’s why companies will invest thousands of dollars into sales and marketing automation software but refuse to spend even a day documenting their sales and marketing processes.

So when an unproductive person starts to use a productivity app they end up spending hours tinkering with the tool to avoid answering the more important questions like:

  • What’s the most important thing I should do today?
  • Should I even be doing this at all?
  • What’s the best way to approach this project?
  • How much time will this take and do I have the time to devote to it?

It’s much easier to play around with an app and add every project and task you think you should do. But this is a problem because no matter how slick your app is the fact remains that we only have 24 hours each day to “manage.”

And remember, it’s impossible to manage time. You could be Peter Drucker incarnate but that clock will keep on tickin no matter how hard you try to slow it down.

So what are we really managing then?

It’s About Self-Management

Again, it’s easier to try and apply all these life hacks and ninja tricks to time management because it “feels” like we’re making progress.

But deep down you know there’s a bigger obstacle to confront. And that obstacle is your appetite. Not for food. But for accomplishment. For getting things done.

If you have a Type A personality you thrive on checking things off lists. And because you thrive on this you love making list and it’s why you and I are so enamored with productivity apps and systems. Because they connect with our love language of getting things done.

But if you really want to be more productive you must learn to manage your appetite. Not your time.

Some people don’t struggle with this. Their struggle is on the opposite end of the spectrum… they struggle with laziness and getting off their butt in the first place!

Our struggle is that we don’t take time to breath and we put too much on our plates.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and feeling tempted to try out a new productivity app or system I encourage you to first learn to manage your appetite so you can eat the food that’s already on your plate.

How to Manage Your Work Appetite

So, how do you actually do this?

Do you try to tone down your achievement drive so you’re less ambitious? No. I wouldn’t.

Your drive is a great gift to the world. I respect that and would never suggest you do anything to sabotage that. Instead I want you to harness that energy so it serves you and those around you the best.

One way to manage your appetite is to assess your big goal(s). What is it you really desire right now in your business?

If you could change only one thing what would that be?

For many of you it has to do with money. And that’s great because money is a tangible thing you can look at and decide if you’re hitting that goal or not.

So let’s say your #1 goal is to get to the place where you’re paying yourself a salary of $8,000 a month each month ($96,000). No more $10,000 months followed by a $5,000/mo followed by a $7,000/month. You want consistency. Stability. Why?

Because this will reduce stress and give you more peace of mind. And less stress and more peace means you’ll be able to think more creatively, have more energy and actually enjoy the freedom your business gives you!

So back to the goal…

We’re saying it’s to pay yourself a salary of $8,000 a month.

Now until this goal is achieved pretend you have NO other goal. I know others will tell you that it’s ok to have 5–10 goals you’re working on. But I disagree.

For some people it may be ok but if you’re like me and have a history of overindulging yourself in work projects and starting new things then the One Goal Strategy may just be what you need!

How One Goal Helps You Manage Your Appetite

By having only one goal at a time you can filter everything else through this and ask yourself, “Will this help me accomplish my one goal?”

If the answer is no then put it in your backlog to review later.

After you clarify what your one goal is then you will naturally have several projects that you’ll realize need to be done in order to achieve this goal.

Using our $8,000/month salary goal as an example your projects could look something like this:

  • Create landing page for my Blog Writing Service
  • Build custom list of prospects to reach out to
  • Research and hire bookkeeper
  • Create client nurturing process

Then of course underneath those projects you’ll have several tasks like:

  • Create landing page for my Blog Writing Service
  • Come up with concept and template for landing page
  • Write copy for landing page
  • Create project brief for designer to create page in Unbounce

It’s at this point, and only this point, that some sort of app may be of use. Because now you’ve already figured out what you should be spending your time and energy on. And now you just need some help managing the moving parts.

But don’t get sucked into the “world of productivity just for the sake of productivity.” Being productive should serve a higher purpose or goal. Something beyond just checking things off a list.