Be honest with me: how many psychological productivity hacks have really worked for you?
Are you actually motivated to keep working on your freelance blogging career if you allow yourself a cookie at the end of the hour? Does it really make you feel better when you pat yourself on the back for a job well done?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve found that psychological productivity hacks aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sure, some of them work. Refusing to let others treat me like less than I’m worth, for example, has really progressed my freelancing career.
But I’ve also made some physical changes to the way I do business which have surprisingly made me a better and more productive freelance blogger. And I think they could do the same for you.
So let’s dig into these five office hacks which can result in more noticeable productivity for your freelance blogging career:
1. Dual screens
For the longest time, I thought having two computer screens was only useful for PC gamers or computer programmers. While these types of people often glorified the use of dual screens, I saw little reason to get one as a freelancer. Besides, there’s some evidence having two monitors doesn’t always help everyone.
But I decided to try it anyway, and boy, am I glad I did.
My husband told me he could get free monitors from his company since they were swapping them out for new ones, so I asked him to snag one for me.
A day after setting up the extra screen on my desk, I noticed an increase in my productivity as a freelance blogger.
Suddenly, I no longer had to switch between multiple tabs for client research or email or in-progress documents. For example, I could put the research from my internet browser on one screen while keeping my client’s project open in the other screen.
Not only that, but I kept my biggest screen directly in front of me and angled the secondary monitor off to my left, which visually made me separate my most important task on the big screen from the smaller ones which supported it on the other screen. Here’s a picture of my screen setup for a better idea of what this looks like:
Again, as research has shown, a dual-screen setup doesn’t work for everyone depending on how you use it. But you may as well give it a try! I was pleasantly surprised at my results when I tried using two monitors, and now I don’t know if I could ever go back to one.
Cost: free to ~$250 for a great monitor
Ease of hack: moderate
Things to keep in mind: Make sure to research various monitor brands (Asus is a reliable manufacturer), and consider your resolution, brightness/contrast, screen size, and compatibility with your current system (you’ll need to have a computer that supports dual-video outputs; if you’re not sure, check with your computer’s manufacturer).
2. Mechanical keyboard
WTF is a mechanical keyboard?
I get it — these aren’t commonly known, even in this day and age of rampant technology. Simply put, mechanical keyboards use metal, spring-like switches underneath their keys to notify the computer when you’ve pressed a key. This often results in a louder “click” and even a tactile sensation of having actually pushed the key.
Compare this to most cheap-o keyboards you get today, which use quieter rubber-dome switches that often need to be completely pressed before the computer registers the key.
You might be wondering why any of this matters. Among a whole list of arguments about why mechanical keyboards are better than rubber-domed ones, the point most relevant to this post is this: mechanical keyboards can improve productivity because you can type faster on them.
No, really. Many people feel they can type faster and more accurately on a mechanical keyboard, because their muscle memory recalls exactly when a key has been pressed down.
They don’t have to worry about a key not registering if they don’t press hard enough — which is often the case with rubber domes — and they certainly don’t have to worry about a key failing to register because it’s broken (rubber domes don’t last as long as mechanicals, plain and simple).
I didn’t believe in the productivity value of mechanical keyboards until I tried one. My husband gave me his relatively new mechanical keyboard when he bought a more responsive one for gaming, but the exchange worked out perfectly. As it turns out, my newly-inherited mechanical keyboard had switches which only had to be pressed halfway down before the computer registered them.
Pushing halfway down on switches meant that after two weeks of using my mechanical keyboard, I became noticeably faster at typing up projects for my freelance blogging clients.
I probably moved from 50 words per minute (wpm) to around 80 wpm (and the average is generally considered to be 40 wpm!). Many mechanical keyboard users around the ‘net report similar increases in typing speed as well as increases in accuracy.
Not going to lie, moving from a rubber-domed keyboard took some getting used to. But when I did, my fingers hurt less (because I didn’t have to press as hard as I did on my old rubber-dome device), and I could type faster than ever. I even ended up swapping out my old Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Type Pad for the new generation which uses mechanical keys, so I can be more productive in my freelancing career even on the go!
Note, however, that mechanical keyboards are complicated devices, because they use all different types of switches which have various degrees of loudness and actuation points (the point at which the computer registers the key press). If you’d like to learn more, here’s a great explanation of the different kinds of mechanical switches.
What this means for you is you’ll have to do more research and testing before you find the mechanical keyboard that works best for you; in general, note that most typing enthusiasts prefer the type of keyboard that has brown switches.
Ease of hack: difficult
Things to keep in mind: If you’re nervous about just buying a keyboard off a site like Amazon without first trying it out, you can test mechanical keyboards at most computer or hardware stores to get a better feel for the kind you prefer. Well-known mechanical keyboard brands include Das Keyboard, Rosewill, Corsair, Razer, Logitech, SteelSeries, Thermaltake, and Cooler Master.
3. Monitor stand or riser
Some of us freelance bloggers don’t want to invest in a standing desk, which have been proven to increase productivity. For me, a standing desk literally means I can never sit down and keep working at that desk, even for a small amount of time, because most standing desks aren’t adjustable in height.
Enter monitor stands, also known as mounts or risers.
If you’ve ever worked in an office setting, you may already be familiar with these beautiful little inventions. Computer stands are much like they sound they are: platforms made of wood, plastic, or metal which are adjustable in height and allow you to set your computer screens, mouse, and keyboard on top of them.
This means that if you feel like you’ll be more productive for an hour sitting down vs. standing up, you can choose to adjust your desk components to accommodate this desire.
There are some days, for example, where I can happily stand up at my desk for almost eight hours straight and still be productive, using my risers to keep my monitors at eye level and my keyboard and mouse at heights which won’t make me feel like I’m going to die of carpal tunnel. But there are other days where I really just want to sit down for an hour, at which point I can remove my stands and lower everything back down as if I was sitting at a normal desk.
The great thing about this freelance blogging productivity hack is computer stands or risers don’t have to be super fancy. As you can see in the image in point #1, I’m currently just using some old boxes and a wood desk organizer for my stands. However, my husband is working on making this adjustable riser for me, which will make my desk set up look nicer as well as give me less pieces to deal with when I want to lower my main screen, keyboard, and mouse.
Find what works for you as a computer stand, and start reaping the productivity benefits of working the way you want to work.
Cost: free to $100 (can be more expensive if you get a really nice stand)
Ease of hack: easy
Things to keep in mind: Avoid getting any sort of riser which doesn’t look strong enough to hold your computer components, and consider the fact that hardier materials like metal and real wood will last longer, too. Nothing kills productivity faster than when you’re distracted because of something breaking or falling apart.
4. Anti-fatigue mats
Everyone who talks about how standing at your desk improves productivity often overlooks one key drawback to this setup: standing on a hard floor for 6+ hours a day.
This is what happened to me when I raised up my screen, keyboard, and mouse and started standing at my desk on a regular basis.
Over time, I realized the plastic chair mat which I’d placed under my desk to protect the carpet was wreaking havoc on my feet. Within a few hours, my feet were sore and aching, and I could no longer focus on my freelance blogging work.
I realized anti-fatigue mats were an easy solution to this problem.
Anti-fatigue mats have been around in some form or another for the last 30 years or so. Forward-thinking managers install these in locations where their employees must stand for longer than four hours at a time, which they argue makes their workers happier and therefore more productive.
A report from the Journal of the American Medical Association gives some credence to this belief: American employers lose up to $60 billion annually because of productivity losses from aches and pains associated with employees standing for extended periods of time.
It stands to reason putting an anti-fatigue mat at your desk will increase productivity in your freelance blogging career, too.
You can buy anti-fatigue mats from almost any office supply store or big online retailers like Amazon. I bought mine, actually a rubber-based anti-fatigue kitchen mat, from Costco for a cheaper price than I found on most websites (around $30 total).
Cost: $20 to $150
Ease of hack: easy
Things to keep in mind: Note that just because a mat is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to help reduce the stress on your feet each day. Inspect the mats you’re looking at purchasing in person, or carefully analyze online reviews or videos of the product. This specialized anti-fatigue mat from Ergodriven, for example, is expensive but gets rave reviews around the web for its non-flat design, which means it could be the best option for some of you more fidgety freelance bloggers out there.
5. Temperature and lighting
These may be the two easiest physical office hacks to implement, and are arguably some of the most effective ones, as well.
While we’re all used to hearing about those freezing cold offices, studies have actually shown the ideal office temperature for productive employees is 77 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 25 degrees Celsius). Logically, this should be the same case for freelancers in their own home offices, too. And all it takes to feel comfortable and be more productive is a quick adjustment to your home’s thermostat.
Of course, I recommend you play around with temperatures and find the one that makes you feel most comfortable. I’ve personally found that I work well in 77-78 degrees, and with the air conditioning vent above my desk pointed away from me (my contacts dry out really fast). Anything below that and I get too cold to concentrate well.
In addition to temperature, make sure you have proper lighting around your workspace. As most of us probably know by now, natural sunlight helps improve productivity. If you can set up your desk in a room with several windows and lots of sun, you’re more likely to stay productive throughout the daylight hours. (Bonus: good lighting helps you produce better videos for your freelance blogging career, too!)
Of course, not all of us are blessed to have rooms with lots of natural light. In this case, consider purchasing a daylight lamp to use at your desk, and make sure you take a walk outside at least once a day.
Cost: temperature costs depend on your power provider, lighting is free (sun!) or $30+ for lamps
Ease of hack: easy
Things to keep in mind: Rooms with a lot of light are good for productivity, but remember that natural light can also heat up a room. This is especially true depending on the direction the windows face and your location in the world. For example, in Arizona having any sort of west-facing windows is a killer and can increase your cooling costs substantially. In these cases, you may need to also adjust your temperature to reflect your best working environment.
If you’ve been feeling like you’re just not as productive as you could be, don’t immediately assume it’s because something’s wrong with your organizational skills or with your head. Instead, your environment could be holding you back from your full potential as a freelance blogger.
With the five office hacks above, you’ve got a great starting point to figuring out how to up your freelancing game.
I suggest trying one hack at a time to see if any (or all) of them work to make you feel comfortable and like your most productive self. It shouldn’t take you very long to see noticeable improvement in your mood, focus, and energy, which will ultimately translate to a more productive and profitable freelance blogging career.
Now I’ve got a challenge for you: which of the five office hacks discussed above will you try out in the next month? Leave a comment below, and if you can remember, come back here and let us know the results!