Breaking Bad Habits: What NOT To Do

Breaking bad habits requires the same amount of self-discipline and persistence as building the good ones, and can be just as, if not more, important. But are you aware of the habits that you need to break?

Let’s take a look at nine of the most common bad habits that freelancers have – if you recognise some of them, it’s time to start breaking them today!

breaking bad habits

Table of contents:

Breaking Bad Habits – The Ultimate Not-To-Do List for Freelancers:

1. Avoiding uncomfortable tasks and staying in your comfort zone

As a freelancer or solopreneur, you are your own boss. You have full control and responsibility for every area of your business, and you decide on your priorities – what needs doing and what can take a backseat.

Running a business often means getting outside of your comfort zone, putting yourself and your work out there publicly, with nowhere to hide. This means tasks that you might not be comfortable with or want to do – but which will have a big impact on your business – are often left sitting on your to-do list.

When you have a traditional job, you have line managers and colleagues who will give you a kick to get outside your comfort zone when you need to. But when you are freelancing and running your own business, you are the person who needs to give that kick to yourself. Which is a tricky balance to say the least!

It’s very easy to come up with an endless list of tasks that you can do instead, as a way to avoid the uncomfortable tasks that you need to do. By doing this, you still feel busy and stay safe in your comfort zone – for example:

  • Creating social media posts instead of pitching your services to potential clients
  • Postponing cold-calling and email pitching until your portfolio looks ‘perfect’
  • Accepting an underpriced project instead of negotiating for the fee you deserve

In reality, not all tasks are made equal, and it’s essential to be strategic about what you dedicate your precious time to.

2. Ignoring environment design

James Clear talks a lot about environment design in his book ‘Atomic Habits‘, and how it can massively influence both our good and bad habits.

The principle is very simple – we can change our environment to add or remove obstacles between us and the behaviours that we don’t or do want to turn into habits. The more obstacles there are, the less likely we will do something and the other way round.

For example, say you want to start working out regularly. If you prepare your workout clothes the night before, put your shoes and water bottle somewhere you will see them first thing in the morning, you are more likely to actually do the workout than if you keep them in your wardrobe out of sight.

The same goes for the environment design of your workspace. You are probably going to be more productive in a co-working space, where you are surrounded by other freelancers who are working hard on their businesses, than if you are working on your own at the kitchen table, with plenty of distractions around you. Whether it’s taking the bin out, washing dishes, or making yourself another cup of coffee there are endless distractions in that environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t be productive working from home.

You can turn any workspace into the place you are most productive at if you pay attention to environmental design and change it in a way that will put obstacles between you and distractions.

3. Having too many goals

Creative freelancers are curious people by nature, and while that’s not a bad thing at all in many ways, when it comes to goal-setting, it can be a real challenge. 

So if you are guilty of having too many passion projects, ideas and goals that are not necessarily connected to each other on your list, and you keep adding more to it – I don’t blame you. In fact, I understand you perfectly well, because I’m guilty of that too.

If you recognise yourself in this, you need to be ruthless with your goals – define which of them are actually important, and which of them are distractions in disguise, and set priorities and reasonable deadlines to achieve them.

Put some rules in your goal-setting strategy – for example, the rule of 3-3-3 can work wonders, and it’s easy to implement.

This way you have three main goals each month, which you break down into three main goals per week, and you break them down into three main goals a day. So daily efforts lead to achieving weekly goals which by the end of the month leads to achieving bigger, monthly goals.

If you struggle with prioritising and goal setting, our accountability program Triple Your Output might help you – test it out yourself risk-free by signing up for a free one-month trial (you can cancel anytime).

4. Chasing shiny objects

Related to the above, we have an inbuilt bias to be more excited by things that are new and novel. That’s why your new idea feels so much more exciting than the one you’ve been grafting on for a year.

The problem is that constantly chasing novelty means you’re never able to build the foundations you need for long-term success.

I’m not saying you should never try anything new, or change, but it’s worth being mindful about whether you’re just chasing novelty, and understanding the downsides of doing so.

5. Not setting working hours

Have you defined your working hours, at least roughly? If not you risk either procrastinating all day or burning yourself out.

If you don’t have a specific time in the morning when you start to work, and a time in the afternoon or evening when you close your laptop for the day, your entire day is going to lack structure and consistency.

This can lead to excessive procrastination – because you don’t have an ending time when you should stop working. So it’s too easy to leave all your tasks for later. Before you know it, it’s 9 pm and you haven’t done anything.

Or, to just overwork yourself by keeping yourself busy with all sorts of tasks, without any strategy behind them.

6. Resisting change

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you can’t expect different results. But change can be uncomfortable, and as we discussed it above already, staying tucked in your comfort zone feels better in the short term, but has long-term consequences.

Another reason why you might resist changing things up in your freelancing is that you are mistaking it for consistency.

We don’t deny it – we also say that consistency is the key. But there’s nothing worse than consistently doing the wrong things. So don’t fool yourself here – be consistent but also have your eyes open to see when things need changing – and then change them.

7. Saying ‘yes’ to everything

When you are freelancing, the word ‘no can’ become terrifying, especially when you have to say it to clients and work enquiries.

We always want to go above and beyond to make our clients happy, and ensure we get long-term projects from them. So you say yes to doing more revision rounds than what you’ve agreed initially. 

You also think about getting good testimonials and referrals, so you are quick to say yes to extra work for free and then overdeliver. And of course, the fear of not knowing when and where the next pay-check will come from makes you even more likely to say yes even in situations when you probably shouldn’t.

But the key to remember is saying ‘yes’ to one thing is saying ‘no’ to a lot of other things automatically. Who knows what opportunities you’re closing the door on when you say ‘yes’ to everything.

This habit can prevent your freelance business from growing and also harm your wellbeing. It can be a one-way route to burnout.

The sooner you stop doing this, the more your future business, and your future self, will thank you. And if you need help here, we have an article on how to say no as a freelancer that can guide you!

8. Not having a daily routine

Darren Hardy said in his book ‘The Compound Effect‘ that “the secret of your success is found in your daily routine” – and we agree with that.

If you want to be fitter, doing a 5-minute workout every day will have a significant impact over time rather than going to the gym once a month.

Similarly, pitching your services to three people every day and keeping track of it to follow up will actually lead you to work, rather than sending a dozen pitches once in a while to multiple people.

Some goals take time to achieve, and the only way to tick them off is to work on them bit by bit, but consistently. And the best way to keep your consistency in place is to create something of a daily routine that will integrate all those small tasks that will lead to big results.

This doesn’t have to be a full day, just set aside an hour and create a routine that you can complete in that time.

If you are not sure how to approach creating a daily routine that will not be overwhelming and too long, we have an article that can give you some ideas.

9. Avoiding regular breaks and holidays

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the power of regular breaks from work.

You need to give your brain time to process ideas, but also your body and eyes a break from sitting all day in front of a screen.

During the workday, schedule five-minute breaks every two hours, but don’t spend them on social media or news! Get up, make yourself a drink, go for a quick walk and then return back to work feeling refreshed.

If you can, try to spend your weekends offline in nature, or pursue hobbies that don’t require any electronics, like painting or sports. Trust me, that will help you attack work on Monday productively, with a fresh mind and ideas.

Why an Accountability Partner is The Secret Ingredient to Freelance Success
A Daily Routine That Will Help You Grow As a Freelancer
Managing Freelancing Stress: How to Deal With Stressful Situations And Decisions

Breaking bad habits with help of our Accountability Program

We recently opened up our accountability coaching program Triple Your Output and our first freelancers are ticking through those key tasks!

If you struggle with self-discipline, or simply need someone to keep you accountable and on track, our accountability program can be a great option for you.

We have a 30-day free trial, so you really have nothing to lose, only to gain!

Until next time,