Being a freelancer can be alluring to someone who is working a regular nine-to-five job. You’re working on your schedule and pace, not waiting for a colleague to finish his part of the report. There’s no office politics to maneuver nor need to embody the mediation skills of the best divorce lawyers to keep the peace. You are even free to stay at home and work in your pajamas.
This newfound freedom, however, can also be the downfall of a freelancer. The lack of strict rules and regulations from an external party can make one throw discipline down the drain. It is now up to the person to motivate and control themselves so that productive work can happen.
One practice that freelancers can implement to improve their productivity is the 5S methodology. While initially used by large manufacturing companies to maximize the factory floor, the same principles of visual control, intentionality, decluttering, and sustainability can be applied to the freelancer’s hustle.
Power of order and visual cues
The 5S methodology was first developed by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda. 5S, which enabled the Just in Time manufacturing system, was his solution to improving the company’s manufacturing processes. The idea behind was simple: a well-organized workstation can help reduce waste, speed up production, and increase worker satisfaction.
Productivity is easier to sustain when everything you need is within reach, labeled, and filed away in their proper places. Meanwhile, distractions and miscellaneous items are not given space and attention. The 5S system also highlights the use of clear visual cues for people to absorb information with a glance. You don’t waste time unearthing the document you need from a pile of unlabeled folders, which, as outlined by Forbes, is one of the timewasters.
Five steps to productivity
As the name suggests, 5S consists of five phases a freelancer can follow to improve their work methodology. The term combines five Japanese words starting with the letter S, translated into the following steps:
- Sort (Seiri): Say goodbye to unneeded items
The first step is getting rid of any items unnecessary to the work or hasn’t been used often. That is Marie Kondo’s “does this spark joy?” method but harsher since you’re deciding based on utility. You also have limitations on space since 5S emphasized the importance of being able to see everything you need in a glance.
- Set in Order (Seiton): Every item has a place
Designating a place for your items can help avoid clutter from accumulating. You’ll be more aware of what needs to be thrown away since that item doesn’t belong anywhere. Putting commonly used items where it’s easier to grab them without a second thought also saves time.
- Shine (Seiso): Keep everything clean
Keeping your desk organized is not a one-time thing. Things can easily get out of hand, especially during high-stress situations. This step can also apply to one’s electronic gadgets. Schedule regular cleaning and maintenance of your laptop and other equipment.
- Standardize (Seiketsu): Create your own guidelines
Standardization saves time because you will automatically know the expected level of quality as well as how to maintain it. Making a checklist or a standard operating procedure can help in streamlining the process.
- Sustain (Shitsuke): Maintain and improve the routine
Efforts will be wasted if the level of organization will only last for a few weeks. Turn the practice into long-term habits so that it becomes automatic like breathing air. Being complacent is also a no-no as processes are always open for improvement.
Being a freelancer can be daunting, but it can be a fulfilling initiative with the right attitude and workflow. Practicing the 5S methodology can help freelancers improve their productivity through better organization.