Getting stuff done, being productive, feeling organised and in control (my personal favourite!), running a business as efficiently as possible when it’s just you… sounds like a bit of a tall order when you look at it all in black and white!
Read this post on how establishing a morning routine can help you re-calibrate from whatever happened before you got to your desk and help to make the day generally more productive…
Follow these three simple steps towards working smarter, not harder:
Separate + Batch Tasks - Try focusing on similar tasks in batches and complete them in allotted time spans. I seem to work way more efficiently this way.
Adjust Your Work Schedule To Accommodate You - Early riser or night owl? Whatever the answer, if you work for yourself, try planning your work hours around your own leanings. Who says it has to be nine to five?
Take Breaks - In order to get our best work done, we have to let our systems rest. Even if we think we’re too busy.
Pick a workflow organisation system…
… and take time out to set it up so that it works for your specific needs. In the past I’ve used paper planners and notebooks but have recently found they no longer seem to work for me. Although I still carry a notebook everywhere I go for scribbles when I feel like putting pen to paper… and because, you know… any excuse to buy stationery!
I’m currently using iNotes for my workflow system (see Macro + Micro Lists below) and this is great for both updating on the go on my phone and back at the desktop too.
After working with Louise of Every September and using Asana to bring simply START living to fruition, my next move will be to give that a try for organising workflow and any other projects. It’s also loved by Laura at Hero so I’m imagining it has to be pretty good!
Start a Macro and Micro list
I know. This terminology was new to me until a few years ago. But it’s an effective way of tracking both the bigger projects, targets and plans for the year and all the daily stuff that facilitates that. I’ll be honest and say I’m way better at the daily doing than I am at being CEO and trying to retain some focus on long term plans.
In an effort to be more Head Of Department and less Coffee Run Girl, I start each year with a high level list. I then break it down into what looks reasonable for each quarter, then month on month and yep you guessed it… down further into a weekly list.
And to make it all less scary, I have a (realistic) daily To Do list. That way I get to enjoy my favourite pastime of ticking stuff off and cut back on those overwhelm moments that come from looking at one long HUGE list.
Just don’t forget to set weekly, monthly and quarterly reminders in your calendar with alerts to check in with your lists, update progress and carry forward anything you need to. And by the way, you should allow yourself plenty of carry forwards without feeling bad!
In essence, the simplest thing that works for me each week is to sit down and take some time to understand how my work week needs to fit in with the rest of life. When it comes to the infamous work/life balance equation, no two weeks are the same so where possible, I plan each working week accordingly. And I strongly believe that this elusive “balance” is personal, subjective and should remain flexible.
On the subject of work life balance and how rest and reflection form an important part of just how productive we can be, I’ve recently come to accept that a slower pace can be more beneficial at times. Here’s how I’m attempting to create a work schedule that allows for life to happen too…
Call me a geek if you like but try scheduling in an admin day at least twice a year. Running any small online business, blogging included, will mean that admin soon piles up when left to fend for itself. News… it doesn’t fend at all well when left alone!
Here’s a quick fix list of the five key areas that I pay attention to and organise on admin days:
Stats Collation - essential for when a brand or client wants them or you need to update your media kit
Hard Drive Housekeeping & iCloud Cleaning - Most of what I do resides in iCloud now but even that needs a spruce up at least once every year. Anything to avoid a slow running Mac and the spinning beachball of doom!
Finances - ignore them at your peril. Tax return deadlines, expenses, income forecasting… none of it very inspiring but all very necessary.
Content Calendar - If you run a creative online business then having a content plan that supports whatever services or goods you’re selling is invaluable.
Image Organisation - I invest a lot of time, effort and money in imagery so it makes sense that I use and store my photos wisely. This post goes into more detail…
Shut down your email…
… or turn off notifications at least. I’ve learnt that paying attention to that red number, steadily increasing in the Mail icon just in my eye line does me no good. I am not Meg Ryan waiting for Tom Hanks to let her know that hey… You’ve Got Mail. I’m just a girl sitting in front of a computer, trying to get some content written and out there.
Allot yourself two sections of time in the day (maybe three if you’re expecting something important) where you go in and check your email… but on your terms. When you’re ready and when it’s not distracting you from the task at hand. Otherwise… shut it down.
In fact, go and read this post from my friend Monica on how to take back control from that Bad Boy Inbox full stop!