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Let me tell you about one of the best kept secrets of adulthood – small, doable tasks to propel you forward are the key to staying organized and on track, especially when running your own business. Combined with short and long term goals for your business, an actual plan that WORKS for you can make or break your success, especially if you are introverted, like me.
This is why I wanted to share with you the life hacks that have changed my not-so-great planning routine into something that works to not only keep me on track but has also made my business run more smoothly.
In this article, we’ll cover:
Set Your Working Hours
It is so tempting to just sit on the couch and watch TV when I should be creating new designs or crafting an Etsy listing.
For a week, I wrote down when I did certain things, but also what I actually felt like doing during that time instead. At the end of the day, I jotted down anything that I just didn’t get to. Whether I was putting it off or I really didn’t have enough time.
I took a look at what and when I did something. I also took note of what I really wanted to focus on that I wasn’t making time for.
Next, I tried to identify patterns in the mess that is my day and discovered a bunch of things. Things like that I am most creative in the morning while sipping coffee. Or that I need to take a break right before lunch to work out or meditate. AND the afternoon slump hits hard right around 3 PM.
It helped me to identify when my “critical” work periods are. You know, those times of day when you are feeling like anything is possible. It also helps to understand when you are not going to be very productive. For me, the afternoon was clearly when I would not be getting anything accomplished.
This also leads us to the next tip – time blocking.
Batch Tasks and Time Block Your Calendar
We all have stuff that we seem to do every day or even every week. When you batch like tasks together, it makes you super-efficient. Viola… time blocking.
Time blocking is not a new concept. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Every part of your business should have an allotted time.”
How does it work you ask? Start by jotting down your week ahead, making note of the details for each high level task. Now, with your calendar in hand, block out the days/times during the week that you want to tackle a certain task. You can even block out full days to work on just one item.
Pro Tip – schedule 20-30% more time than you think you need. You can always get started on another task if you finish something early, but constantly feeling behind will totally wreck your mojo.
This all helped me to create a calendar where I could block out certain times or even days to focus on a particular task or goal. By setting the hours or days that I did certain things, I had a greater sense of freedom. It also eased the guilt I felt when I wasn’t as productive by allowing me to be flexible in my schedule. I don’t always stick exactly to the schedule, but I feel much more organized when I know what tasks I need to do and when.
Here’s an example of what my work week looks like at a high level:
Create a Space That Works For You
By space, I mean not only your physical work space but your digital one too! As a creative, it is vital to have a system in place to keep us organized and on track.
By creating a usable space that actually works for you, you naturally become more productive, and work just “feels” easier. Things like having a second monitor and a small shelf near my desk to hold supplies make a huge difference.
I also now enjoy having my computer files organized. Lesson learned the hard way – when I first started out that just dumping everything into one folder on my desktop titled “Biz Stuff” really didn’t work out so well. I would spend countless hours looking for a particular graphic or font to match the design I was working on. YIKES!
It is one of my biggest regrets. I feel I am still paying the price of not setting up a system early on. If you don’t have one already, start with at least a basic system of organization for your files. Be as detailed as you can so you know exactly where to go to find it when you need it. Trust me, your future self will thank you.
Schedule Your Shutdown Time
Being able to walk away and shift from work to your life outside of work is crucial to your mental health. Easier said than done, as setting a time to be done with work is something I struggle with almost every day. I need to remind myself that to be successful in work AND in life, my brain needs a rest.
Set a shutdown time for each day and try to stick to it!
Look at your schedule about 30 min before your shutdown time to make sure you haven’t missed any critical tasks. Catch up on emails or messages, and any last minute items to complete your day. If you don’t, it will be difficult for your brain to focus on life when you have that nagging sensation that you need to do something.
Create an “Every Damn Day” List
An “Every Damn Day” list is just what it says, a list of stuff you for sure can do EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now, this isn’t my brilliant idea. I read about it on another blog (yesandyes.org) and thought it deserved some more love.
Here’s how you can get started on your own Every Damn Day list:
Ask yourself a bunch of questions and note your answers. Things like:
- What simple action will make my space feel nicer?
- What’s something I can do to take care of my body?
- What small action will nurture my relationship with myself or my loved ones?
- What’s something that will fuel my brain and improve my mental health?
- What’s something I can do that will make me feel like I have my shit together?
Look at your answers and think about which of those things would make you feel the calmest, the happiest, the least stressed, the most YOU.
Choose 4 to 6 things, MAX.
Now transform each of those 4 to 6 things into the smallest, most straightforward, easiest possible action that you know FOR SURE you could do every day.
Put it somewhere you’ll see it every day.
Don’t worry about what you “should” have on your list. This isn’t some 75-day challenge on self-improvement. Think about what would make you feel happy, peaceful, and more connected to YOU. This is all about cultivating a daily flow of small wins that makes you feel AMAZING.
If I could sum up the best tip I have in a few words, it would be to stop setting needless rules for yourself. You are running your own business because you wanted the freedom of doing what you wanted when you wanted. There is no “proper” way to get your work done, so you do you!
I hope these tips have inspired you to take charge of your schedule and make working from home work for you.