One of the biggest things I have struggled with being self-employed is staying focused. On any given day there are so many things that I could be doing that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and sidetracked. I will often jump around from thing to the next–reading a blog post one minute, to posting on Twitter the next, to then checking my e-mail for the upteenth time, and onto checking something on Etsy.
I have found that many days I am not able to accomplish nearly as much as I had intended, mostly because I am so unfocused and it’s unclear to me what my goals are for the day.
As the year has gone on, I have found a series of really simple tools and things I can do that have helped me tremendously to stay on task, remember what I want to do and keep track of everything I want to get done, and feel much more productive.
1. Make a daily to-do list
|Image Credit: Photo by John Shultz on Flickr|
I have always been a huge fan of making lists. It helps me to feel in control of what I need and want to get done. If I have a big, longer-term project I like to break things down into smaller, more manageable tasks that I can later check off. I used to write my to-do’s all over the place–Google calendar, little e-mails I would send to myself, scraps of paper–but this was very disorganized and therefore not always very helpful. More recently I have started using the Evernote app for this, which I have both on my computer and my phone. I always have a tab open on my computer with Evernote so I can easily add or check off things as they get done (and they have a handy checkbox option so you can check things off as you would on a piece of paper, which I love doing ’cause I’m nerdy like that). Every morning I refer to that list, putting together my to-do list for the day by pulling from the long-term list and adding in my daily to-do’s. I’m also a huge fan of Evernote for writing down my ideas for blog posts and jewelry designs. Because I also have it on my phone, which is nearly always with me, I can be assured that all of my ideas are together in one place and I’m not searching for scraps of paper.
2. Close my e-mail
I am notorious for constantly checking my e-mail, but honestly it’s a huge distraction and a subconscious excuse from really getting things done. By checking my e-mail every five minutes I could pretend I was being productive, when in reality it just makes me shift my focus, which I then have to shift back to my task on hand, which ultimately wastes time. I still check it more frequently than I would like. However, I find keeping my e-mail tab closed on my computer and only opening it a few times during the day and devoting a chunk of time to checking and responding to e-mail has helped me to stay more focused on what I really need to be doing.
3. Devote a time of day to social media
Like e-mail, I have found social media, while extremely important as a small business owner, to be a huge time suck and distraction, particularly Twitter and Facebook. And let’s face it, with everything out there, it’s easy to find yourself spending half the day on social media. I try to keep them closed on my computer for most of the day. Instead, I try to devote a chunk of time where I schedule out my tweets and Facebook posts (and periodically remember to pin things on Pinterest). Or I check things on social media when I have a few minutes to kill somewhere, such as when I’m on the T or waiting in line somewhere. I am a huge fan of Hootsuite, which lets you schedule out tweets ahead of time (you can read more about the wonders of Hootsuite on A Dish of Daily Life). Also, if you use the Chrome browser, there is a handy Hootsuite extension that allows you to go to any page on the internet and post or schedule a tweet or status update rather than having to cut and paste the link into Hootsuite. It’s a great way to post something without going onto Twitter or Facebook and getting sucked into the social media vortex.
4. Open a new window on my browser
If you are like me and have about 87 tabs open on the internet at any given time, it is so tempting to click on any of those other tabs when you are in the middle of working on something and get completely sidetracked. When I start a new task, I like to open a fresh window that only has tabs relevant to what I am doing at that moment. For example, right now I have a tab open for Blogger, Evernote (so I can easily refer to this list I wrote earlier this week for this blog post), the blog post I mentioned above from A Dish of Daily Life, and Hootsuite. All of my other windows with irrelevant tabs are minimized so I’m less tempted to start clicking on other things.
5. Set a timer
|Image Credit: Photo by Pascal on Flickr|
It’s amazing how implementing these five little things have made me feel that much more productive and focused. I still am guilty of checking my e-mail and social media more times than I would care to admit, but they are far less distracting to me than they used to be.