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When you’re a solo business owner you’re a one-man-band playing the drums, guitar, keyboard and singing all at once. It’s hard to keep the juggling act in the air and know where to start on your long list of competing tasks.
I always find knowing what to prioritise is the hardest thing about working for myself. But I’ve picked up some tips over the years that help sort out the ‘ticked that off my to-do list’ feeling, as opposed to ‘I went down the rabbit hole on admin’ or ‘got completely bamboozled and decided to look at Instagram instead’. Yep, it happens to all of us.
So instead of feeling the guilts, try out these 5 tips and you’ll get to tick things off, as well as do those fun, yet highly distracting, sneak peeks at Instagram.
1. Write a list
I’m a massive nerd when it comes to lists (or maybe that’s all the time!) I love getting it all down on paper and out of my head. In fact, I’ve been writing myself a daily to-do list each day of my work week for a very long time. There’s nothing more satisfying that crossing out what I’ve achieved that day. I don’t even stress myself out if something just moves from one day to the next, as I’ll know that wasn’t a real priority to get done that day and it will be a key priority for the next day.
So if you write your to-do list, you’ll then instantly be able to see what the priorities really are and what doesn’t need to be done right now. Take advantage and push out the stuff that’s not as important until later in the week. This will hopefully save you from the overwhelm feels and keep you focused on achieving stuff each day.
2. Break up your time.
Something that Madeleine Dore from Side Project Sessions has introduced into my routine that I find really works, is the breakup of focussed work for 45-minutes with a 15-minute break. Breaks are important, so that you can get up and move around and have a cuppa and a snack and then get back into more focused time. I find this keeps my brain fresh and focused for longer and really helps me kick goals on my to-do list.
You might like to use a segmented time approach and give yourself blocks of time with short breaks – whether 25-minutes working with a 5-minute break or 60-minutes working and 10-minute break – find your groove and stick to it. Giving your brain (and body) a rest and a stretch. Getting away from the computer is a must-do with your breaks.
3. Top 3 tasks
Only having 3 top tasks that you need to complete each day, takes a big load off your mind. This is a great thing about migoals notebooks as they have this integrated into each page and they give you lots of tips on how to get more done. Awesome.
I find that if I nominate only one task for each of my 45-minute concentrated work sessions, I get a whole lot done in half a day, rather than moving from one small, unimportant task to the next. That way if you get your top 3 things done in the morning and out of the way, you can spend your afternoon doing that thing you really want to do. Laptop window shopping, anyone?
Or you can get even more nerdy and split your day into 3 x blocks of two hours where you focus on 3 long tasks to fill your day.
4. Breakdown larger projects
Sometimes I have large projects that can take months to work through. This is when I need to breakdown larger projects into tasks I need to do right now. So there’s nothing like a plan and a timeline to help you focus on what’s next and not stress about that thing that’s happening further down the track.
I write on my to-do list the first few things, and only the next steps, that I need to do that day or week, so I don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of a project. All big things are made up of a lot of little, tiny tasks that can become not so big if you work through it in this way.
5. Remove yourself from distractions
As much as I love my house of furry creatures, they are not the best co-workers and don’t really let me get things done. I find getting out of the house and going to a cafe or co-working space is the best use of my time and allows me to really focus on my task. I find the buzz of people and background noise really motivating, but you might like the silence of a library.
If you work from home too, find some other spaces that work for you where you can remove yourself from distractions – a park on a sunny day, the library when it's pouring outside or a cosy cafe where people bring you pots of tea (yeah, that’s me!).
Depending on how you like to work, finding somewhere out of the home, where you can talk to some humans, other adults and just generally feel the vibe of other people does wonders for productivity. Well for me anyway!
Sarah Lawrey is the owner of Collectus Studio, a Melbourne-based branding and graphic design studio. Creating beautiful brands for nice people with purpose, helping her clients achieve their branding goals, both visible and invisible.