No one likes a hectic business schedule, but this is something that’s happening more frequently in today’s tech world.
Even for someone who’s a productivity expert, I can get lost in the daily minutia.
Over the past few months I’ve gone from freelance writer to project manager. It’s been a big transition and my daily schedule has completely changed because of it.
Not only that, but later this month I’m heading to a conference where I’ll be speaking on a panel about the Secrets to Successful Freelancing.
In other words, I’ve been crazy busy and my business routine has become more hectic than ever.
When you run your own business, no two days or weeks are the same. There are a lots of distractions and ideas that can veer you off course.
The success of a small business depends on your ability to wade through the distractions and focus on what’s really important (and ignoring the things that aren’t).
If you have a crazy schedule that continuously wants to take over your day, this post is for you! Here are a few things you can do to manage a hectic schedule — without losing your mind.
1. Get organized the week before
When you’re stressed you’ll forget things and start doing tasks poorly or rushed. This translates into more stress, and keeps the vicious cycle going.
If you know a super busy week is coming up, or you’re planning a trip out of town, pre-plan your work week so you stress less.
Write down everything into one giant list. Don’t think about it too much, just do a quick brain dump of everything that’s swimming around in your head.
I write down everything business and personal related — from washing the car, to getting my hair cut, to putting the vacation setting on my inbox, I have a checklist that includes everything.
Once I have everything down on paper, that’s when I’ll categorize and organize it. I’ll break it down into appointments for my calendar, tasks for Asana, and personal to-dos to follow up.
A simple tip my business coach told me was to carry around a notebook and write down things as they pop into my head.
Once you clear out all the stress and other clutter, your mind is free to create and focus on what’s really important — and you’re less likely to forget anything.
2. Use focused prioritization
Focused Prioritization is a term that I made up that relates to singular focus based on what’s the most important right then. It’s the opposite of multitasking.
Since you really can’t have more than one priority (as the origin of the word was priority in its singular form), you must then list out your priorities from greatest importance to least.
Then tackle each one in order, focusing solely on that task until it gets done.
Don’t think that this works? Give it a try!
Focus on a singular task today until it’s complete, then move onto the next thing in your list until it’s complete. Keep doing this every day for one week. Next thing you’ll know, you’ll be ahead — and you’ll actually STAY ahead!
I’ve been able to do this for over a year, and I’ve done big things like reach inbox zero while only working 5-7 hours per day.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you finish it and how much you get done. This is what I do with managing someone else’s business as well as keeping my own business running smoothly.
In fact, I often ask my clients for more work since I’ve completed all of the tasks on my list for that day.
3. Set up systems to limit distractions
The most common distractions your business will face on a daily basis are email, social media, and phone calls. Aka, the time-wasters of all small businesses. #youknowitstrue
So how can you limit these things throughout your most busy times?
A simple way to limit these distractions is to only check in with these account at certain times of the day. Or simply outsource the work to someone else who can check them for you and then relay what’s really important.
Be accountable to someone who can help you avoid the distractions. Use apps and online tools to help you avoid endlessly spending time on Facebook.
Set a timer and turn off the alerts on your phone.
today I’m showing you a step-by-step guide for getting things done every week so you can earn more money in less time.
4. Schedule your day by the type of task
Instead of focusing on the hundreds of different tasks you have to do each day, try grouping them into the type of task they are and tackling them that way. It’s almost like completing work in batches but instead you’re “batching” your entire day’s schedule.
Think of it as energy management, not time management. When are your most productive times of day? Group all of your brain-drain tasks into that time frame.
Anything that takes a large amount of energy needs to be allocated to you’re most awake and feeling energized to complete them.
Then group all of your lower-level energy tasks at the beginning or end of the day when you have less brainpower to deal with them.
Then you’ll be able to complete tasks based on your energy and actually learn to get ahead with your work!
5. Organize tasks by color
Once you’ve grouped all your similar tasks and appointments, assign a color to them. Here’s how I break down the color-coding:
- Orange = anything related to money, paying the bills, sending client invoices, following up on payments, etc
- Pink = social media updates, scheduling, interacting with the community, creating images, updating Pinterest/Instagram
- Blue = coaching calls, meetups, hangouts, interviews, podcasts and mastermind calls
- Green = content (or money making!) tasks like freelance writing assignments, blog content, editorial calendar management, course and workshop creation, and the like
- Purple = personal stuff, projects, art classes and other personal appointments
Organizing tasks by color helps me avoid the age-old freelancing problem of feast and famine. How?
I can view all of my appointments, assignments and deadlines at a glance based on the type of tasks they are (for example, all my freelance writing assignments are in green).
Then when I look over my calendar for the next week or month, I can see if I have too much green or not enough.
Here’s an example of my Google Calendar at a week’s glance.
For me, a lot of green on my calendar means a good amount of money that I can earn but a lot of energy that needs to be expended to complete that work.
Saying “no” to less work, or “yes” to more work in the future will help level out this roller coaster ride that is self-employment.
Here’s an example of my calendar of assignments in Asana.
6. Perform regular audits of your workflow
This is system that has taken me years of being a full-time freelancer to perfect, and I still feel like I’m making small tweaks here and there.
Be open to experimenting, testing out different times of the day that you wake up and when you start working on different projects.
Are you a morning person or night owl? Do you need to adjust your schedule based on the weather and seasons (I know I do!). Perform regular audits of your business workflow and test out other ideas, work different times of the day and record your findings.
What works for me may not work for you, but I’ve been testing out morning routines and daily schedules for over 3 years.
It will take some time to find out the best schedule but just stay patience and keep at it!
7. Honor your schedule (but be flexible)
One of the tough things about creating a new schedule is following through. You have to stay disciplined to get up on time, stay focused during your work and take regular breaks.
If there’s just one piece of advice you take away from reading this, it’s that you must honor the schedule you create but know that you must also be flexible (not distracted, lazy or undisciplined, just flexible).
This is something I struggled with after being self-employed for almost 3 years. I found that my systems and processes were doing so well that I had all this extra time. But instead of capitalizing on this extra time, I was simply wasting it.
Learn to honor the schedule and it will pay you back in spades!
8. Keep what works & ax what doesn’t
Not every productivity tip, or morning routine you try will work. So be prepared to fail a little, to try things that don’t work and give up on ideas you wish would pan out.
It’s okay to keep what works and ax what doesn’t. In fact, it’s the only way you’ll find a routine that actually works!
Getting things done the right way is all about finding your optimum schedule and working within your best productivity times.
9. Acknowledge the request then batch the work
If you’re running a business where you need to be on call you can still provide stellar customer service. Duh!
I do this as a project manager and I have to be “available” most of the times.
The way I do this is by always responding to messages and requests promptly, but then I’ll make notes to go back and actually DO the work later.
That way my client knows I’m not ignoring them, but I don’t have to stop eating lunch just to do something for them. #boundaries You can do the work later when you’re at the computer again.
Same thing with customer service requests: Acknowledge that you received the request and are working on it. Then get to fixing the problem when you sit down to work.
Another cool thing you can do is to direct people to a Google Form, where they can answer a simple questionnaire, leave comments, and put in requests for a work order.
The responses are then imported into a Google spreadsheet where you can organize them by order of importance.
10. Automate finance and business tasks
I would definitely lose my mind if I didn’t employ simple ideas like automating finance and business tasks. And I’d probably pay a boatload of fees and late charges too.
In order to keep receiving payments from clients while making sure my bills are paid, I absolutely have to automate my money. Inquire about a direct deposit option, sign up for paperless billing, and set up recurring payments.
And don’t forget about setting up recurring payments for the minimum amounts due on your credit cards and loans.
In the event you’re so busy that you forget to pay a bill (it happens to all of us) you won’t be charged a late fee on top of the interest charge.
This is an essential part of being location independent and running your business from anywhere.
11. Make it easy to get work done
In other words, don’t give yourself any excuses to get behind on work. If you travel a lot, you need a good phone, good internet, and great apps. So invest the time and money into these things so you can work from anywhere.
I have a calendar apps that sync with my Google Calendar, an Asana app, and a messaging app so I can manage a team of people — all while on the go.
Always write things down in that moment.
There is NO WAY you can remember every commitment, every task, and everything on the to-do list.
Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that “you’ll remember this later”. Umm, no. You won’t!
This is why I have reminders in the palm of my hand at all times.
12. Ferociously guard your time
And I mean, ferociously guard your time like a guard dog. Be alert with your time and even more of a bulldog with your schedule. If someone, or something is trying to steal your time, guard it with your life.
Don’t let time vampires run all over you. Remember, it’s your business your rules!
Honor your schedule as if your sanity depends on it (because it does). If you don’t set aside a specific time to accomplish a task it simply won’t get done.
It will get pushed to the back burner while you’re “putting out other fires”.
If you let this happen, then your schedule rules you instead of you controlling your day. If you want to manage a hectic schedule successfully, honor your commitments and do the work.
It’s just that simple!
Take the stress out of getting things done
These are just a few of the ways I take the stress out of getting things done and I hope they help give you some ideas.
Be open to testing out these ideas and trying them for yourself. Keep the ones that work and quickly ax the stuff that’s clogging up your creativity.
It’s easy to see exactly why color-coding my day has changed my life and my business in a way I never imagined. All of these ideas will help you start automating your business this week.
What’s one thing you do to manage your hectic schedule?
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Prepaid and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Discover more at http://www.VisaPrepaid.com or view more Visa Prepaid videos at http://www.youtube.com/
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