When I first started flying solo in my business, my productivity wasn’t great. In fact, I knew how to check tasks off, but having a productive day was something that totally escaped me.
There’s a lot to running a business solo. Chances are if you’re reading this, you know first hand how heavy it can become. There are the invoices, tracking time, changing deadlines, client calls – and those are just the things we know are happening. These tasks will fill up your day quickly. Throw in something unexpected and your day can get wrecked in a flash!
Let’s just say I’ve come leaps and bounds since the first year or two. Even so, it’s not always smooth or pretty, but I keep my head on straight in a forward march with a few consistent routines and tasks that always push me through to completion.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to feel 100% each and every day, but it does help to be as productive as possible when you do feel good.
When you start to balance this out, everything flows better. You feel better, less overwhelmed, less “what do I do next?”, and less guilt when you need (or want) to take some time away.
I’m sure you’ve heard that a productive day begins the night before. I agree with that statement 110%. Each afternoon, I go through a few steps to prepare for the next day. This triggers my brain that the workday is coming to an end and makes getting started in the morning so much easier!
Believe me, some days, the last thing I want to do is prepare for another hectic day. But I know that if I exercise self-discipline and simply knock it out, I will be much more productive at the start of the next day.
Analyzing what has been accomplished today in preparation for tomorrow helps me realign my focus and spares me my mornings.
How to Have a Productive Day
At the close of every workday, I do these things to have a more productive tomorrow.
Create a List of Priorities
There’s no need to invent the wheel, and I’m pretty sure I felt an eye-roll across the internet. It’s such a cliche, but having a clear idea of priorities is essential to 1) completing what needs to be done and 2) staying focused.
First, review what you’ve completed for the day. Is there anything that needs to be moved to tomorrow? If so, change the due date in your task manager to reflect that, but be careful. It’s easy to feel ambitious before the rat race of the next day begins but hold your horses. Overloading yourself won’t solve anything.
Now, look at what needs to be completed tomorrow. Write down your deadlines (stick with 3-5) including what wasn’t completed today. Those are the most important items you will focus on tomorrow.
After you have your priorities listed, make sure they are feasible. You can also make a second list of other important items that should be completed that aren’t a top priority.
Mapping out your day saves crucial morning minutes when many of us are at our productivity peak. It’s a relief as you turn on the computer and realize your route for the day has already been planned. Then, you can put those morning planning minutes towards accomplishing priorities.
Give your list legs.
That’s right. Every task you write down should begin with a verb. Giving a task an action word is a cognitive trigger signaling that you have clarity around what’s to be done and you can take action now.
For example, which is more action-inspiring?
“Sarah’s blog post” or “Edit and format Sarah’s blog post”
Give your list legs so you can move on to the next task. Visual reminders are the best reminders.
Schedule Your Priorities
Now that you know what priorities need knocking out, it’s time to time block!
Start by reviewing your calendar for any upcoming appointments or meetings for the next day.
Then, in a Google Calendar, a sheet of paper, etc., plan your priorities around those appointments.
Allow for plenty of travel time, breaks, and the occasional interruption. Additionally, make sure you are giving yourself plenty of time to complete priorities.
Trying to cram a task into a much shorter time than needed is a sure-fire way to end up stressed out and behind. Give yourself only the adequate amount of time required – nothing less.
When the time is up, move on to the next calendar item. If you run out of time, make a note to increase the time for a similar task.
Operating like this will encourage you to work ahead of deadlines instead of up against them. You will improve your output and efficiency, too.
The Two-Minute Rule
Ok, if you’re looking at your to-do list for tomorrow and ready to scream, remain calm.
Go through your list and quickly highlight anything that you can do in two minutes or less.
I picked this little nugget from David Allen, a productivity genius and best-selling author. He sums the Rule up perfectly in this statement, “If you determine an action can be done in two minutes, you actually should do it right then because it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it.”
It’s as simple as that. If there is a series of tasks that can be knocked out in a few minutes, just get them done and move on to more complex items.
Two-minute items might include scheduling a team meeting, responding to an email, changing the printer cartridge, ordering supplies from Amazon…whatever it is, don’t let it take up space on your to-do list!
Lingering items on your task list are a visual and cognitive distraction, preventing you from seeing what actually needs to be accomplished.
Operation Inbox Zero
I get it. It’s easy to let emails build up over time. But without a solid process to organize said emails, you will end up with an inbox full of 1,128 unread emails. And 100% overwhelmed.
Here’s my process: When I receive an email, I do not open it until I am ready to make a move, meaning either putting it on my to-do list (action word included!) or accomplishing it.
Scheduling times on your calendar to check emails, keeps you working efficiently with minimal distraction and prevents the email pile up.
After an email is completed, I file it under the respective client folder in Gmail or delete it if necessary. This way, I can always refer back to what was needed.
Since I am constantly adding things to my to-do list as a solopreneur, it only makes sense for me to re-prioritize at the end of each day. I can reflect on what I accomplished and what will come next tomorrow.
Keep the train moving by taking 15-30 minutes each day to follow these steps to minimize overwhelm and propel you into action.
Now, if your task list is bogged down by a bunch of stuff, schedule a call with me. I can help you lighten up your task load so you can focus on your business.