One of my hobbies is trying to get as much as humanly possible out of my day. To be honest, this is probably one of the worst hobbies I have because it stresses me out so much when I think I am not achieving enough, but by streamlining my process and a few handy strategies I have picked up along the way I have developed ways to maximise the time.
I work from home, just like so many lady bosses out there. There are so many fabulously mundane things that need our attention at home - like the laundry, cleaning the house, cooking meals. And there's also some fabulously enticing things to distract us too, like lying in bed until noon watching the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars. The real challenge is to use the time you have productively and maximise that time to achieve business success. Woah, I know, tall order, right
Well today I'll share a little sneak peek into my daily routine before sharing my top strategies, my biggest challenges and finally my secret weapon!
MY DAILY SCHEDULE
Full disclosure: this is a super flexible routine. I have deliberately designed my life to withstand any additional things that pop up, including health issues and family commitments. This has been a calculated and purpose-driven decision that has helped to reduce my stress levels and has really increased productivity!
7.00 AM - WAKE UP SLEEPY HEAD
Rise and shine! Generally the first thought that goes through my head is "I will rise, but I refuse to shine..." in my best inner grouchy voice. This doesn't last long, after I splash water on my face I feel much better and get on with it. Get dressed, breakfast and drop Gavin at the train station before heading to my desk.
8.15 AM - EMAIL CHECK-IN
My very first task when I sit down at my desk is to check my emails. I do this before I write my to-do list, because often there are action items in there that need to be included in my plan. I always reply to current clients first, they are 100% my priority. Then I check emails from potential clients, replying to their enquiries and addressing concerns, before checking other email that might be promotions, questions or proposals.
I like to leave my email open throughout the day rather than just checking it this once. I often refer back to details in emails from clients and I like to know when new emails come in through the day. Sometimes I am working on a client project and they email with a change or question, I like to open these emails straight away.
8.45 AM - TO DO LIST
I like to take a quick 10-15 minutes to review my to-do list and set my top 3 goals for the day. This helps me to stay focused on what I am doing and doesn't allow time for deviation when the procrastination bug starts to bite.
9.00 AM - SOCIAL MEDIA CHECK-IN
I like to spend a bit of time checking in with my social media. I use this time to schedule posts, share content written by other business, branding and design experts, interacting with my followers and meeting new people in FB groups. It's important to me to stay connected with the people around me, and staying active on social media makes it so much easier for me to serve people! I am able to see questions they have, things they are struggling with and trends that are prominent in my field. I also find it super convenient to use scheduling tools. I currently use Buffer for Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter and Onlypult for Instagram.
10.00 AM - CLIENT AND PROJECT WORK
Once I am happy that I am up-to-date with the inter web world, I will start working on client projects or if I don't have a current client, I will work on my own projects.
For each new client I will set out clear timelines that guide me completing their work before I even start. This is so I know what I need to do each day and also so that the client will know when feedback and input will be required and it allows them time to schedule this in too.
12.30 PM - BREAK, LUNCH + EXERCISE
If I could work right through lunch, I would. To be honest, that is exactly what I used to do, every single day. It was really bad for my health, for my focus and it also made me super grumpy. So no I try to take some time out for a little break and I head to the gym or head out for a walk. Sometimes even just switching off and reading a book for a little while helps!
1.30 PM - BLOG POSTS OR BUSINESS PROJECTS
I mentioned that I will use the time that I am waiting on feedback from clients to write blog posts or work on other projects. Well this time slot after lunch is designated for just that, so I can either trade this time with the period before lunch or I can do extra blog writing and project development. I love this time of the day because I can work on developing my ideas and research new possibilities. It's a bit of an indulgence!
3.30 PM - PHD WORK
Something that people might not know about me is that I am currently writing a PhD at the University of Sydney, Australia on the ways in which identity is performed online through branding, looking specifically at people just like you and me - ladypreneurs! So I set aside a few hours every afternoon to work on this. Sometimes, the poor PhD is put on the back burner if I get too carried away with working on blog posts or other projects, but I try to get two or three sessions in a week.
5.30 PM - FINISH UP + TIE UP LOOSE ENDS
I spend half hour or so just finishing up for the day, one last quick check on social media and emailing out updates to clients. Gav generally arrives home at about 6-6.30pm so I will stop work then.
After work we do try to get out and socialise or have some fun. Mondays we have dinner with my family and Tuesdays we do ballroom dancing lessons, then dinner with Gavs family. Wednesdays Gav plays ice hockey, Thursday we have a little business check-in meeting and Friday night we either relax or spend it with friends and family.
I use my evenings to relax, spend time with my family and Gav and my favourite part of the night is watching an episode of whatever we are watching while I knit or sew my latest crafting project. I really need this time to unwind in the nighttime and crafting while watching a story unfold is a great way for me to relax and ensures a good sleep.
10.00 PM - HEAD TO BED FOR ZZZS
I love crawling into bed after a bad of work. It's so rewarding to know that I did a good job, got a whole heap of things done and made a difference. On weekends, Gav bans our mobile phones from the room so we can sleep tech free. It's something I resisted to start with, because, you know, that hunk of plastic and metal is an extension of my arm, but really it does make a difference to have a break every now and then!
MY TOP STRATEGIES
I have a few tried and test daily strategies that have helped me to maximise my productivity.
- Firstly, I identified what I have to do every day. Take a minute to ask yourself what tasks do you need to do on a daily basis? Can you create a routine block in your day that will allow you to do these things quickly in an orderly fashion.
- I always factor in breaks and mental health check-ins. Being flexible and open to taking some time off is really important. Owning your own business is draining so sometimes I just need to accept a bit of downtime and take some time off, even if it's just a few hours in the afternoon spent with tech off, wandering around the shops. Take note of when you are feeling tired, emotional or when you just can't focus and take some time to yourself to re-boot!
- I also find batching similar tasks together really helps with my focus. This could be something like batch writing blog posts for the week or batch editing Instagram images. Grouping these tasks will save you time and will increase your consistency.
MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE
One of my biggest challenges of working from home is staying focused on the task at hand. It is so easy to stop working at start 'tidying up' - believe me I know how tempting it is to procrasticlean, I used to be terrible for this. Having a strict schedule that has been carefully thought-out and planned is a great way to combat this challenge. If you have set business tasks that need to be completed in a certain time frame, you are less likely to be distracted by the other things in your environment that need your attention.
MY SECRET WEAPON
Recently I was having troubles narrowing my focus and this was having a huge impact on my ability to complete tasks. I was feeling really scattered and I would jump from idea to idea, project to project. It was getting exhausting and I was achieving very little. Luckily, I have a boyfriend who also has a business mind, so it was easy for him to identify the big problem with my business that I couldn't exactly see, but could definitely feel: I wasn't accountable to anyone. When you are a solopreneur and you work from home, who are you accountable to? Is it your clients? Well, yes, but only for the scope of their project. You don't have a boss to answer to - that's one of the attractive qualities of working for yourself. There are no big stakeholders. You may consider your blog readers or the people you engage with on social media as stakeholders, but as long as you are delivering content, their interest in your business operations are limited.
I felt alone and not in a "oh-poor-me" way - in more of a "way too much freedom" kind of way. I needed to be answerable to someone and to a bigger set of goals and so the Weekly Brand IT Girl Business Accountability Check-In Meeting was born. In this meeting Gav and I talk through my general business situation, we look at social media stats and consider the strategies that are leading to growth or we come up with new strategies to try. We talk about marketing and advertising, customer enquires and current projects and look at my business expenses. We take minutes of the meeting, including action items (or 'jobs') for me to complete in a given time frame - sometimes it is by the next meeting and sometimes it has a due date several weeks down the track. We check in on last week's action items and we make note of if they were completed and what the next step is - this often becomes a new action item for me to complete in the upcoming week. The last thing we do is talk about HNIs. Hectic New Ideas. This is when we talk about new ideas for products, services and projects Brand IT Girl could look at undertaking in the future. If the HNI receives a positive reaction it becomes an action item.
This process has helped me so very much to stay focused on my goals, with a task-based orientation through the week. I can see a list of action items infront of me and when I need to do them. This makes it much easier to push distractions aside when there are tasks that require attention. Being accountable to someone else for my business is a huge driver for getting these tasks done.
Who to ask? You can recruit your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend to be your business meeting partner or you can ask a business minded relative or friend for weekly or fortnightly meet-ups. You may even find an online business friend in a similar field (Note: I don't recommend a friend in the same industry as you, this can cause tension when talking about new ideas!) that you can partner with for these check-in meetings. Try Skype for these meetings and remember to share the minutes sheets with each other via email afterwards so your partner can keep track of your goals too!
To make it easier for you to start these business check-in meetings, I have created a downloadable eBook just for you! Enter your email below to unlock this eBook right now!