We have been undergoing some pretty big changes around here and for me personally I have struggled with focus and productivity. Our workload is shifting and we want to keep building momentum for the coming year. All of the crazy things that have been going on around here have got me thinking about what keeps us going and how we stay productive even when we get overwhelmed by what is coming our way.
Have solid processes in place.
As silly as it sounds, having processes is a fairly new concept to me. I guess I thought that processes were what big, stuffy, corporate companies did and my small, creative business didn’t need to have them. I was WRONG!
I can very easily get overwhelmed because I wear so many hats. I often feel like I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Creating solid processes has enabled me to prioritize, delegate what I can, and make all the little things more manageable. I have also found that by having processes, my employees are able to see where a project is, know what’s coming and anticipate what needs to be done because we are consistent in how we move projects through from start to finish.
A simple example of this is how we handle our online orders. In the past year we have created “job sheets” that are a simplified checklist for each project from dates, quantities, materials, phases, etc. We have had to make revisions to them along the way but I think that also shows that we are learning about what we can do better. I am also finding that with new hires and not having the experienced staff I used to, these consistent processes are making training go smoother because we are consistent and have it all clearly outlined.
Manage To Do Lists
I’m a list maker. I have always been and it will never change. Every day I create a list of the days tasks and too many times my list is so long I know before the day is started that I will never get it done. That is a terrible feeling knowing I am going to fail for the day before I have even gotten started.
About 6 months ago, I made a small change to how I planned my day. It has been a huge life changer. I simply started breaking down my list into categories based on how long I thought they would take and then limited my day to two big projects. One of my categories is for tasks that will take 20 minutes or less.
These shorter tasks may include things like sorting through emails that have come in, sending off art approval forms to clients whose projects are ready to go into production. It may be responding to order inquiries online, answering questions, doing a final edit on a blog post, etc. I usually give myself 1 – 2 hours for these tasks right at the start of my day. I do this because in just an hour or two, I can often check off six or more tasks and that is an amazing feeling.
By Mid morning I am ready to tackle one of my more time consuming projects. This is often doing custom design work, working on a launch, meeting with a client, etc. I then have the bulk of my afternoon for another large project or more of the same with a little time at the end of the day for blog planning / writing / scheduling.
Managing my To Do Lists has made me feel not only more productive but less stressed!
Have Tools at your Disposal that Help not Hinder
We have tried lots of tools to help make our live easier and more productive. I personally am always on the lookout for something that might be better for us than what we are already using. A few months ago I wrote about online tools we use and since then we have moved on from one or two of them because we found they weren’t helping the way we thought they were. It’s a process but it’s important to be able to make the decision to move on from something that isn’t helping so you aren’t spinning your wheels and wasting time on things that aren’t benefiting.
Some of my favorite tools are still Evernote, Google Docs and a new one I am loving is Trello. I am also currently exploring CoSchedule as a possible addition to my “toolbox”.
Know what your goals are
It can be hard when you are a solopreneur to think that you have to do everything…everything you see other people doing, everything you think you need to be doing, etc. The truth is we are all different and we have to make our decisions based on what our goals are and only do the things that are going to get us to those goals.
I always have the crazy boss-lady ideas. Its easy to overwhelmed at times with all the ideas I think I’d like to try. I think that is just part of being a business owner…our minds go all the time but it’s knowing what we should be doing and not waste our time on things that move us closer to our goals.
As a convert to Trello, I have a place to note all of my wild and crazy ideas so I don’t forget them and then I can go back to them when I have the time and think more clearly about what is good and not good or maybe just not good at the current time. This keeps me for wasting time and energy on things that wont really help me or propel the company forward.
Nothing will destroy productivity like doubting yourself or feeling negative thoughts toward yourself. I know because I’m guilty of beating myself up for being less than perfect all the time. Some days are going to go great but others just aren’t. That’s life. The key is to take those bad days and either learn from them or just let them go. Letting negativity seep in, can effect you in so many ways so the key is to find a way to deal with it.
I’ve already talked about the emotional roller coaster I have been on from wanting to just quit to blaming myself somehow for not being good enough. I have had to simply change my thoughts about it all and let it go and since I have done that, I feel so much better about everything. I have also been killing it here in the shop, getting so many things done. I still don’t have everything done that I want to but I have been so productive and that has just helped build up the positive thoughts even more. It’s the positive snow ball effect!
Whatever it is with your life and the ways you need to be productive, the key is to keep working at it. Try things, if they don’t work move on to something else. Keep building yourself up and know what your goals are so you know what you are working toward. It wont always be fun or good but you’ll get there.
These are just some of my keys to staying productive. If you have keys to your own productivity I’d love for you to share!