It’s hard to be a self-employed person, or even an employed person - there is so much to think about and to do, that sitting down to actually plan your week takes a total backseat to just getting on with what everything you have to do.
So, what if I told you that taking just a little bit of time before your week starts to actually plan your week could massively increase your productivity? You may call me crazy, but it’s true! Whether you do it on a Friday afternoon to take advantage of those ‘thank crunchie it’s Friday’ feelings, or to mitigate the Sunday night blues, 10 mins to half an hour is all you really need to give your productivity the spur it needs on a Monday morning.
So, that’s the when and why covered, now for the hard part - the how…
What hours do you have available to you?
Time is infinite, but our time, in particular our working time, is finite. So, whether you have a strict 8-4 or 9-5 job, or, like me, you work late into the night to accommodate babies, children, and childcare, it’s crucial to capture the time that you have available to you each week.
Use a simple template to highlight when you can work, taking eating, shopping, child/pet/other care, exercise, sleeping times into consideration (you could even highlight time for them if you’re really keen). Be really honest, and include any time spent on your business, whether that’s working on it, in it, or for it. Think about each day individually, and what pockets or chunks of time you have each day. Then total up the hours for each day.
What have you got to do?
If you’ve not already, grab a blank piece of paper and empty all of your ‘to do’ tasks out of your head. Get everything out! Then you need to analyse it and think about what’s a priority, what’s important, what’s urgent, and what pressing deadlines you have. Pull all of these out and ignore the rest for now, and give each of these tasks a time allowance. How to prioritise your workload.
If you’ve got activities that you need to do regularly, such as every day or week, then slot these in first. Think about social media posting, engagement, looking through your inbox, admin, customer orders packing/posting, and invoicing. Typically admin takes a half day a week - do you want to dedicate a half day to it, or give it an hour’s blitz every morning?
Eat your frog/s at the beginning of the week and get them out of the way - in other words, tackle those jobs that you want to do least. If you leave them until later in the week, you’ll procrastinate and be less productive. Get them out of the way, and you’ll fly through everything else.
Stop. Wasting. Time. On. Social. Media. Schedule it into your day and stop wasting hours of your life scrolling through post after post on your newsfeed. If you want to do this, do it at a time that’s not going to impact upon your precious working time. 8 tips for helping to eliminate social media procrastination can help with this.
Have a power hour (or two), where you turn off all background interference and just blitz your way through your tasks. It could be a load of small jobs, or it could be a particularly meaty issue that you can’t get to grips with. Giving yourself this dedicated time is such a motivator.
Here’s where it gets hard…
It may not be something that comes naturally to you - but think about delegating some of what you have to do - you really don’t have to do it all yourself. For some ideas see my blog on Productivity and the art of delegation
Also, practice saying no every once in a while - we don’t always have to say yes.
If you need extra hours on a regular basis, or just as a one-off, or you need to have a total rethink about when you work - then make a change. A great many parents work in the mornings before their children get up and/or in the evenings and late into the night once they’ve gone to sleep. The beauty of not having a strict start and end time is that you can be flexible around your needs and the other demands on your time.
Another hard bit …
Every day you’re going to be interrupted by someone or something - if you accept it it becomes easier to deal with. Keep a pad of paper, an open electronic notepad, or a blank email open during the day and every time you have an amazing idea, or are called about something, or remember you need to do something, note it down, and then here’s the key part - unless it’s urgent - forget about it! You can come back to it at a later (scheduled) date. 9 tips for coping with minor interruptions and distractions
You’ve now identified your available hours, analysed your activities, scheduled the repeat offenders into your plan, thought about your frogs, practised saying no, delegated a few tasks, thought about alternative times of working, and have your notepad open ready for any distraction and interruptions…phew. How long did it all take? How much time will you save now that you’re ready for the next week and raring to go? Try it, and you might be surprised at just how much more positive you feel, and productive you are.