Struggle of the Juggle: how to stay on task while working on your own
As a small-business owner (coincidentally, I’m also a small business-owner; what a difference a hyphen placement can make!), I know how hard it is to do it all alone. I am the sole employee of this operation, which means I’m in charge of getting new business, following up with prospects, coordinating with printers and other vendors, sending invoices, following up on unpaid invoices…the list goes on. Oh, not to mention, actually doing the work that is my business! Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep it all straight, and get it all done.
Below is a list of tips for my fellow solopreneurs. If you have any to add, please comment on this post.
- Make to-do lists. This is my absolute favorite thing to do (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). I love the rush of having a long list of tasks, and then individually crossing off each item as the day goes on. Your list doesn’t have to be old-school like mine, on a real piece of paper. Make use of the tasks function in Microsoft Outlook or other online and electronic tools. It’s almost as much fun to check them off with a click of the mouse.
- Automate your processes. If there is a task that you do regularly, help yourself by simplifying the process. When I get a new project, there are a number of questions I need answered before I can get started. Instead of having a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants conversation with every new client, and having to call them back because I forgot to ask if they have a color scheme in mind for their new logo, I have developed questionnaires for the most common types of projects that I work on. Need a website? Let’s fill out the new website questionnaire. Need an email newsletter? Let’s complete the email newsletter questionnaire. Get it? Reinventing the wheel every time = bad. Figuring out the most efficient way to do something, and doing it once = good.
- Schedule your time. If you know you have deadlines, put them on your calendar. Figure out when you can fit these projects into your busy schedule, and mark that time. When someone calls you to grab lunch for a time when you are supposed to be working to meet a deadline, the blocked out time on your calendar will keep you from being tempted to blow it off and save it for later. Because guess what? Later, you have something else you need to accomplish (just check out your newly filled calendar and all the reminders that keep popping up)! It can also be helpful to schedule tasks that are not time-sensitive, such as networking, reading industry blogs, and taking breaks (yes, you must schedule your breaks or you will forevermore work through them).
I’d write more, but I’m itching to cross through “blog post” from today’s to-do list, and I have a phone call in five minutes for which my calendar just alerted me with its no-nonsense reminder ding. Until next time, stay organized and productive!