If you fail to plan, then plan to fail. This was my motto when I was back in high school and somehow I abandoned it when I started my online business. Much like the typical newbie I got into the habit of jumping from one thing to the next, chasing the next shiny button that promised an easier way to riches with little or no work.
Eventually it dawned on me that I wasn’t really getting much of anything done and that just like in high school I would have to put in some work and have some structure to achieve my goals. The fact that I work from home didn’t make this task very easy as I was always within close proximity to my television, kitchen and bedroom and these were just the offline distractions. Of course online there was always social media, forums and the dozens of sales messages that were in my inbox.
After trying a few different things it became evident that what worked for me was to actually simulate the 9 to 5 I was trying so desperately to get away from. The first step was setting working hours. I quickly found that if I allowed myself I would actually ‘work’ all day.
The thing is I actually enjoy marketing and interacting with people, so I would rush to my computer at every opportunity. The thing is if I didn’t set time limits for my tasks I would take forever to do them and something that should take 30 minutes to do would end up taking the entire day and in some cases I still wouldn’t get it done at all. This was bad not only for productivity but would get me in trouble with my wife and 2 year old son when I tried to share family time with work time. They just weren’t having it.
The next thing I had to admit to myself was that I wasn’t good at multitasking, I thought I was but all the evidence suggested otherwise. It’s said that men can’t multi-task, and though I can’t speak for all men I found this was the case with me and that tackling one task at a time was the best way to go. For example I wouldn’t open 5 different windows while I was online, but instead only focus on whatever was most important at the time.
Finally I implemented a system of prioritizing and accountability as follows:
At the end of each day I would make a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish the following day, usually between 5-10 tasks. Then the next day I would go to the list before I did anything else like checking emails. If at the end of the day some tasks were incomplete, they would simply be put at the top of the list for the next day.
This meant that I could quickly see what I had accomplished each day (which was a big motivator) and also be able to plan for future days.
The key of course is to actually choose tasks that can be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. So instead of saying create a website as one task, it would be broken into smaller tasks like sourcing the graphics/header for the page, writing the content and finally uploading everything to my hosting account. This meant that the tasks were achievable and I could focus on one thing at a time.
These simple changes dramatically increased my productivity and I hope that they can help you too.