I’ve been self employed for a number of years. Although I’m getting better at it, staying organized and productive every working day can be a challenge. New distractions are always coming up, and life outside the office can intervene. To put it simply, without discipline and a clear plan of action I can be a great boss but a crappy employee.
Being the New Year, I thought it might be good to take a look at my work habits and see where I can improve. These are my resolutions but I think they can apply to many self-employed people. It doesn’t matter if your business if a full-time affair, or a few hours a week to supplement your day job. I work mostly on my website Collectivator, but I also do administrative, book-keeping and creative contract work for income. These tips are about finding the right balance when you wear many hats. I hope you find them useful
My 10 Resolutions to Be More Productive, More Organized and Even More Awesome in 2012:
10. Make My Work Space Work Better. The space you work in is very important. I’ve learned that mess on the desk equals mess in my work. Everything from the comfort of my desk chair, ambient light levels, visual clutter and colour of the walls can elevate or depress my mood. It can make me sit down and think “I can do this!” or it can just make me want to start another game of Bejewelled Blitz. This February we’re moving into a new office space, and I resolve to make this space as inviting and organized as I can. Once it’s set up I will dedicate a few minutes after every work session to putting papers away and leaving it clean and inviting for the next use. As Martha Stewart so eloquently said “Don’t agonize, organize!”.
9. Get Regular Exercise. So after I make my workspace clean and organized I’m going to run away from it. I’ve found a small gym nearby and I want to take Yoga and Pilates classes (it hurts my squishy stomach just to type those words) and walk at least 30 minutes a day most days. Sometimes I need to get some fresh air, especially when I’m feeling tense or stressed. If I’m going to sit and not do work, isn’t it better to walk away? As my own boss I can and will allow myself to get moving when I need a break.
8. Limit Email and Facebook Checking. I’ve actually already started doing this and it has made a HUGE difference! Facebook is obviously pretty counter productive from a work standpoint, but I am surprised by how effective it is not to check emails. I can’t imagine how people who have constant messages coming in on their smart phones get any work done! I check my email about 3 times a day and when I’m not actively reading and writing emails the program is closed. It also helps to have a set period of time – say 30 minutes – to answer all the emails at once. I think it has made me more productive both with emails and with other tasks!
7. Blog with Regularity!* I am a fan of fiction writer Harlan Ellison. One thing, among the many things, that Mr. Ellison rants about are all those people who “want to write” but never actually do. The simple fact is that if you want to be a writer you have to write, and if you want to be a better writer you have to practice. I want to write because it helps organize my thoughts, allows me to express myself creatively, and learn through the research on my subject. I therefore resolve to up this whole blogging enterprise to twice a week.
*Exclamation point for added optimism!
6. Harness the Power of Social Network Marketing. I’ve noticed that roughly every third person who contacts me is a “Social Marketing Expert”. No matter what your business it can be confusing to know how much to tweet, pin, like, post, zipideedo and zort on the internet. This year I’m going to educate myself and explore how every new social networking website might help my business. I am also going to improve my company Twitter feed and Facebook Page. I’ll share some of my experiences, success and failures on social marketing in this blog – two resolution birds with one stone!
5. Stop Trying to Do Everything. When you have a small business you often have to do everything at first. You are the accounting, customer service, and advertising departments, as well as the CEO. I’m lucky because with Collectivator I’ve always had partners, but I’ve also wanted to keep control of all the day to day operations. With a little realistic assessment of my abilities I see it is imperative that I learn to delegate to others. I need to better rely on the partners I have and seek out experts in areas where I know little or are unwilling to learn. I resolve to improve my strongest skills, while at the same time allow others to help the company in their areas of expertise.
4. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals. For monthly reminders my computer’s calendar program is great. For my changing “to do” lists, however, I know that I am a Luddite who needs to put pen to paper. I have a new weekly paper calendar with a cat motif that is embarrassing to look at but surprisingly effective for my work habits if I keep it up. Among the cat related quotes I basically write my to do lists, appointments, and all the stuff I want to accomplish each day to meet my goals. You might be cool enough to use your iPad, but I enjoy my work mixed with photographs of kittens emerging from various containers.
3. Set a Big Goal and Work Backwards. When you have big dreams sometimes it can be the sheer enormity of the goal that derails your confidence and productivity. I’ve read that good advice is to work backwards and finish small tasks that eventually lead to your larger goal. You don’t have to know every step towards your goal – just the next one on the path. I resolve to take each small step while keeping the big goal firmly in mind. I will tackle my dream goals as small steps with deadlines and in that way stay motivated.
2. Follow my Passions and Be True to Myself. Dear Lord that sounded very “special workshop at the Yoga retreat” didn’t it? Sorry. I mean to say that I started Collectivator, this blog, and my own growing collection of antiques because I have a true and honest interest in them. I like that I know about this stuff and I want to learn more and promote antiques in general. I’m going to refocus my energy on that, and keep it positive. There’s a good reason why I’m self-employed and that’s because I like it.
1. Prioritize Prioritize Prioritize. There are so many things I do for work and I like being creative. I like to be inspired by others and that requires lots of clicking around on the internet, reading, and general wayward thinking. I resolve to allow myself this freedom but to also prioritize my work hours for income activities first. Every business has a bottom line and it is imperative that I remember to prioritize my time. If I can make this resolution a hard and fast rule, I know every element of my business will improve, and I will feel great about my work day.
So there are my resolutions to improve organization and productivity. I know I’ll have off days and I won’t do everything right. If I have to I’ll just walk away from the desk, make some tea, and try again after a break. There’s always room for improvement and I am always interested in what works for other self employed people, so please share any tips or comments!