When you operate a small business, freelance, or work as an independent professional, you know how important it is to show up for work and stay on task. While employees of standard businesses know they have stable paycheques, you don’t have this luxury as a self-employed individual. This means you have to be a self-starter with effective time management skills to succeed. Luckily, you have numerous options for focusing your attention on essential tasks when you want to boost your productivity levels.
Staying on Task With Lists and Prioritization
It might seem simple, but an old-fashioned handwritten to-do list can keep you on task throughout your workday. If you’re a stickler for presentation, you might buy a pre-printed to-do list pad to jot down your daily tasks. You can also use a to-do list app to sync your completed tasks with your smartphone, electronic calendar, and email. Regardless of how you make your to-do list, you need to organize it in a way that prioritizes important tasks over the least important ones. For example, if you need to prepare a hard-copy report for a client, you might find that sourcing and writing up the content — the more difficult parts — should take priority over going to the local office supply store to find the perfect binder for its presentation.
Setting Deadlines to Help You Stay on Task
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you feel like you have all the time in the world to complete your tasks. Instead, consider putting your time management skills into action by setting arbitrary deadlines, even if the actual deadlines for projects are far away. Setting deadlines for yourself and finishing tasks early relieves stress. The sense of accomplishment you get from getting things done ahead of schedule provides a self-esteem boost. For example, if you freelance as a writer, you might consider setting a deadline to complete article research and another deadline for writing and editing the article. You can usually get more accomplished when you stay on task and finish your work ahead of schedule.
Focusing on Singular Tasks to Boost Productivity
Some employers sell the merits of multitasking in their job ads. Realistically you typically want to forget multitasking, because focusing on doing one thing well helps you stay on task. Imagine that you need to complete a report for a client. You might focus entirely on the task and avoid sending invoices and answering emails during this time. For a more productive alternative, you could set all work aside and give the more important task all your time and attention.
Scheduling Communications to Avoid Interruptions
Social media alerts, email, text messages, and phone calls can distract and prevent you from staying on task. With this in mind, consider putting your smart device on silent, turning off the screen, and closing your email application until you finish your work. You can also schedule times in the day when you check and respond to work-related communications. Perhaps you might initiate and respond to communications when you arrive at work, before you go to lunch, and sometime in the afternoon. Most businesspeople don’t expect immediate replies because they understand you have limited time.
Learning How to Manage Interruptions
If you can minimize interruptions or avoid them completely, you can give yourself more time to get on task and stay there. While working on an important project, especially one with deadlines, distractions are the last thing you need. If possible, you can manage task interruptions by working in an isolated space. Those who work from home enjoy freedom from distraction by co-workers, but if you work in an office with others, consider closing your door and asking that they only knock if something urgent arises.
Likewise, technology can help or hinder your productivity in sometimes equal measure. To avoid this, consider using airplane mode on your smartphone to prevent phone calls while you work. You might also completely shut down your email and add an appropriate automated response that lets customers or clients know when to expect an answer. It also helps to close any potentially distracting browser tabs and use time management apps, such as Freedom, to block distracting websites on a schedule you set.
As a small business owner, you only have so many hours in your work day, and it’s vital to use them wisely. Staying on task helps you beat the clock and remain ahead of schedule. QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app.