One of the most common things people say to me, when they find out I’m self-employed is “How do you motivate yourself, increase your productivity and get stuff done?” A common assumption is that being self-employed, especially if you work from home, means you can lie in, watch the Jeremy Kyle show, do a bit of work, then take the afternoon off to do some shopping.
However, most freelancers and business owners know only too well that this isn’t true. For a start, running your own business means you’ll probably put in even more hours than those who are employed. Our income is directly linked to how much work we do – no work means no pay so productivity is key.
That said, there are days that just end up being terribly unproductive, whether it’s down to external distractions or feeling intimidated by a big project. However, there are ways to rev up your productivity and get the results you want. These are some of the tools and techniques I use.
1. Eat That Frog
When I’m faced with a scary To Do list and I don’t know where to start, I employ the Eat That Frog theory. Created by Brian Tracy, the theory is fairly basic – if you had to eat a big frog at some point during the day, wouldn’t it be better to do it first thing so you don’t have to dread it all day? This is where productivity will kick in.
Therefore, if you have a large piece of work to do that you’d rather put off – get it done first. Once you’ve ‘eaten your frog’, the rest of the day will seem like a breeze in comparison!
2. Focus for short, intensive bursts
The Pomodoro technique is a hugely popular concept, and a very simple one at that. All you need to do is set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on the task in front of you. It’s surprising how quickly that time goes – and how much you’ll get done in just 25 minutes. You can get a Pomodoro technique app too.
3. Block out distractions
Some days, I struggle to tear myself away from Facebook, Twitter or Google+ so I use StayFocused. This is a Chrome extension that blocks my favourite time-wasting sites after a certain amount of time. It’s a great way to keep me on the ball and stops me wasting time. The only downside is that it doesn’t stop me checking Twitter on my phone, which is clearly bad for productivity!
4. Make a plan and stay on track
Recently, I’ve been using a new app called DailyRoutine. It lets me create, as the name would suggest, daily routines split into lots of sections. It will then alert me when each new section begins. So, for example, I could book in a gym appointment at 8am, reports at 9.30am, blogging at 10-11 and an 11am tea break. Time often runs away from me so this helps me stay on track.
5. Use ‘dead’ time
When you’re out and about, waiting for a train or standing in a queue, you could be ticking off your to-do list. With QuickBooks Online and the QuickBooks Online mobile app, for example, you could send out invoices, chase up late payments and update customer details – all in time that would otherwise be wasted.
6. Designate admin times
For many people, admin is something to be put off for as long as possible and potentially ignored altogether. Sadly, this can be storing up trouble. The best way to tackle it is to find a time each week and make that your admin segment. I choose Friday afternoon – that way, if I finish it all early, I start the weekend earlier and don’t have anything to worry about on Monday.
How do you increase your productivity? Please share your tips!