When you work for yourself, staying motivated and on track can be a difficult thing to do. As you are in charge, you have to set the schedule and stick to it. With an endless list of possible distractions at your fingertips (yes Facebook, I’m talking to you) it can be hard to hold focus!
Luckily for you, this is one area I would like to think I’m pretty good at (ok…mostly pretty good at), so I wanted to share my tips with you! Naturally they are not fool proof (we all have bad days after all) and won’t suit everybody, but they work for me.
13 Tips To be Efficient When Working for Yourself
1. Understand your motivation for doing what you do.
This might seem odd to have as number 1, but it’s so important to remain on track. For example – are you working for yourself to spend more time with your kids? If so, then recognise that and use them as motivation to get things done in the most efficient time possible (and to not be a grump about it!).
2. Have a vision board.
Again this may seem strange to have this high up, but having a clear vision and motivation will ensure you can keep going when things get hard (and without being a negative nelly, they will at some point!). Put any quotes you love, positive letters or notes you have received or even key steps to doing what you do. Have it somewhere you can see it when you are working, so it can motivate you. Mine is on the wall right in front of me, so I’m constantly reminded!
3. Set goals. Clear, realistic, achievable goals.
I’m sure you have heard of SMART goals. Make sure the goals are not too vague and have clear expectations and timeframes (Check out my 5 minute goal setting exercise if you want to get into it now!).
Also, focus on your motivation when setting goals – you need to understand why you are actually doing this to be able to set goals that align with your core values and feelings! If you don’t, then it will make it harder to achieve them.
And don’t set yourself too many goals…it will be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to focus on one, core goal.
4. Have someone to be accountable to.
When you work for someone else, generally you are “forced” to set goals and objectives for yourself for the year –then your achievement is measured. When you are self-employed, you know you should do this, but life gets in the way. Having a mentor, buddy or a mastermind group will ensure you not only have someone to go to for advice, you have people who can make sure you are working towards your goals. It also gives you an excuse to catch up for coffee too!
5. Make a to-do list and rank it in order of importance.
This is very important to ensuring you focus only on what is necessary to do, not what you feel you should do.
Set up a ranking system or some sort of methodology for the importance of the tasks. For example, I like to think of things in term of how they will help me achieve my goals – and rank accordingly. So you might rank something as quick wins, high, medium and low.
Note – I now use Trello to sort and rank my tasks – I will post on how to do that soon! Soooo much easier!
Add anything that comes to mind that you want to do in your list and rank it HONESTLY. When ranking, if it isn’t a quick win (which means something you can do super-fast) or in line with your goals in step 3 – it is medium or low. If this is the case, if you never get to it, you never get to it! When I’m reviewing my to-do list these days, if something is low – it comes off the list!!!
This is very hard for me to accept sometimes and has lead me to reduce my to-do list…more on that in future as well.
6. Always plan ahead (where possible).
Look at your coming month and see when you have personal appointments, functions, family time or holidays. Make sure you plan downtime around these events so you can keep up with the day to day. Be realistic about this – for example thinking you will find time to work after a dinner out is almost certainly setting you up for failure, so try to avoid it.
Over scheduling not only puts you behind, it kills your mood and can result in burnout. Eeek!
7. DON’T PROCRASTINATE!
Easier said than done right? I will look further into this in coming posts (in the meantime check out this great post by Maxabella), but the easiest way to avoid procrastination is to understand your motivation at Step 1. That being said, understand sometimes procrastination is necessary if you are a little burnt out.
Sometimes you can’t force certain tasks if you aren’t in the mood!
8. Automate as many tasks as possible (i.e. have a checklist).
Set up little “processes” for tasks you have to do, for example publishing a blog post. List each little step you have to take, that way if you are tired (or even want to outsource) you can easily complete your tasks. This helps with your professionalism, as everything you do will be consistent and you will appear (I said appear) to be on top of everything.
As an example, I have a “Daily checklist” for things on the blog I look at each (well most) days. For example, check and reply to comments, check Facebook etc. if you have a list of tasks (as boring as it sounds) you can work more efficiently as you aren’t trying to think about what you have to do next. Eventually you will run like a well-oiled machine!
9. When working, time your social media usage.
I know, I know, I sound like a boring list making, time watching meanie – but please limit your social media time. It’s so easy to get sucked into a Facebook time warp. Unless I’m just flicking through my newsfeed in my downtime, I will set a 10 to 15 minute timer and “powerbook”. Like and comment on what you can straight away and save everything else til later. When that timer goes off, get back to work!
Later I allocate a time to read (or action) everything I have saved, which I delete from my saved list at that point so I don’t have a backlog.
10. Allocate set times for tasks (and CLOSE THAT BROWSER).
Here I go again with the timing…but if you sit down to work, always begin by planning what it is you need to achieve (use your handy list from number 4 and then your checklist at number 7! ). Look at what is most urgent for the day and focus on completing this only.
Once you get started on this task, close down all your other windows (bye, bye Facebook!) and set a timer for however long you can handle. This will be different for everyone, but I normally do 20 minutes. Solely work on this task until the timer goes off, then reassess where you are at and have a break (but don’t get lost on social media again!).
11. Use technology.
Make yourself aware of tools that can save you time (again more to follow in later posts!) so you are not double handling. Find which ones work for you and set up your own processes for making notes and lists etc. It’s very important you work out how you like to do things, so you will stick to it. As you know, excel might be my love – but it may not be yours!
12. Limit Resources.
Have a few trusted resources you go to for guidance or advice and stick to them. Ask help if you need to – spending hours googling “how to change the stylesheet in WordPress” is not time well spent…and will make you very, very sad. I know, I’ve done it….
Outsourcing can seem like a “dirty word”, but done correctly you can free up your time for more important things. If anyone would like any more information on this one, please let me know!
The first three steps may seem vague however I promise having a clear motivation for your work will help you when things seem all too hard. Setting clear, realistic goals linked to what it is you REALLY want from life, as well as having that vision board in front of you further cement your positive thinking and remind you why you are slogging it out on the keyboard when you could be, well, doing whatever else you enjoy.
As I said, timing things, writing lists and checking them off may seem boring and so scheduled, but it actually allows for spontaneity. If you are organised you can fit in that night off or have a sick kiddo and not be too put out.
Naturally some of this won’t work for everybody, I am very focused towards processes and end goals. If you are more “loose” and can’t stand the thought of timing things or being so structured hopefully you can still take something away from it! And of course not everytime I sit down to work turns out like this – I assure you. I still have off days, which happens. That’s when having lists to check off really helps!
I’d love to hear any of your tips on how to be efficient when working for yourself, so let me have them….go!
Hey, I’m Kristy
Kristy runs a web development consultancy, specialising in WordPress sites. Kristy combines her excellent technical knowledge with her ability to translate this into ways that are understandable to the average person, so her clients feel informed and in control of how their websites are developed and managed. She is also the Co-Founder of B Directory where the team is supercharging small business growth.