Multi-tasking is the bane of the solopreneur's existence. You have to wear all the hats: operations, client management, creative department and social media/PR/marketing strategy. Add in spouse and parent, and you reach almost spontaneous combustion constantly. To use a favorite expression - YOU CAN'T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES!
Tell me if this is what happens to you:
- You sit down to work for the day. If you're trying to get ahead, you wrote out your to-do list the night before.
- You start with menial tasks first, while the caffeine works its magic.
- While you're working on your 2nd (or in my case 4th) cup of coffee, your brain starts to wake up and want to do productive things.
- At this point, you are half way through your email and quite possibly down the rabbit hole of social media.
- You flit back and forth between interesting articles, half-read blogs, notes-to-self, and responding to clients.
- You have 21 internet browser tabs open.
- You take a short break because you don't feel like you're getting much done and you're starting to get overwhelmed.
- You decide to work on a project that doesn't require the internet, like creating blog graphics or mapping out an ebook.
- Your phone or other notifications start pinging you - email, Facebook, texts, etc.
- It's now 4 or 5 PM. You need to think about the evening family to-do's, you didn't get to the gym or even go on a walk, and everything is half done.
Dude, I have been there. Some days I am still there.
As I get deeper and deeper into being my own boss, I am continually working on ways to be more productive and just not feel so scattered every day.
There are endless articles that assert how bad multitasking actually is for success and productivity.
As I work my way out of half-done and into accomplished, here are the best tips and tricks I use to stay on task.
1) DON'T CHECK EMAIL FIRST THING.
Admittedly, I check my phone pretty much as soon as I get out of bed. But I only check to make sure there is nothing that requires my immediate attention. Then I put it down. To further the email restraint, do your best to only check and respond to email twice per day (say 9 AM and 3 PM). In a world of instant everything, often clients expect an immediate response. Chances are they can wait a couple of hours.
2) GIVE YOUR BRAIN A CHANCE TO WAKE AND JOIN YOU.
I don't even think about really working until I'm two cups of coffee in. If I do, I can only handle the menial BS and it sets the tone for my day. If you don't have the love affair with eye-popping black coffee like I do, then do whatever floats your boat. Meditate, yoga, tea, whatever. Just give your brain a chance.
3) HAVE A LIST OF TO-DOS THAT WAS WRITTEN DOWN THE NIGHT BEFORE.
I keep my to-do list to 5-6 tasks per day. If I have a huge rolling list that constantly looks unfinished then it psyches me out. I also make sure I have small tasks as well as bigger tasks so I know I can get things checked off that list. I tend to be more creative and brain-stormy in the evening, so writing out my list at the end of my day for the next day just works better for me.
4) SCHEDULE RECURRING TASKS INTO BATCH DAYS.
Having one main focus for the day helps to push through that task from start to finish. For example, I spend a chunk of time on Mondays and Thursdays scheduling out my social media posts for the next few days. I might spend the entire day on Tuesday taking photos that I'll use on my blog or social media accounts. Then Wednesday is content day - blogs, newsletter, ebook, etc.
5) SCHEDULE EDUCATION TIME.
I get a lot out of business books and how-to articles. I know if I take the time to read them undistracted, I will get ideas and motivation for myself or clients. I usually end up using one night a week after the kiddo goes to bed to read for business. The information sinks in much better than all those half-read articles in browser windows that I never quite finished.
6) STOP (or STAAAHHHP).
Seriously. Have a time to put it all down. Even if you know it will be 9 PM, give yourself the space to complete your day and take care of yourself and commit to an end to your day.
7) REASSESS YOUR CALENDAR CONSISTENTLY.
When I time block my calendar, it gets stale and I forget what I'm supposed to be doing when. The reminders are dismissed just like every other popup and are ignored. While I love structure, I also get bored easily. About once every 4-6 weeks I reassess my time blocking and batch days to see what needs to be tweaked.
These tips are mostly centered around the taskings of running your own business. Every day there is client work and daily to-dos that have to happen no matter what. Because client work obviously gets first priority, the self-care of your business too often can take a backseat if you're a multitasking addict.
Tell me in the comments if you do these, or if there are other secrets you use to focus and not multitask.
As a social media strategist, I manage not only all my accounts but those of my clients' as well. If you need some coaching on how to better manage your social media so you can focus more on your business, please give me a shout!