I recently read this book where the protagonist had a whole C…maybe D plot where she was creating a task management app. And being the astute online business owner that I am, I was as invested in that storyline as the main storyline of the romance between her and the handsome business mogul.
Sure I wanted to see them end up together, BUUUUT I also wanted to know what this app was going to look like. What features would it have? What research was she using to build it out?
The reality for many of us as solopreneurs and online business owners is we’re often working on finding the best way to manage our time and to-do lists. In the end, different methods are going to work for some and not for others, but here are a few I’ve found helpful and a few I’ve heard from other business owners.
Sort Tasks By Reminder Needs
Instead of trying to find one place for everything I group by the need of reminders and where I will see it throughout the day. In practice, this looks like:
Meetings and high-level reminders are in Google Calendar. This way I can make sure time is blocked from being booked and I can see an overview of my day and where I have room for other items.
Ongoing and future tasks big and small are in Asana with due dates. This keeps the business and my life running as a whole and makes sure things that pop into my head have a place to live where I will actually come back to them.
When it comes to sorting my specific tasks for the current day, I've found I have to write it out old school style on a piece of paper (even taking tasks from Asana). This does two things. One, it gives me a visual that's right in front of me all day versus a tab that can be hidden or closed so I can see the list I have to get through. Each time I end one of my time blocks and have the temptation to just keep going with what I'm doing, I look at the list and remember all of the other items I want to get through.
Work based on your motivation
At some point, I realized I was forcing myself to slog through things that had, at one time, not been that hard for me. There are going to be days we don’t want to do things or maybe seasons, but in general, getting in tune with what you’re excited for or at least have the energy for makes a big difference. One method is by time of day. I know that I am not in a great strategy mind frame until around 10 AM and then normally slumping by 3 PM. Does this mean my whole day is 5 hours... maybe someday ;)
Instead, I use the morning to focus on a slow start (part of the reason I started my own business to begin with) that involves ice rollers, stretching, coffee, sorting through my emails, outlining my day, and maybe a bit of Wordle. Then when I get to the afternoon slump, I shut down my computer to go for a walk, come back and make dinner, and often find I have a second burst of energy to work for a few more hours.
Now I recognize there is a whole lot of privilege in what I just wrote above. As someone not currently in a caretaking capacity I only have myself to worry about and can re-structure my day as I want. So if this isn’t feasible for you, no shame. Incorporate what feels right and leave the rest to the birds.
Another method is by what type of work motivates you. I used to say the first part of the day was for client work, then social, then yadda yadda yadda. But what I found is that meant certain items were never getting done, but that I also didn't have the energy or excitement to be doing the items I was working on. Now when I write out my list in the morning I prioritize by urgency, but then enjoyment and energy I have. Am I feeling super excited to film some content and nothing is urgent with my client projects? Then I probably readjust and dedicate the morning to filming.
Is there anything more motivating than knowing other people are watching, lol
Business besties are where it’s at. Shoot them an email and let them know you have something you want to complete today/this week and would love their accountability. Or sometimes I'll post on social that I'm working on something. While I don't expect anyone to check in and ask if I finish, just knowing I told them I was doing it sometimes is motivating enough, because I don't want to be a liar 😂
Another great option is co-working sessions! This is a short, dedicated time to getting one specific thing done. You all show up, share what you’re going to complete, and then get to work. Knowing you have a time limit and have to tell people if you did it, definitely lights a fire. If you’re looking to join one, I’m a member of Forge, and amongst a million other great resources, it also has a regular co-working session.
Location, Location, Location
The same way getting into pajamas and under the covers can signal bedtime, different locations can signal different types of work. Besides the obvious of your regular desk, are there other places that would be motivating? And while we're on the subject of pajamas it can be tempting to stay in them all day, but getting dressed for the day even to work from home does (unfortunately) make a difference.
The act of simply working somewhere different once a week or every other week helps to really boost creativity for me. And I know if I have emails or blogs to write (like this one) then I need to go find a coffee shop. For some reason, I can write double or triple the amount that I could at my desk. Maybe it's the romanticized notion of sitting in a Seattle coffee shop while it rains outside.
It can also help to have certain days dedicated to specific types of work so you don’t have to shift your mind as much. For instance, I primarily take calls Tuesday - Thursday. This is so Monday is completely free to really organize and check in on all projects as well as address anything urgent that may have come up over the weekend. Another habit I loved and need to get back to is making Fridays CEO days. This meant really focusing on my own business and not simply the urgent things, but what needed to be done to grow it.
Ok, that was a lot! As I said, not everything here needs to be implemented. Find what works best for you and see if you can make work even better for yourself.