Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Business Chat - Make it a productive Labour day

Here it is, Labour Day weekend, a gorgeous sunny weekend and I’m sitting in my studio facing a mountain of work. It is labour day, and labour will be done. It just doesn’t have to be done for the whole weekend. 

My trick to not working the whole weekend is to make sure that I am focused and productive. For those with full-time jobs this should be a weekend off, to hang out and relax. But here’s a thought, what if you snuck in a bit of work on your business? Could that get your business moving forward and get some of those tasks off your list?

For everyone who is struggling to stay on top of your tasks, or who wants to accomplish a bit more, or who has a mountain of work facing them, here’s some tips to make your time more productive.

Get up earlier than you need to 

I admit it, I’m not much of a morning person. I despise the sound of an alarm clock, it’s one of the reasons that I am self-employed. That said, I am using an alarm clock these days to get up 30 minutes before I would usually get up. It’s amazing how much you can get done in 30 minutes. I use this 30 minutes to take care of tasks that don’t require all my brain cells and by the time I am fully conscious I look around and realize, hey! stuff got done.

If you are not a morning person, even setting your alarm for 15 minutes earlier than normal gives you a small window of time to think about what your day holds and how you might tackle it. 

Limit distractions,

“Oh, what was that thing I was thinking about? I’ll just quickly look it up online”. Famous last words. Looking up something online usually leads to “I’ll just quickly check my email/Facebook/Twitter” and boom, you emerge from your internet coma and an hour has gone by. Or there’s the, "let me just pop in a load of laundry and I'll be right back to this" distraction. Or the "where's my shoes?" screamed at you from the depths of your house. Or a thousand other things that will distract us from getting anything done. It is better to be super-productive and focused for 30 minutes than to spend 3 hours of flitting in and out of the job.

Shut the door. Put a "Do NOT Disturb" sign out if necessary. 
Turn off the internet. I unplug my modem, harsh but required. 
Work on ONE task at a time and do not move to another task until the first is complete.

Make a SHORT list. 

Are you a list person like me? I love opening a notebook (ooh, I get to buy more notebooks!), or a fresh screen and making lists. I feel so much better when I have a list, it gets the clutter out of my head and into something I can organize. Recently I have started making a different kind of list. I call it the Today 5 list. The biggest problem with most of my to do lists is the length of them. Just looking at my 12 page (seriously) list of tasks causes overwhelm and the inability to start anything. 

Best solution is to begin every day with a short list of 5 tasks that must be done. These are the next tasks to get my various projects to the next step and tasks that can reasonably get done in the amount of time I have that day. The trick is to decide how much time I have and what I can manage to do. Even better is to write up the tasks the day before so that when I walk into the studio I don’t have to think, I just sit down and do. 5 things is not such a big deal.

Use a timer 
Look at your task and think how long it should take. Set the timer. Do it. When the timer goes off, stop. Done. A timer will stop you from getting lost in other things and will make sure you don’t lose your whole day.

Be organized 
It’s hard to be focused and productive if you can’t find anything. How do you fill out that craft show application if it is lost in a heap of papers on the floor? Being physically organized means you spend less time searching for bits and pieces and more time getting stuff done.
How you keep your to do lists or decide which tasks you should be working on is up to you, there are thousands of different systems. What is important is that you find one system that works for you. Knowing what needs to be done and when means that you can set your timer and do it.

It’s not about putting in the most hours, it’s about making the hours you put in count. Go ahead, labour for a really solid, productive hour this weekend and see how much you get done.

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