How to Turn Chaos into Systems and Explode Your Productivity Levels | Productivity
Leaving the 9-5 world and starting my own business was a revolutionary change. All of the sudden, I was making my own rules, setting my own standards, and operating exactly how I wanted.
Beyond all the new-found possibilities and wonders, though, also came a big responsibility — one I’d never really dealt with as an employee…
But not productivity in the general sense; I’d never struggled with being productive (not even as a remote worker).
What I find challenging as a business owner is that running a business means wearing about a dozen different hats at once. Because of that, not only do you have to be productive in your day-to-day operations, but you need to find ways to make your business more productive as a whole because without seamless operations in place, entrepreneurship-burnout is a real possibility.
Most people running online businesses today are spread dangerously thin. They’re writing blog posts, filming videos for marketing, posting ads, creating courses, staying active on social media…and that’s often all outside of the core business aspects.
To keep from crashing and burning in the online business world, level-up your productivity game by automating your work and using the following techniques.
1. Use a Project Management Tool
There are so many project management tools online these days, you’ll have no trouble finding one you like; just make sure you choose one, and then stick to it.
As someone running a business, you undoubtedly have a lot of projects on your plate. But if each of your tasks simply lives in your brain or on some random checklist in a notebook somewhere, you’re doomed to lose your way.
Using a good project management tool won’t come naturally, but once you learn its ins and outs, you should make it a habit. Personally, I use Asana, which lets me create separate projects that correlate with my business. I can then break down those projects into tasks and subtasks with due dates, employee conversations, and file management.
Asana is like Trello, Slack, and Google Calendar all rolled up into one powerful tool, and it’s what I attribute a large majority of my business growth to. It’s allowed me to clear my mind to focus on the immediate tasks at hand, without ever forgetting the hundred other to-dos on my list.
Of course, Asana isn’t the only project management tool out there. And really, it doesn’t matter which one you use — as long as it lets you schedule your tasks ahead of time, track progress, and automate your calendar reminders. A good project management tool is the perfect definition of “set it and forget it” (until it reminds you).
2. Identify Your Priorities
When your to-do list is filled with things like client calls, email marketing, blogging, sales page writing, and the other million things you have going on, it can be hard to decide which task to do first.
How do you stay efficient when your brain is trying to tackle everything at once? An even better question might be, how do you stay on top of your work when the overload is causing some seriously high stress levels?
The simplest way to avoid burnout and overwhelm starts with the process of comparing your tasks’ urgency vs. importance levels, which will then help you automate their completion.
Here’s what to do:
- Get a stack of post-it notes and write each of your tasks on a separate note.
- On a large sheet of paper, draw lines to create 3 different columns. Label the columns:
- Important, but not urgent (these tasks need to be done well, but not right away)
- Urgent, but not important (these tasks need to be done soon, but not necessarily by you)
- Urgent and Important (these tasks need to be done by you as soon as possible)
- Take each of your post-it note tasks and decide which column they belong in.
- Any task in the “important, but not urgent” column should be scheduled for later (use your project management tool to automate scheduling and reminders).
- Any task in the “urgent, but not important task” should be delegated to an assistant, employee, or even an app that can automate the job for you.
- Any task in the “urgent and important” column should be done by you right away.
By identifying which tasks are your priorities versus which ones can be saved or delegated, you can keep your business moving forward without backtracking or sidestepping.
3. Fine-Tune Your Mindset
Most people start their workday in a “working” mindset. They churn, churn, and churn until their brain is fried.
The thing is, they could be grinding away for hours without every actually producing a result to show for that work.
Have you ever been guilty of the same? Of ending a workday feeling entirely spent, but without having anything to show for it?
Maybe you spent 3 hours writing an article for your business’s blog, but weren’t even able to hit “publish” afterwards because of all the work still left to do. Or maybe you changed your mind on something 5 different times throughout the day, and ended it right where you started — in square 1.
A recent podcast interview with Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School taught me this lesson:
Focus on “producing” instead of “working.” That way, it’s not about how much you get done, it’s about how many results you accomplish.
In other words, instead of sitting down to write a blog post, sit down to hit the “publish” button within 2 hours, no matter what (trust me, you’ll get it done). Instead of spending all day going back and forth about the color palette for your new website, spend 30 minutes using a color palette tool, choose a scheme, then move on.
When you “go to work” without a tangible result in mind, you’ll have a hard time achieving one. By knowing exactly what you need to achieve (and exactly how much time you have to do so), you can actually start getting stuff done.
4. Use a Timer
To build off that last point, there’s never been a better time to start automatically setting hard deadlines for every single task on your to-do list. And I don’t just mean saying you’ll have something done by a certain date; I mean blocking off a specific chunk of time and finishing your task within it, no matter what.
The best way to do so is to use a productivity timing technique so you can automate your time blocks. I like the Pomodoro timer, where you work for 25 minute segments with short breaks throughout. After each 2 hour time-chunk, you take a longer break (15-25 minutes).
Within those “time-chunks,” you schedule your different tasks. So, if you have a task you think will realistically take 2 hours to complete, you can use a Pomodoro timer (try downloading an app or Chrome extension) to set time boundaries for that task.
The benefits of using timing techniques like the Pomodoro are:
1. You have pre-set breaks, which help you stay focused without burning out
2. Having a timer going gives you a sense of urgency and makes you more likely to complete the task you’ve set
3. Using an app to time yourself automates the process so you don’t have to think about it
Staying productive is a complete mental game, and using any timer — along with all the strategies listed above — will help you come out on top as the winner, every time.