When you’re an online entrepreneur who works from home, it can be challenging to organize your day. In fact, when you’re your own boss, how do you prioritize? When everything needs to be done, what do you do?
If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time, and you end up prioritizing the work with built-in deadlines, while neglecting everything else. So, for example, if you have some freelance work, that always will get done. But your own blog posts? To what end?
However, to make the big bucks online, you have to build your own things (courses, ebooks, email lists, etc.) and prioritize them or they’ll never get done. Here’s what I use to get (and keep) me focused and productive.
Stick to Theme Days
This tip comes from Mike Vardy, the Productivityist, who says that every day should get a theme, and you can get more done by grouping like-tasks together. I love this idea, and have been playing with it. I created a Google calendar with the theme of the day in it so I can see it easily.
Here’s what my week currently looks like (though I’m allowing flexibility so I can alter this as I see fit):
Mondays are the days where I have the most energy, so instead of setting meetings on Monday, I’ll take the quiet time to write. Here’s what I’ll write on Mondays:
- Blog posts
- Script for the podcast
- Course copy
- Webinar copy
- Ebook copy
I will also schedule blog posts on For-Profit Blogging on Mondays (since there will be a new post every Tuesday).
Tuesdays: Social Media
Since one of our business goals is to grow our social media presence, I am going to dedicate a full day each week to social media. That way, I’ll be intentional when I’m on Facebook instead of feeling guilty and thinking I should be doing just about anything else. On Tuesdays, I will:
- Schedule Instagram posts for the week
- Schedule Facebook posts for the week in the groups that I administer
- Fill my Buffer with interesting things
- Schedule Pinterest for my profiles
- Schedule Pinterest for my clients
- Create pins
- Follow interesting people
- Participate in Facebook group discussions
Wednesdays: Back Office Work
I’m responsible for a lot of the operations of our business, so Wednesdays will be the days where I focus on the back office tasks, like:
- Reconciling accounts in our accounting software
- Editing and uploading blog posts on Frugal Portland
- Recruiting more writers for Frugal Portland
- Researching software and solutions for working smarter
- Getting to inbox zero
- Web-related tasks that aren’t writing (setting up subdomains, fixing technical glitches, etc)
Thursdays: Top Project
In the 2017 resolution post, I detailed the courses that would be launched (and when). Thursdays will be the days where I dedicate myself fully to the projects with deadlines. This will change based on the month, and there will be times (like in January!) where I’m working on two projects, so in those cases, I’ll split my days accordingly.
Fridays: Catch Up
On Fridays, I’ll finish whatever loose tasks didn’t get done the rest of the week. This is intentionally vague because I think it’ll change depending on what I’m working on in any given week.
Brain Dump and Plan the Next Day
At the end of every day, I look at the previous day’s to-do list. What can I mark off? What needs to go on tomorrow’s list? I look at the calendar to check tomorrow’s theme and see when I have calls or meetings scheduled. I also look at the yoga schedule and sign up for the next day’s class. That way, I know what tomorrow looks like before I close my computer for the day. I pick the task that needs to be done first thing the next day so I’m fresh and ready to start.
Do One Task Before Reading Email in the Morning
This goes really well with the previous system. If I decided yesterday what my #1 task for today was, I don’t need to look at email, do I? I can look at email after I’ve done that one task, but not before. This helps with overwhelm, too. It gets me into the mindset of, “I’ve already done the most important thing, now I’m on a roll. What can get done next?”
Work During Set Hours Only
This one might not apply to you if you still have a regular day-job, but for me, it’s important to keep work at work (or in the guest room) and be fully present with my family during dinner and in the evening. To be half-present at home (or half-present at work) is unfair to both my work and my family. So in order to be the best version of myself, I do not work past dinner time or in the evenings unless something major is afoot.
Take Tuesday Afternoons Completely Off
This one comes from Joe, and it’s something he’s done for years. His wife is a pediatrician and they both take Tuesday afternoons off to go see a movie. He encouraged me to do the same thing, and, though I stopped being vigilant about this in the last few weeks of 2016, I’m doubling my commitment to this in 2017. That means I’ll hang out with Brent and the baby. We’ll explore the neighborhood, go on long family walks, and spend time with each other in a fun way. It’ll be a treat (my mom used to call it “playing hookey” and I have fond memories of that!) and it’ll help us both be fresh again on Wednesday mornings.
After reviewing eleventy different to-do lists, I have come to really adore OmniFocus. You can organize by project, set recurring to-dos, and brain dump your to-do list at the beginning or end of every day.
This little guy is a task master. The basic idea is to create 8-12 chunks of time in your day and split them into 25-minute tasks. I like keeping this on my phone (which stays next to my computer on the desk) because it sounds like a metronome, and really helps me focus. Once I hit the start button, it counts down from 25 minutes, and I’m encouraged to focus on the one task I want to accomplish. At the end of 25 minutes, it gives me a five-minute break to do whatever I want (go to the bathroom, check and respond to email, look at Facebook, refill my water glass) but then it goes right back into the next chunk of time. For some reason, the little clicks (that annoy Brent!) help keep me typing and focusing on the day’s theme. Turn down your volume, though, so you don’t go crazy.
Wordable.io is a program that allows you to write your blog posts in Google Docs and they’ll get magically exported (with correct formatting!) to your WordPress account. This helps immensely with the focus-on-this-one-task thing because it’s a lot easier to get distracted in WordPress than it is in Google Docs. I use it every time I write a blog post (so, Mondays, it would seem). I add my images (making sure I’ve renamed them before I put them in Google docs!), format my posts using headings and body text, and use Google’s spell check. Adding links using Google is far superior to adding links in WordPress, and I’ve found that I write longer form posts (for better or worse) in Google Drive.
Joe wrote a post about how we use Slack, and it’s still true. We chat all the time on Slack, and we keep track of what needs to be done. For some reason, it’s highly preferable to email, which can get lost. Actually, I know the reason. Joe’s inbox is out of control! Maybe he needs an “inbox zero” day. I’m in two Slack channels (one with my mastermind group, more on that in a different post), and they’re great. Download the app if you’re going to use it, though, because otherwise you’ll forget to check the website, which means you won’t hear from your colleagues, and they’ll have to email you anyway, which defeats the purpose.
Screenhero (Slack extension)
This app is new-to-me in 2016, and I love it. It’s especially helpful when you’re troubleshooting something technical because instead of saying “click the link under the second link” you can simply take over the mouse and do all the clicking yourself. When we started working with Alex on Facebook ads, he was blown away by this tool. You talk someone through something (using your computer), you share your screen, then they can take over at any time. If you’re not going to actually be in an office with someone, this is the second best thing.
Speaking of actually being in an office with someone, appear.in is excellent for in-person-ish meetings. Joe and I use it when we want to talk about ideas (tasks stay in Slack, but ideas are meant to be discussed!) and inspiration.
It’s important to have a system that works for you. I’m constantly adjusting and tweaking my system, and this is what works for me at the moment. I’m a productivity junkie, though, so if I’m missing something, let me know in the comments, and I’ll check it out!