If you are anything like me, you grew up with a lot of expectations: How to be a good girl. How to be a good student. How to be a good parent. How to be a good employee. Sound familiar? And while these expectations can be a bit (or a lot) stifling and narrow, they can also be motivating and helpful in the right context, particular in the work-world. Most people have a boss, set hours, days, and expectations about the work they will get done.
But what happens when you have no boss? No external source of pressure to light a fire under you and keep you on track? When you’re self-employed, no one expects anything of you (well…you may have clients that expect a good product, but that’s a bit different). And more truthfully, no one even cares what you create, how much money you make, or how much time you waste. And you usually aren’t getting paid hourly. Gasp. It’s true.
So How Do You Drive Your Business Like a Boss?
First of all, do not under any circumstance rely on will-power or some magical sense of time management. Sure, you might be able to get a lot done when you are at your heightened level of inspiration, rest, and momentum. But those aren’t the times you get into trouble. The challenge is when real life happens. When you’re busy, discouraged, and start doubting yourself. You procrastinate. You doddle. You avoid. And you get nothing done.
Instead, make a thoughtful plan to reach your goals and take the chance out of being a self-employed ninja. Here are 8 ways you can work more efficiently and productively when you’re the boss:
8 Ways to Work More Efficiently When You’re Self-Employed
- Get really honest about yourself. When are you most productive? Are you a night owl? Do you work a million-miles-a-minute after that first coffee? Or do you work better in spurts when the babe is napping? Whenever it is, find a way to dedicate time during this window.
- Take your context into account. Do you have kids? A partner who also works? Another job? While we may have an optimal working window each day, this might not jive with the real world or with our family schedule. I’d love to work from 10pm -2am every night but I’d pay for it once that 6am toddler wake-up call rolls in. So I adjust. Find the next best thing.
- Put it in the calendar. Don’t things seem more important and real when you write them down? Once you decide when you plan to work, you must write it in your calendar. By doing this, you are showing yourself (and whoever else you merge your calendar with) that you are serious about your work. You don’t find time, you create it. So go ahead and literally book time for yourself. Take it seriously, just like any other appointment.
- Take away choice. Instead of simply booking a chunk of time to “work”, I encourage you to decide in advance what you will accomplish. The time then becomes allotted to a focused goal which ultimately takes away the massive burden (and temptation) of choice. If I allowed myself to choose what to do each time I sat down, I would probably play on Instagram or edit photos. Both important parts of my business, but they can easily prevent me from getting other necessary work done. And this is also a really good way to procrastinate and make yourself feel productive. I mean, some people do that…so I’ve heard.
- Trust the long view. Rather than deciding each day what’s on the agenda, sit down once a week and map it out. For me, I know how many blog and Instagram posts I’d like to share, and how many hours each will take (with all the supporting photography and other pieces that go with). So I simply look at my calendar and plunk in times for these tasks and then I can trust that my plan will lead me to my goals. No questions, no crossing fingers. Just following a well-thought strategy.
- Remove distraction. This deserves a complete post to itself (coming soon) but let’s just talk about a couple things first. Truth bomb: I cannot completely trust myself to focus. I have to consciously work at ridding myself of all the enticing distractions like laundry and dishes. What’s hilarious is that I hate laundry and dishes. But they suddenly become incredibly appealing when I am supposed to be working. I know you know what I am talking about. So set yourself up to succeed by either removing these things from your work space, or tending to them before its time to work. Get a snack, pour a coffee, clear your work space, and then settle in.
- Pay attention to procrastination. I am a firm believer that procrastination is a signal, maybe even a warning beacon, that something is not quite right with what we are doing. I don’t know about you, but I rarely procrastinate with things that I love doing. And I almost always procrastinate when I don’t enjoy my work. So instead of stressing about the fact that you aren’t being productive, try asking yourself: what am I avoiding? Is there a bigger issue to address? We all need a certain degree of stick-it-out-ness, but at some point we must decide when to make a change.
- Set goals. In all honesty, goal-setting is not my natural way. I’d rather float through my work days, picking up what inspires me in the moment. But I have realized that I am much more stressed when I can’t measure myself against my plan. And much less productive too. For solo-preneurs, the work is endless so how can you ever feel like enough is enough? By setting goals and defining what a productive week looks like, you know what to focus on and more importantly, when to celebrate! You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say hell yes, I nailed it this week and then pour yourself a big glass of wine. I mean, a glass of wine is also very helpful when you don’t nail it. But you know what I mean.
So get to it! I know these strategies will help you work more efficiently. Let me know in the comments what you’re already doing, or what is missing from this list!
Author: Kate Butler
Kate Butler is a writer, a wanderer, a digital nomad. A mother of two, lover to one, and dedicated to living an inspired, colourful life. She co-authors Flipping Moons and has an online therapy practice, LiveLight Counselling.