Tell me if this sounds like you…
When you dreamt of ditching your day job and becoming your own boss, you were picturing just how amazing your new found freedom would be.
No more being told what to do and when to do it, or letting someone else be the master of your schedule.
But now you’ve been at this web design business thing for a few months, you feel like your business is starting to take over your life.
And no matter how many all nighters you pull, you just can’t seem to get ahead.
I’ve totally been there, which is why in this video/post, I want to share with you 5 simple steps I took to drastically improve my productivity, and feel like I was actually getting somewhere each time I sat down to work.
So they say the best way to avoid the temptation to text and drive is to put your phone somewhere in your car that is out of reach.
Well, the same thing goes for trying to drive distracted in your business. You may not be putting actual lives in danger when you pick up your phone for the 37th time that day, but there’s one thing you are killing…
And that is your productivity!
How many times have you been trying to get some solid work in, but then your phone lights up with an email notification and you think “oh, it could be a client! I’ll just check real quick!”
But after responding to that email, you notice you have another notification over here on this other app…
Even if you don’t fall into the trap of picking up your phone every time it lights up with a new notification, even the simple act of glancing at it could be totally derailing your focus.
Now obviously, if you are a parent or primary caretaker of someone, you may not have the luxury of NOT answering your phone when it rings.
But I want you to think back on your last week of business, or even just your personal life. How many of the notifications that popped up were actually an emergency?
So if you can, try leaving your phone in another room altogether. If you can’t, pause this video right now and take 10 minutes to dig into your settings and silence the notification settings for apps that aren’t serving you or your business.
If it’s truly important, schedule a task to check that app for missed notifications later.
You will be amazed at how much of your to-do list you can check off when you aren’t constantly shifting your focus in and out of work mode.
Ok so this next hack is really just taking the last one a step further and removing opportunities for distraction altogether.
Think of the apps you currently have on your phone and be super honest with yourself about which ones you can’t be trusted NOT to get sucked in by.
For me, that’s Instagram.
If you follow me on the ‘Gram, you’ll know I’m not an avid poster, but I can spend hours scrolling through the lives of other people.
I might tell myself I’m on there to find inspiration, or to keep myself update to date on current industry trends…
But unless I’ve actually scheduled a time block to sit down and use Instagram for that specific purpose, then chances are I’m actually just procrastinating, and allowing myself to become distracted from the real income earning activities in my business.
So I made the decision to delete it from my phone altogether.
For some of you, Instagram is actually a big part of your marketing strategy, and you can’t exactly afford to be without it.
If that’s you, then there are a few ways to get around actually having it on your phone.
So if responding to DM’s or comments is how you tend to engage with your audience, then try setting yourself a task to check them at a set time each day by logging into Facebook on desktop, and using your Facebook business suite.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, so if your business page and your business instagram account are connected, all your direct messages and comments from both apps will be waiting for you in one easy to access place.
You won’t waste time trying to type out lengthy responses on your phone, and unlike on the mobile Instagram app, there’s no risk of getting distracted by your feed or story lineup.
What about when it comes time to actually post? How will you do that without the app?
There are two ways to go about this.
My favorite way is honestly just to use a desktop scheduling app like Planoly, to schedule social media content in advance, since I’m more likely to be strategic about which content I’m posting if I’m not always trying to come up with something on the fly.
But if you to be able to post to Instagram without scheduling, or if you really do just want to take a scheduled brain break and scroll your favorite accounts, then it can be useful to visit the Chrome Extension store and find an Instagram extension to add to your chrome browser.
Most are modeled after the mobile app, allowing you to post straight from your computer, respond to DMs and comments, and even scroll your feed and watch stories.
You are less likely to get sucked into your scroll if you are on your computer and actively checking off business tasks, then if you are just casually sitting on your phone.
Ok, so for this next hack, you could technically use the alarm on your phone…
But if you followed hack #1, then right now your phone is in another room.
So instead, why not treat yourself to a cute little alarm clock to liven up the look of your workspace, and help you keep on task in your business?
Every time you sit down to start a project, decide how long each step should reasonably take you and challenge yourself to complete that task within that amount of time.
So say you are sitting down to design your client’s home page. You have already planned out which content will need to go on each section of the page and have determined you will need 10 sections total.
Set a timer for each section, and no matter where you’re at when the buzzer goes off, move onto the next section.
If you’re anything like me, you can spend hours moving the same 3 bits of content around the page in an effort to get it justtttt right. When really, it was fine the first time and I could have been working on the next section by now.
This is called pixel pushing. And it’s totally slowing down your client design process, and costing you time you could have been working on other income-generating activities in your business.
You can always go back and revisit something later if it needs more work, but you’ll find you can accomplish so much more in a much shorter time when you set a limit for how much time you’ll allow yourself before calling something good and done.
With practice, you may even find you get faster and more confident at making decisions that would have taken you hours to come up with before.
Productivity suffers when we don’t have a clear idea of what we should be working on in a day.
And it’s not for lack of hard work or long hours!
How many times have you made it to the end of a grueling 14 day where you were chained to your laptop, only to feel like you have nothing to show for it?
Productivity isn’t about always doing more. It’s about doing less and still being able to get the same or better result!
So rather than winging it every time you sit down to work, and just accepting that 14 hour days are the norm if you want to get ahead in my business, try planning out the each step of the project before you begin.
My favorite tool for project planning is Asana, which if you haven’t heard of or used before, I created a video on how I use it here.
So say for instance you’re onboarding a new design client.
Ideally you have some sort of fixed process for doing this, where with each client, you check off those steps in the exact order every time.
All it takes to get started with a new client is to duplicate your project in Asana, and you’re ready to start knocking out the steps on your list.
You’ll never have to wonder what you should be working on each time you sit down at your computer, and you are less likely to allow yourself to get pulled in other directions by things that don’t move the needle, when you have your project planning tool open to hold you accountable for what needs to get done that day.
If it’s not important enough to schedule ahead of time in your project planning tool, then it’s probably not the best use of your time.
It also allows you to look back on your day and see all that you were able to accomplish, keeping you motivated to keep moving forward with that project at a good clip.
Speaking of planning tasks in advance, my favorite way to use my Asana is to set up a plan to complete my work in batches!
Batch-working is probably the best thing that ever happened to my business, and here’s why:
When I first started designing for clients, I’d sit down at my computer at 9 AM on a Monday morning and look over all the things I needed to do that week. By 9:03 I’d be totally overwhelmed with no idea where to start.
I knew I’d better get busy, so I’d just start working my way down the list of tasks, with no real strategy in mind.
So at 10 AM I’d hop on that consult call I scheduled…
Then from 10:30 to noon I’d finish writing that blog post and try to come up with a clever Instagram caption for that day’s post.
I’d finally get around to working on my clients site by about 2:00 but then I’d remember I had another consult call in 45 minutes.
I knew it wasn’t possible for me to get much actual designing done in that time and why start something I can’t finish?
So I’d mindlessly scroll through Pinterest to kill time before my call.
It’s now 4:00 PM. I’ve managed to sit at my computer all day and yet somehow have yet to add even a single image or line of text to my client’s site, which goes live in 3 days.
Constantly hopping back and forth between tasks was getting me nowhere in my business.
But then I discovered batch working…
Which is basically just grouping similar tasks together so that you aren’t having to swap out which hat you’re wearing as a business owner.
So you might save all your admin tasks like managing your finances, and tracking success metrics for Mondays.
Then Tuesdays, you set aside as your call day, since it can be hard to get any real work down when you are constantly having to hit pause on your work to hop on random calls throughout the week.
Wednesday might be marketing day, where you work on content creation, and scheduling social media and newsletters.
Then Thursday and Friday are for knocking out actual design work.
Obviously you have to set the batching schedule that works for you, but grouping like tasks means that you will never waste time trying to get in the right mindset for working on a specific task.
If it’s a design day, you’ll already be in creative mode. If it’s admin day, you’ll already me in business owner mode. No having to try to switch between the two.
Instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed and like I could never make progress on any one area of my business, batching my work allowed me to become super intentional about how I was spending my time.
I felt much more empowered when I sat down to work each day, and was able to really get in the zone and knock out seemingly massive projects in a much shorter time!