The Struggles of Working for Yourself
Working for yourself has many perks, but it opens the gate to a host of distractions. Going to Star Wars in IMAX in the middle of the day instead of working? Sure, there’s only one launch day. Getting drinks on a Wednesday night? Well, it is important to be social. Staying up late watching tv and sleeping in until noon? Stop judging me! It can get lonely during those nomad nights. Besides, I’ve got to get my sleep to stay at peak working condition, right? Right? Wrong. Working for yourself requires discipline. Over time, I’ve come up five productive habits that have really helped boost my output.
Keeping a journal has many great benefits. Recording daily successes and failures will allow you to draw important lessons from them. Writing down your most important tasks for the day will give you focus and boost the likelihood of completing those items as you’ve made a commitment by writing them down. Updating it with your progress after work will bookend your work day and help you monitor your productivity. Writing three things you’re grateful for will help you be more positive throughout the day. I would have brushed much of this off as corny non-sense before, but after being challenged to it by a friend developing a journal for entrepreneurs, I not only found a lot of value in it, but enjoyed doing it.
Journals are excellent for the number one key to productivity: planning. Make a habit of taking a step back and making a game plan around, but don’t plan too far. Planning more than a month in advance is daydreaming.I have a daily plan, a weekly focus, and monthly goals. That keeps me concentrated on individual tasks while still planning far enough out to prioritize those tasks.
I find it particularly useful to focus on daily success. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by large projects and long term goals. Daily success means accomplishing what you set out to do that day. It spreads out both the responsibility and the reward. Each day is a chance for greatness. Each failure lasts only until the next day provides an opportunity for redemption. Celebrate big wins and you may have one day a year of true satisfaction. Celebrate daily wins and you’ll always have a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment.
Working long hours won’t make you more productive. It will make you less. Decide on the important things. It’s easy to spend hours working. It’s hard to make those hours productive. The 80-20 Rule is famous for this with good reason. It states 80% of the effects is attributable to 20% of the causes. In other words, you get the most results from a few key tasks. Ask yourself what is really top priority and put all your effort into that task. If you had to launch tomorrow, what would you be working on today?
Have specific, discrete tasks for the day and stick to them. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by important tip or new idea. Write them down in your journal and review them at the end of day or beginning of the next. Not only will you better be able to judge the merit of your new ideas after the newness has worn off, but you’ll save tons of time that would have been lost to context switching and be able to focus on that single new idea instead of juggling them all at once. (You may even discover that what seemed important was really your brain distracting you to avoid the tougher tasks at hand.)
When you wake up, get up!
It’s easy to loose an hour in a foggy haze by lounging around. Worst still, staying in bed results in grogginess all day. Even if you think you’ll just work from bed, get up! Getting up right after waking actually tends to leave the mind clearer.
Morning exercise will leave you happier and more energetic the entire day. I use a simple app called Seven, named after its seven minutes exercises. That’s just the right amount to wake me up and get me ready to get to work.
It’s tough to say just where in your routine this should go. After a brief workout, you’re sweaty and won’t want to sit still. Do it first thing and you’ll never get out of bed. My current ideal is to do it whenever I reach my work spot for the day. Meditation will clear your mind, so you can focus at the task at hand.
Do you have your own tips on being more productive? I would love to hear them. Leave them in the comment section below. I read them all.