Sometimes, despite our best intentions, the plans for our business can go a bit off track. As creatives, we get ideas that can distract us (LOTS of ideas) and can become unfocused from what we should really be working on day to day.
So how do you get back on the productivity train in your creative business after a massive shift in your life – like having a baby, getting a new day job or moving house… How do you get not only your motivation, but your momentum back?
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The strategies I use to get back on track all revolve around goals, routines, schedules and to-do lists.
For around 12 months after having Harriet in 2015, I felt a little like I was swimming in circles in my business. Everything I tried to do on a daily or weekly basis has taken about 4 times as long as it should, I’d been completely unfocused (having laser focus on 4 different things does not count!), and I didn’t made nearly as much progress towards my goals that I had hoped I would… working toward 4 different goals all at once was of course part of the problem.
We’d just returned from a two week family holiday in Hawaii (JA was born there), and leading up to Harriet’s 1st birthday and this holiday, I made a semi-subconscious decision that arriving home would mark the start of getting my shit together, for reals. For the past couple of months before the holiday I’d been thinking hard about what I really want from my business and how I want it to help others. The break allowed me to envision what this actually looks like, in terms of the goals I should have been aiming for, and the tasks I needed to be working on daily to make it happen.
Now I feel motivated, inspired, refreshed and excited about what’s coming next in my business, and it’s because of the following strategies I started implementing at that time. I’m sharing them with you now in the hopes that if you’re feeling a bit stuck or overwhelmed, you can try to implement some or all of these tips too, and be off and running in the right direction in no time =)
Clarity around Goals
My number one tip for getting back on track is to get super clear about what you are trying to achieve, and if this goal is resonant with you, you’ll automatically be excited about breaking it down and making it happen. Having a really clear idea about what your end game is (for the next 90 days or 6 months max) also makes it so much easier to work out what tasks you should be working on daily. Every single thing you do for your business, should be feeding into that end game, and if it’s not, you shouldn’t be doing it.
Get into a weekly routine
Number two is start to follow a weekly routine that fits in with your life and how you like to work. There’s no point saying you’ll get up at 5am every day to do stuff before your family wakes up if you are a total night owl and really struggle to do anything in the mornings. On the flip side, there’s no point staying up til midnight working after your kids are in bed, if after 8pm your brain is mush (this is me!). It’s also good to be realistic about what days you will actually be able to get work done, and what days would be better spent devoted to other stuff… Thursdays for me I have both kiddies all day, so there’s very little chance of getting much business stuff done, and if I try I usually end up failing and feeling shit about not getting anything done, and also shit about not spending enough time with the kids.
Figure out what environment you work best in and where you get distracted, what time of day you work best and when you struggle to stay focused. I work best when I’m super organised and the house is tidy (which is tricky with kids and self-employment and my loathing of domestic duties) so I’ve made a timetable for the week that includes what evenings I should be prepping lunches, putting the bins out and making sure my soccer gear is washed and the groceries are ordered, as well as hints about vacuuming and doing loads of washing! Side note, I think pre-school 3 days one week and only 2 the next is some sort of sick joke… I only tried to take Rafa to school once on a non-school day though, so… #winning.
Schedule your day
Number three is schedule your day. Categorise the tasks you work on every week and schedule chunks of time to work on tasks in that category only. When you schedule your day, you also have to keep in mind what you figured out about your routine, when you work best and when you don’t. It can be hard when there’s only so many workable hours before school pick-up, but I try!
I try to schedule my content creation in the mornings when my brain is rested and fresh (and hopefully when Harriet is sleeping if it’s a day I have her at home), and keep the afternoons/evenings for more creative work like lettering practice or designing graphics. Use an app like Self Control (best ever!) to block any websites that distract you (hello facebook, I’m looking at you) for a 2 or 3 hour chunk of time to allow yourself to get into the flow when you’re working. The ONLY other thing you should be doing during these chunks of time is drinking tea or coffee, and maybe listening to music (depending on how you like to work.. Sometimes I just find myself singing lyrics when I’m trying to write a blog post and need silence to get into the flow).
An example of my “always-a-work-in-progress” schedule:
My top tip when scheduling is to put everything in your online calendar, and set notifications for when you should be moving onto a different task (or remembering to eat lunch!)… and not beating yourself up when it doesn’t go to plan.
Write smart to-do lists
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time you’ll know I bang on about smart goals a lot, but this tip is to write smart to-do lists. It’s not about following the SMART acronym here (though each dot point should definitely be specific!), it’s about making sure your to-do list for the day is logical, that every task is working towards your bigger goal, and that you’re not setting yourself up for failure by writing 20 things on your list.
I like to have three lists. One master list, one for today, and one for right now.
The Master List has everything and anything on it that needs doing, and I can write new stuff on this one as new things come to mind. This is great because as long as I write them down, the idea or task won’t hound me to pay attention to it right now, because I know I’ll come back to it later.
The Today List is a list of 2-4 main tasks I’d like to get done today. So for example, I might have “write newsletter”, “update page on website” and “schedule IG posts”. This might not seem like a lot of things to accomplish in one day, but if I get them done, I can always go to my master list and tick off a few bonus things, which always feels super awesome and productive.
And my Right Now List is a working task list… so if I’m working on my website, I’ll write down really specific notes on coding or graphic changes that I need to make and mark them off as I go. This list has stuff being added to it continually as I work, and this actually saves me a lot of time. Instead of doing a colour change, noticing a missing image, making a coding change and then having to take the time to think “oh shit what was that other image I had to upload? Let’s refresh and see”, I write it down as soon as I think of it and make all the changes at once. It’s a similar process no matter the type of task I’m doing.
And my BONUS TIP, as always, is:
Just start. It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing right now isn’t stellar, just make a start and refine as you go. #JFDI my friends! x
These four things are really helping me to stay on track in my business, and it was a very simple process to implement. I’ve created a handy little PDF for you to download that has the main points for each strategy and some printable To-Do list sheets, which you can grab for free by popping your email in below (so I know where to send them).
I’d love to know if you are struggling with staying on track in your creative business, and what you’ve tried so far (if anything) to get back on the right path, or if you have any other tips for anyone else who feels like they’re swimming in circles, please pop them in the comments below!
Images from Shutterstock, thanks guys!
CAN YOU CONFIDENTLY SAY YOU ARE WORKING ON THE RIGHT THING, RIGHT NOW IN YOUR BUSINESS?
Sometimes, even when we are doing all the right things, it can feel like we’re spinning our wheels and not moving forward at all. This could be because you’re focusing on the wrong area of your business – or doing all the right things, but at the wrong time.