Productivity Tips for staying focused and gettings thing crossed off your to do list are not what I’d consider a heavily changing subject. However, when I originally wrote this post in November of 2015 I was relatively new to business and a little...dare I say, green, about how things actually end up working out. A few years, business evolutions, and life changes later, I’d like to present you with a new perspective on getting things done that better aligns with the ideas I’d like to promote and share on this platform. So, if you’ve read this post before, know that the content has updated and there are some new concepts to take away and see if it fits your life and business.
Determine What’s Necessary
A big lesson that I’ve learned over the years in business (and more specifically after devouring this book), is that you really don’t need to do #allthethings. I’ll tell you, personally, I’ve struggled with this concept. Up until this very moment, actually.
See, everything on Pinterest or in those blog-share-circles talks about how you need to be running Facebook Ads, and you need to be answering questions on Reddit, and you need to be speaking on Podcasts, etc., etc., etc. When I got started I wanted to do all of that too, and I definitely tried. I’m going to let you in on a secret: you literally cannot do #allthethings. I’m not saying ‘literally’ as in like “I literally couldn’t stop believe he said that” or “I literally died”. I mean it literally. You actually can’t. 100%. Unless you know a way to like pause time and give yourself an extra 5-10 hours/day over everyone else, or you got a lot of money to spend on outsourcing everything…
The good news is you don’t actually need to do all those things. In fact, you probably only really need to do like 3 things. So step 1 is to determine what is necessary. See what your top traffic sources are, ask clients or customers how they found you, and weigh that against what you enjoy the most. Then do the top 2-3 things really, really well. For example, if you love Pinterest and you seem to get a decent amount of traffic from it, then cool, freaking CRUSH Pinterest. Devote more time to really blowing that ish up and skyrocketing your traffic and stop wasting time posting on Twitter and throwing money at Facebook ads.
Now, I know the feeling of like, “oh that makes sense” but then not actually acting on it. I totally struggle here too. Over the past two years I have blogged a lot and really well, then completely fell off and disappeared for months at a time because I had too much other client work. I struggled with wanting to create more content, because the internet tells you to, but that conflicted with the tangible results of - blogging or not, I was still getting paying clients. In fact, no paying client has EVER said they found me through a blog post specifically. They have, occasionally, found me on Pinterest but it was my site design and my services page that inspired them to reach out - not my witty banter in blog posts. At the start of 2018 I felt this super strong pull that I have had since starting my business, I said, “okay THIS year I am going to blog so consistently. A new post every week. Gonna crush it.” and I’ve done well… but at the end of the day, I still can’t shake the feeling… is it worth it? It it necessary? To what end?
So with all of that said, here I am updating a well-performing past post instead of writing new content. This is a bit of an experiment, actually, but a) the content needed to be updated and b) for ME and MY business, I’m not sure blogging is essential. This may well differ for you, but I guess the point here is to determine a balance between what your business needs and what you like doing and eliminate all the other time-wasters. (i.e. we should probably all just throw in the towel on Twitter, ya? JK. Kind of.)
Automate + Outsource
Speaking of Twitter…! Okay, next step, automate and outsource everything that isn’t absolutely necessary for YOU to be doing (that you haven’t already just straight up eliminated). A big one here is social media. Now, I do agree, keep social media social is an important idea, but I think you should limit that to your favorite channel where you’re actually going to enjoy the time spent doing that (for almost all of us that is Instagram).
Otherwise, automate the ess-aich-eye-tee out of it. I like SmarterQueue because I literally (LITERALLY) log in once a month to add a few more interesting articles to my schedule and then I don’t think about it again. I’m going to be #transparent with y’all, I have free credits on SmarterQueue because I’m an affiliate and that pays for me to post to Twitter and my Facebook page without even thinking about it. Once those credits run out, I will be doing some major stat-tracking and seeing if it’s actually worth it to continue on because at this point, I’m not sure how essential Twitter or Facebook Page Updates are to my business.
But, if you’re dead set on being all over social media, then you’re going to need to add some automation to the mix or you will never have time to do actual work for clients or anything. SmarterQueue is really great for that, I do think it’s an awesome program if Twitter or Facebook (they do other social media channels, I just use them for those two specifically) are necessary in your marketing.
Other things you can and should automate: Pinterest. FOR SURE. As a blanket statement, all of us trying to do this #onlinebiz thing need Pinterest, it’s so incredibly useful and as far as I know it’s a huge traffic driver for, like, all of us. BUT, Pinterest is a dangerous, scary, time-sucking black hole that as you’re typing into your browser you secretly know in the back of your mind ‘here goes the next 2 hours’ as you start reading about email marketing and then somehow you’re knee deep in a recipe for chocolate ganache and you don’t even know what ganache is but you’re planning a trip to the grocery....
So yeah, automate Pinterest to save yourself the hours lost and the #ganachefail. It’s not worth it. Buy ganache. 100% easier. (Okay, I really am not sure what ganache is, it might be super easy to make and worth it, but I was enjoying saying it in my head).
I use Tailwind, it’s dope and inexpensive and works well. My Pinterest grows basically on its own, I rarely login. I outsource and have someone go on and pin for a few hours a week and that seems to help. It’s super basic, you could probably talk your like mom or friend into helping you do it while they watch Wheel of Fortune or The Bachelor and promise to pay them back in ganache or something. Now, I should clarify, Pinterest is a magical unicorn and worth spending time figuring-out. Back at step 1 when I was like “find the thing and crussssh it” I was thinking about Pinterest and/or Instagram. Pinterest is worth crushing, if that’s going to be *~your thing~* but I still 100% think it should be automated and your thing.
As far as outsourcing - get rid of anything and everything that a) doesn’t actually need YOU to do it and b) sucks so much that you’re never going to do it anyway. Things like bookkeeping - SUCKS, I avoided it for the whole first year in my business and that really wasn’t a smart move. I then outsourced it to Bench.co because they are really awesome and for the first few months when I didn’t have a separate business account they never made fun of me when they saw that I went to Chipotle 3x a week. #yolo
Other things to outsource: inbox management (also sucks), scheduling blog posts, graphic design (doesn’t suck, outsource that to me!), writing blog posts, writing newsletters, and so on. You could even outsource portions of your client work that don’t need you specifically. If whatever you offer requires a research phase - pay someone else to do that, and you take their research and create the strategy or whatever it is you offer.
Make a Master Weekly List
Okay, now we are getting into the more specific ideas of actually doing things. Here’s what I recommend and do. Sunday (or Monday), sit down and write out everything that you have to do the upcoming week. I do this on Sunday in a very like low-key, mindful, journal-y type of way. I write out business related things (client and my own), personal things, and other random obligations. I don’t necessarily specify which day things are going to happen (unless it’s like a scheduled appointment), but I just see everything holistically.
Then I go through and mark which are absolute MUSTS (no ifs, ands, or buts about it) with a little filled circle next to it. I made up my own symbol system, feel free to make up your own too. I pull out my paper planner (and I have my google cal up), and input the scheduled must haves (if they’re not already there), and I reflect on how long I think some of these tasks may take me and put a small number after them. Then I totally switch gears and take some time to set intentions for the week (for example, if that list is hella long, I set the intention to treat myself well and give myself time to relax and meditate daily, etc.). To me this is a great way to know what’s coming up, prepare myself for the week mentally, and then I can like relax Sunday night (eat Chipotle??), and go to bed early.
Prioritize The Essentials
The next step in that process starts Monday morning, when I am ready to start work. I look at that list and I schedule the 3 essential things I am going to get done that day. I tend to pick 2 tasks that are shorter on the hourly estimate and 1 task that is longer (I talk about it in this post, but I do short/quick tasks in the morning and usually 1-2 BIG tasks in my peak working time in the afternoon). I write them in the ‘to do’ column of my planner, because I like to see the tasks and I really like to cross them off.
And that’s it. Truly. If I get those things done, I can look back to the master list and take something else off of it to work on, but I don’t feel required to do so. Sometimes other smaller tasks (like <15m) pop up from clients, and I can add those to the list but I usually knock those out in my morning sprint of getting through a bunch of quick work.
I keep the master list on my desk and along with crossing off the task in my planner, I love crossing it off of the weekly master list because it’s just like “BYE FELICIA” (is that still a thing?) and I feel really accomplished. I think the big key here is to not let myself get overwhelmed and to assess each day with how I feel and pick tasks that I feel capable of. You know how it is, some days you’re just like a grumpy-gills-mcgee and can’t focus and some days you’re like a laser beam who forgets to drink water or stand up for 5 hours. I pick tasks that correlate to my mood and what I feel capable of. Sometimes by the end of the week there’s like the one task I’ve been putting off the most, and I usually give myself some sort of reward for finally doing it because, like a child, I need rewards. My reward lately is pistachios, because I’m doing a ketogenic diet and pistachios, though absolutely delightful in their salty perfection, are a little carb-y but #treatyoself.
Repurpose + Recycle
This is another more specific idea, but one worth including because it will totally save you time (and it was in the original article). Repurpose and recycle everything in your biz. This is mostly about content, but you could probably figure out a way to apply it to a different area of your biz too.
But, content-wise, don’t waste your time writing 10 different things every week. Instead write 1 thing and spread it all out everywhere. Seriously. One post contains like what 800-1000 words if you’re doing what all those articles on Pinterest tell you to do. Somewhere in there is a great caption for Instagram posts, a wonderful newsletter or two, and some ish you could record for a podcast episode or a YouTube video or whatever it is you’re into. There’s definitely a free download opt-in somewhere in that content, and honestly, you could probably create a workbook or two off of it as well. Basically, what I’m saying is, give yourself more credit the content you’re producing needs to be everywhere, doing everything for you.
This is another one I struggle with personally, but hey, we can hold each other accountable. Do you know I have over 100 blog posts on this site and they barely do anything for me?! Don’t be like me. Learn from my mistakes. (In 2018 I am making better use of the posts, you’re literally in the journey of me doing that right now #meta).
Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. And recycle! Do you have a lot of wasted content, like me? Go back and update it and re-share (what I’m doing), or record a video/audio version of it, or throw it into your newsletter! Recycle it. It’s good stuff. It deserves to be seen and read.
This post that my friend Brittany shared with me from Buffer was a huge motivation behind this idea, so be sure to check that out and save yourself some time my friend!
Schedule Non-Business Things
Okay, last tip. Make sure you schedule in non-business things - like getting to the gym, eating a good meal, drinking water, whatever. If you’re anything like me, you get so in the zone while working that you forget to take a stretch break and hydrate - so put those on your schedule or somewhere you can see them. The number one way to NOT stay focused and NOT get things done is when you burn yourself out from overwhelm… so we definitely want to avoid that at all costs.
I take this idea very seriously. My phone buzzes with a reminder at 5pm that it’s quitting-time. And even if I want to keep working (I sometimes save really fun/creative work for nighttime when I am my most creative #nightowl), I still stop at 5pm and like… move a little bit. Do a yoga flow. Go to the gym. Eat? Drink water? Talk to other humans? Be a real person?! You know, those things. It’s super, super, super important to put emphasis on life outside of business. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating in every blog post - you need more than your business. If business = life, then one mean client or nasty email will destroy you. You need the kickball league, or Monday wine-nights, or something else that is 100% not about your business so that you can totally unwind and relax and get out of your biz. That’s when the best ideas and solutions come anyway, so walk away sometimes!
Okay. With that all said and done you are a total boss babe and I would love to connect. What did you take away from this? Are you going to take action on these ideas and concepts? Are you currently in a Pinterest-wormhole?! If so, be done, this article is your last for the day girlfriend!
I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!