Do you get days where you feel like you could have achieved more?
That feeling of frustration can be common, especially amongst micro business owners working at home. There are so many things to focus on, and so many potential distractions.
So how can you work at home and still be very productive? I believe it’s all in creating a daily routine.
Here are my six top tips for a productive daily routine.
1. Know When You Work Best
Creating a productive daily routine isn’t just about cramming as much as possible into your day. You need to know when you can do certain tasks best.
Let me give you an example. I know that I find it easiest to write and can be my most creative early in the morning. As the day goes on my ability to “create” drops and by mid afternoon I struggle to write. So I plan my daily routine to support this.
I get up early, typically around 05:30 and start writing as quickly as possible. I write until breakfast around 08:15. If I don’t have any pressing client work I can carry on writing after breakfast but typically stop before 10:00 and start on client work and coaching calls. By the time lunch has passed I’m already struggling to be creative so this is when I do a lot more of my client work, analyze data for SEO campaigns and even go back over the mornings writing and start to edit it, but I’ve stopped trying to create.
Everyone is different, you may be at your most creative at the end of the afternoon, or in the evening. Either way, take some time to work out when you find it easiest to complete each type of task.
2. Create an Outline Daily Plan
Once you’re armed with your list of when you can work best at certain tasks, start to block time out of the day. In the same way I have a block of time for writing in the morning, you might have a block for graphic design work or a block when you always deal with your accounts.
We’re not specifying what will happen in this block on a daily basis yet, we’re simply marking out the typical style of the day. Creative time, administrative time, meeting time, etc.
At this point it’s important to talk about urgency. The sense of urgency in your day can be both a positive and negative factor. For instance, you could wake up one morning and have a block of writing, but an email that needs to be written to a client is pressing on your mind. Some would say to just do the email quickly and get it out of the way, but if you’re anything like me you’ll see another one afterwards, and then another and before you know it you’ve taken a big chunk out of your daily routine and potentially left yourself trying to work on your more creative tasks at a time when you don’t feel as creative, risking not creating your best work and taking longer to do it.
Is that email so important that it can’t wait until the block of time you’ve set aside for dealing with emails? Try to always stay with the work that you’re meant to be doing in the block of time you’re in and you’ll be much more productive.
This might sound very structured, but you’ll find a lot of freedom within the structure. As you develop the habit for working in your optimum blocks you’ll see yourself creating more of your best work and being so much more productive.
Just remember to take plenty of breaks and get some fresh air. Personally I break when I feel like it rather than prescribing a set schedule of stopping every hour or so, but do what feels right for you. It’s important to take breaks but don’t let yourself off easily, if you only have a bit more work to do to finish creating something it can often be best to push through. Then take a proper break, reward yourself with a trip out for coffee, etc – you’ll feel so much better for finishing what you were working on.
3. Be Where You Are
What I mean by this is focus on what you’re meant to be doing at any given time.
If you’re working, focus on it, take away any distractions and get the work done. If your partner or a colleague offers the chance to go for coffee and you haven’t quite finished what you’re working on, stay and get it finished – it will take a lot longer to get back into the task afterwards than finishing it now.
But this also works in the opposite. When you leave your work behind and spend time with family or friends, be with them, not distracted and thinking about your work. It can be so easy to get into the habit of continuously checking your phone for emails, Tweets, the latest Facebook post. Instead focus on spending time with the people you’re with – you can easily have time later in the evening to have a quick catch up and is replying to that email or Tweet this very second that important, really?
4. Plan Habit Forming Tasks
Once you’ve planned your blocks of time to ensure you are working at your optimum, you can look at the important tasks that form a habit.
Several people have said that it takes twenty one days of consistent activity to form a habit. So, for example, if you want to start making some serious advances with your business blogging, and intend to write everyday you need form a habit with that task.
Pick the best time block, depending where the task fits, and schedule it for everyday, or every working day. Ensure that you have everything required, all of the tools or information you need for that task, and work on it consistently so you develop the habit.
Picking the tasks will depend on your business and style of working, but pick the things that are important to move your business forward and get them scheduled in so you know you’re working on them every day. It could be an hour of writing, an hour connecting with people on LinkedIn, two hours calling target customers to build relationships. Just ensure it’s a priority activity that will make a positive impact on your business.
5. Don’t Try to do the Impossible
It’s easily done. You create a list of all of the tasks you want to be working on each day, you have an amount of client work, calls, personal tasks and before you know it you’re trying to fit more into the day than will ever fit.
It doesn’t work.
You have to set realistic expectations. Look at your blocks of time and plan in what you can realistically achieve in a day. If you try to do too much you’ll not only risk making yourself unwell and burning out (which is highly counter productive) but you’ll end up stressed, irritated and frustrated – and none of these emotions are useful for being productive.
If you couldn’t get it done in your day, let it go, walk away and take a break. Plan it into your schedule tomorrow and if it’s client work just ensure your client has a understanding of when they can expect to receive it.
6. Celebrate Success
Finally, it’s crucial to celebrate success, regardless how small.
If you’ve planned out your day and after working on something creative you complete a piece of work celebrate, treat yourself to a coffee and a biscuit, Tweet that you’ve finished something, tell your partner. Just take a moment to celebrate that you’ve been productive.
The more you create and the more productive you become, the more you’ll have to celebrate and the better you’ll feel about your work and if you’re working on the right things – the more your business will grow.
The Bottom Line
Being productive doesn’t just happen – you need to know when you can do your best work and create a daily routine that you can keep to that’s realistic. But as you develop habits and achieve success, be sure to celebrate!
Today’s Micro Action
Take some time to work out when you do your best work and create an outline daily routine. Add in the important habit building tasks every day and start working with your new routine. Please let me know how you get on in the comments.