There's a million-and-one other people writing about productivity. So I try to only write about it when I have something unique to bring to the table.
And whether you've been a regular reader of mine or not, you find yourself here (at yet another productivity post) for one of two reasons:
- You're either obsessed with productivity and you're looking for a new angle,
- or you're drowning in a sea of overwhelm—maybe there's a rescue float nearby, or maybe there isn't...
The longer I've been an entrepreneur for, the more "strategies" I've found and toyed with, or created on my own.
Some work, and some are complete duds.
And through that experience I've found my preferred steps to creating a productive routine, schedule, and automated workflow to how I tackle each day.
(And it's pretty darned simple, too.)
So if you're interested in nailing down a productive workflow for your solopreneur business, this post exactly where you want to start.
1. List out your Recurring Tasks
What recurring activities do you need to do to grow and maintain your business?
And, how often do you need to do them?
Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
A few of these tasks could be things like:
- post on social media
- write a blog post
- write social content
- create social media and other content graphics
- write "X" [number of] emails
- respond to emails
- edit older blog post
- comment on a blog post
- read 1 chapter [of book you're reading]
...and the list goes on.
Once you've listed out all the activities you need to do to grow and maintain your business, factor how often you'll need to do them.
Using your list (or the one I've included below), beside each of your listed recurring tasks, simply jot down how often you'll need to work them.
Then, on what days? What times?
2. Batch What You Can Batch
Taking that list of recurring activities, how many of those can you batch?
My definition of batching is "to bang out specific types of work in a day or a set period of time".
There will be activities you can group together or batch-do all in one shot from your list.
All you need to do is decide what type of work would serve you, your business, and your audience best to get it all done in a day.
EXAMPLE: You can write all your blog posts for the following month on, let's say, the second-to-last Monday of the current month.
The last Monday of the month, you could spend it editing, adding images and links to those posts.
Now, if you write highly detailed posts like I do, you probably won't be able to write more than 1 or 2 posts in a day.
If that's the case, just schedule your day to write a new blog post once a week. That's the kind of activity you can do when you...
3. Time Block + Segment Up Your Schedule
Ah, segmenting and time blocking.
This schedule manipulation strategy is quite useful for me and most all my clients.
What is it?
Well, time blocking is setting up chunks of time to do a specific [type of] activity. So, using the blog writing example, you'd set however many hours up that you need to write your posts during, and theme and dedicate that time to doing that activity.
EXAMPLE: 9AM to 11AM every Monday I write 1 blog post. Or I'll batch-write 4 to 6 emails for a segmented group od subscribers (depending on how many posts I have pre-written already).
I themed Mondays as my designated Content Creation days.
That way, if something comes up or I'm working on a project and don't have time to write daily, I know I have content written up for my blog and email list because that's what Mondays are designated to be doing.
See how that works?
I took a chunk of time (9AM to 11AM) and dedicate that time block to batch-writing content for my audience.
Where segmenting comes in is that I tend to get my best work done in the mid-morning (at this point in my life—yes, it varies).
It used to be at 5AM to 7AM until post-hysterectomy Sara couldn't get up that early anymore.
Then it was from 1PM to 3PM being my ideal time block to work.
But, as we grow and "life happens", things change.
And it's 100% okay to change your schedule around to adjust. Isn't that one of the many awesome benefits that being an entrepreneur affords us?
(And don't let any nut-head productivity "guru" tell you any different. Changing your schedule whenever you need to works wonders for many—especially for those who hate too much structure.)
So, how does the whole segmenting work?
Well, I did write a detailed post on it, but in a nutshell:
Segmenting is splitting up your day into 3 parts. It doesn't have to be as specific as morning, afternoon, and evening—but for the sake of this example, that's what I'll use.
For most full-time solopreneurs, you'll use 2 of your segments (let's say morning and afternoon) for work.
And at least 1 segment should be personal and/or family—whatever non-work related time you need.
The biggest part of segmenting, though, is deciding which time block within which segment offers your peak hours—or your "Prime Time".
I know, this is a lot of stuff, but hang tight. I'm getting to the point soon...
So, your peak hours are your body's natural "at it's best" point of the day—where your mind and body are the most alert and effective.
Remember my little story on "I used to work better during blah, blah, blah..."?
The peak hours factor is what I was talking about.
And as I'm writing this blog post for you, my peak hours are from 9AM to 11AM.
That's when I'm the most focused and I can create my best work.
So, the questions you should answer at this point are:
- What 3 segments do I have of awake time?
- When are my peak hours?
- What do I want to devote my peak hours to? (Because you might prefer to spend your peak hours doing something non-work related.)
- Which 1 or 2 segments do I need for work?
- What activities or groups of activities do I need to time block out of my work segment(s)?
4. Weave In Work-Life Balance
Okay, I didn't really need to add this since I slipped it in with segmenting.
But the thing is: It's so freaking important to have time for yourself and/or for your relationships every day.
So, which part of your segmented time blocks are for you?
Maybe it's reading time? Spending time with your spouse or significant other?
Time with your kids? Meditation time?
Whatever time you need to feel good about yourself, or to share with someone you love is precious—and a necessity.
And it needs to be sprinkled in throughout your day. (Or, straight out carved into it—time blocked in.)
For me, I spend an hour after lunch doing something that makes me feel good.
One day it might be reading a book. Another day it might be calling a family member or friend just to catch up. Or it might be going for a walk or doing some yoga.
Then, I cheat... I carved out more than just one personal time block into my daily schedule. (You can be a cheater, in this case, too.)
From 5PM to 8PM, I spend that time with my family.
I don't check my phone. I don't get on my computer. It's no one else's time but ours.
The point is:
Make sure you're spending quality time with the people you love and/or quality time with yourself.
And to be sure, make that time happen by blocking it out in your schedule. (Yep, I'm talking to you, Workaholic.)
5. Commit [To Your Productive Future]
And here's where all the schedule-making and time spent prepping and polishing gets tested.
Because if you create this super-specific schedule and plan that you don't adhere to, you wasted a crapload of time setting it all up, huh?
So, make sure the schedule you build is something you'll actually commit to.
And if you won't commit, go back and adjust it into a more reasonable fit for you and your lifestyle.
Another thing that might help you transition into a more structured schedule are some simple tools and techniques.
Something like operational alarms that you pre-set to go off throughout the day.
Or maybe the Pomodoro method.
Or, maybe simple prompts from your mobile calendar so you know when it's time to move onto the next activity.
Whatever you need to do to create positive habits for your business—do it. Because an organized and productive business is much more likely to succeed than an unstructured one.
6. Review Your Progress
Here's another biggie.
Think of it like recording proof that something you implemented is or isn't working.
Something I do to monitor progress is what I like to call a "Balance Review".
Basically I take a look at everything I did during the week—good and bad—and write down how I feel about it.
In my review, I dive into details like how much I earned, how many new subscribers signed up this week, how much I spent—etc.
Then, I jot down notes on what I felt was successful, what I could do better, and maybe something that I need to avoid.
You can write that down journaling style, or use a spreadsheet to keep it all in.
The point is to create a trail of breadcrumbs for yourself.
Breadcrumbs that reveal things that are working and things that aren't.
And as someone who used to get stuck hard in tough spots—in life and in business—I've found that these balance reviews help to loosen up those stuck moments.
Because with regular reviews, you can pinpoint where and when something went wrong. And if you know where and when, you can make progressive changes from there on out.
(Especially when you don't have to stop and restart again and again—such a time suck.)
Because shit happens. We both know it.
Isn't it so much easier to just start fixing something from the point when things went wonky instead of starting all over again?
7. Make adjustments as you go [and grow]
And rolling up the tail end of point 6, sometimes it just takes a couple tweaks here and there to get into the swing of things.
Maybe you just want to get a better handle on growth strategies that work for you.
Maybe it's that you just need to solidify a schedule that works for you and your family.
No matter where you are in your business—or where you are in your future business—you'll have to make adjustments here and there.
It's all a part of growth.
Because something you do one month may not work out the same the next.
Or, something you change on your website did well for the first few weeks, then turned out to suck soon after.
It's all a part of growth.
And it's a fun, annoying, zany, and aggravating rollercoaster.
We've just gotta roll with it to grow and be relevant in our niches.
Start with the basics.
Depending on where you are in your business right now, you probably have an inkling of what you can do each day to maintain and grow your business.
- List out all your recurring tasks.
- Batch whatever tasks (or groups of tasks) you can batch into a specific timeframe or day.
- Time block out and segment up your weekly recurring schedule.
- Weave your LIFE into your workflow—you're not a robot, yo.
- COMMIT. Commit to making "it" work and do what you can to make it easier on yourself (without giving yourself too much slack for necessities.)
- Regularly review yourself and your work, schedule, life—everything.
- Make adjustments as you go and grow in your life and business.
These 7 uncomplicated steps can change your life and your business if you do them.
So try it. Join me in being able to spend more time doing what you love—even if that's just more time to do the work you love to do.
Just start. (Right now. Go on.)
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle. So, blog comments got the boot. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.