Have you ever looked back at a long day of work and wondered why you didn't get anything done? I certainly have - there have been many times that I've thought I was being productive, but I was actually spending my time on things that weren't as important to my business.
As the creative director and only designer at Lemon and the Sea, I have a lot on my plate - and I'm sure you do to. That's why it's important to use your time in the best way possible. After all, time is one thing you can't make more of.
So how do you increase your productivity when you're trying to do it all? These are some tips I've learned during my time in business (and in architecture school before that - no all-nighters for me).
Find your ideal schedule
One of the most important things I did early in my business was to find my most creative time of day. It may seem silly, but when you run your own business, you don't have to stick to a 9-to-5 schedule, so take advantage of that flexibility and schedule your work during the ideal time for you.
For me, that means that I do my creative work in the mornings from 8 or 9 am until lunch and then focus on administrative tasks and upkeep later in the day.
But if you're a night owl (or you have kids you need to watch during the day), working at night might make more sense for you.
Either way, don't feel tied to starting work at 8 am just because it's what everyone else does - find your ideal schedule and plan your day around it.
Create a long-term schedule
It's easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and feel like you're constantly putting out fires. But by planning long-term you can have a better idea of what you need to prioritize to reach your goals and serve your clients.
Take time each month to plan out all your longer term projects - including launches, marketing efforts, and blog posts. By having everything planned ahead of time, you'll know exactly what you need to accomplish to stay on track. Plus, planning out your blog posts will mean that you never have to rush to come up with an idea the night before you're supposed to hit publish.
In addition to monthly planning, make sure to plan out client projects as soon as someone books with you. I like to schedule out all of my steps and assign due dates so that I never fall behind and to ensure that I don't book too many projects at once.
By laying out a long-term schedule, you can see everything you want to accomplish (and what it will take to get there) at a glance without having to panic that you've forgotten something important. But make sure you allow some room for flexibility as well - your goals and dreams may change, and that's totally okay.
Make a daily to-do list
Once you have your long-term schedule laid out, you can focus on what you need to do each day. Take some time each morning to write out what you want to accomplish for the day, starting with the most important tasks first.
Then, work your way through your to-do list. I like to alternate behind my big to-do items and smaller things that I can take care of in just a few minutes (like checking my email). And if you finish everything early? Use the time to work ahead or take a break - it's one of the perks of being the boss.
Track your time
Have you ever found yourself clicking on to Facebook to check in only to look up two hours later and realize that you've wasted that time? I certainly have.
By tracking your time, you can learn where you're spending the most time and what you might need to schedule more tightly. Time tracking has lots of benefits:
- You know how long a project takes you so that you can better price your services
- You know what you're spending time on that could be outsourced (and how much money you're losing if you're doing it all yourself)
- You can learn which tasks give you a bigger return on investment and which might need to be cut down
- You have a good record of how much time each task takes as you plan long-term
Getting into the habit of tracking your time isn't easy (especially when you see how many hours you spend napping), but it is useful in the long run.
Pick your priorities
When you run your own business, you're the boss, which means that you get to pick what's most important to you. Make your business work for your life, not the other way around.
Want to spend the afternoon at your child's Mother's Day lunch? Go ahead!
Having a bad day and just want to watch Netflix and chill? You can!
Yes, you are responsible to your clients and to yourself, but there is room in your business to take care of the things that are most important to you.
Tools I love
So how do I put all these tips into practice? With a systems and tools that I've created over time. I've found what works for me and I'm always making adjustments as I go based on my work load, family, and how I'm feeling. These are some of the tools I use to keep everything running:
- Harvest - for tracking my time
- Insightly - for scheduling projects and client work
- ConvertKit + Zapier - for creating auto-responders and making my email more managable
- Bullet Journal - for tracking my daily tasks
- Google Calendar - for tracking appointments and keeping everything in one place
- Wall Calendar - for scheduling blog posts
Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family. I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.