It’s summer! Along with the warmer weather, summer also means packed schedules as invites to family BBQs, kids home from school and all those other little house projects ‘on hold until July’ all start competing for your time.
But when your work also remains steady throughout this season, how can you get more done in less time? Or, at the very least, how do you ensure work projects don’t get pushed down the list? From removing clutter from your desk as productivity expert Leo Babauta suggests, to Time Management Guru Chase Smith’s practical advice about scheduling your day, there are (thankfully) some easy-to-adopt tricks to staying focused and keeping productivity up amidst summer distractions.
Plan your Day, Week, and Month
One of the easiest traps a person who works for themselves can fall into (especially if he/she works from a home office) is overscheduling. Sure, you don’t have to adhere to a typical 9 to 5 plan for your day but some kind of written schedule, preferably one that adheres to something more concrete than your circadian rhythms, can really boost your productivity. Take a moment every evening to write down your “to-do” tasks for the next day. Use a calendar (like Google’s Gcal), to record dates and times, and another free tool like Evernote to categorize important tasks. Also remember to prioritize your activities based on their ROI (return on investment). Basically, consider running out to buy coal for your grill as providing you with less ROI than finishing up that invoice to send to a client. See these tips for more ideas about how to set goals.
Give yourself a break
Sometimes, all it takes to combat procrastination and inefficiency is accounting for your time. On a normal day, create a spreadsheet with times and activities performed. Seeing “watched an 8-hour Dora marathon with the kids; wrote two paragraphs” will probably kick you straight into gear. Begin fixing any bad procrastination habits by setting a timer and working for 50 minute periods with short, 10 minute breaks every hour. Don’t forget to schedule in lunch, too. A recent CNN report shows that breaks can actually give us a renewed sense of energy, increasing our productivity throughout the day.
Many argue that a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind, but it also just plain makes things harder to find. If your desk looks only slightly better than the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, you may want to take a few minutes out of every week to re-organize (and re-stock) your supplies. Perform an inventory check and hang the list up above the desk periodically. It’ll save time unnecessary time hunting around your home or office for an urgently-needed tool or document. Consider that if messy desks cost corporate offices around $177 billion annually, they’re probably costing you a good chunk of change, too.
Delegate with confidence
Trying to do everything? Unless you’re omnipresent, or some kind of human-octopus hybrid, you’re probably going to drive yourself bonkers. And, besides, research shows that multitasking ultimately kills your productivity. If you have the resources, try delegating and outsourcing some of those tasks. Hire an intern to help you with research, or an accountant. Ask if a spouse can help you shop for supplies, etc. It’ll help you refocus your energy on the most urgent tasks.
Learn to say no
A favorite runner-up to delegating, this is probably one of the most important things you can do as a entrepreneur. Especially if you work from home, friends or neighbors might not recognize your work schedule and ask you for time-sucking favors like picking up kids or grabbing groceries, etc. It’s okay to be generous, but if you’re in a crunch, or it’s simply bad timing, politely decline and say “no.” You’ll feel better. Really.