When you tell people that you're your own boss, I'm sure you hear a lot of "That must be so nice! You can work as much or as little as you want." But, as I’m sure some of you know, it's not always as fabulous as it sounds. With no one telling you when to start work, how long to work for, and what to prioritize, some days “work” can become a whole lot of staring at your computer screen, giving up, and watching Netflix instead.
Yes, that sounds great, but none of us make money by Netflix bingeing (we wish).
So, for the entrepreneur who makes their own schedule, here are some tips on how to design your workday in a way that will produce results – based on what has worked for myself and other entrepreneurs in the online space:
- Draft a list of what needs to get done and break it down into manageable chunks, realistically estimating the amount of time each task will take. Always make sure to build in a time buffer in case a task takes longer than expected or something else comes up.
- Determine your top 5 goals for the day using an organizational tool like our Better Life Planner. Going into your day with more than 5 manageable goals can lead to overwhelm and not knowing where to start.
- Try getting up earlier every day to determine your optimal sleep schedule.
- Develop a morning routine that sets you up well for the day. I recommend prioritizing breakfast before checking emails!
- Most people's peak performance times are the first few hours after waking up, so don't exercise during this time. Instead, tackle your biggest priorities and save your workout for the afternoon slump or the evening.
- Schedule your social media activity for the afternoon because it's a task that requires less brain work.
- Avoid meetings whenever possible, but if they absolutely have to happen schedule them during or after lunch.
Throughout the Day:
- If any small task can be done in under 5 minutes, do it right away or as soon as possible.
- Use apps like Rescue Time to monitor when you're at your most and least productive and measure your productivity trends over time.
- Set aside designated email time.
- When focusing on one task, close other browsers and mute notifications.
- Work in 25 minute increments, followed by a 5 minute break.
- Have a good balance of working, exercise (even getting up and stretching works wonders), and socializing (such as calling a friend on your lunch break).
- Maintain the same or similar schedule every day to form healthy and consistent work habits.
Allow yourself to leave your work, mentally and physically, at the end of your workday and don't work more than 8 hours whenever possible. Having a social life and time to yourself is not only healthy, but will improve your performance in your career.
Try out these tips for at least two weeks and make note of what works for you and what doesn't. After two weeks you'll have a solid foundation to assemble everything into a timetable and pin it up in your office. Treating your work day as if you worked for someone else by having a set schedule will set you up for success and increased productivity. Now get to work!
Erin is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Better Life Project, an independent Graphic Designer with a focus on social good, and a writer just for kicks.