You’ve plunged into starting a solo business venture from home. Being a solopreneur is a fantastic experience for motivated individuals, but it can easily become stagnant if you aren’t careful. When everything starts piling up, you can lose sight of what drew you to your passion project in the first place, and your tools of escape can become your shackles.
Without a specific plan for using the time in your day wisely, running a business from home can feel like holding a tiger by the tail. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the weight of your responsibilities or the length of your to-do list, here are eight productivity tips that can help you stay focused on the big picture.
Remember your “why”
There should always be a “why” behind the things you do—besides deciding to start your own independent gig. Did you start with hopes of replacing or supplementing your daily grind with something that springs you out of bed in the morning? Where did that passion come from?
Maybe you once told yourself to “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” That should feel just as true now, even when day-to-day entrepreneurship involves more mundane tasks than you originally thought.
Successful businesses achieve results through clearly-defined mission statements. Your army of one is no different. Write down your “why” and post it somewhere you will see daily.
Set SMART goals
With your big “why” in mind, you can work backwards to create some SMART goals. The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Write down whatever goals come to mind and then ask yourself a series of questions.
- Is this specific enough?
- Can I measure this goal so I know when I have reached it?
- Is this an attainable goal?
- Is it realistic, given my current constraints?
- Can I place this goal within a doable timeframe to hold myself accountable?
Working toward goals will prevent you from wasting time and ensure you’re focusing on what really matters.
Do the most important tasks first
Once you define your goals, move on to prioritizing them. You know what needs to be done—now you need to decide what should be done first.
Brett McKay, from the Art of Manliness Blog, adapted a great object lesson from Stephen Covey’s book, “First Things First.” He invites us to picture our workday as a container. Too often we fill our time by haphazardly dropping in low-priority tasks first, like small rocks.
This takes up valuable space and prevents us from filling the container efficiently when it’s time for the big ones. However, if we start by putting in “big rocks” (the tasks that really matter), we can accomplish our main priorities while still having time for everything else.
Value your own time
Putting your big priorities in place will help you start blocking off your time, but building a daily schedule can still be tricky at first. The success of your venture often depends on long hours without a specific start or end time, and there aren’t always immediate results to validate your choices.
If you got into your business with the goal of having more flexibility or free time, you might find the opposite true unless you insist on boundaries to ensure that you don’t undervalue the time you spend on your projects.
You need “work time” to be time spent working so you can spend “you time” metaphorically frolicking through meadows and whistling with bluebirds.
Implement efficient routines
Hopefully, by now you’re beginning to develop solid routines. Now is the time to start leaning into them.
A good routine is like a program that runs semi-autonomously in your brain once you’ve done the same tasks in the same order often enough. Good routines can improve your productivity dramatically.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about building productive habits, as long as you stick with them. By compacting clearly defined tasks based on clearly defined goals into specific routines, you can do more with less effort. Automate as many of your tasks into routines as possible to be more productive.
Separate home and work
The principles behind keeping your time on track apply to keeping your space intact, as well.
Any seasoned solopreneur will warn you about the problems of letting your work space and home space bleed into one another. Separate them as much as possible. Just like when you had a traditional desk job, you want to be able to leave work behind when you leave the office.
Don’t go it alone
While cutting out the distractions that come from working at home, you don’t have to live in utter isolation. Networking with established people in your industry can be invaluable. Remind yourself that, no matter how unique your problems are, others have been there before you.
By seeking advice from an array of friendly supporters, you can create the rope to pull yourself out of a slump (and go on to help others in the same way they helped you). Keith Ferrazzi wrote a great book called “Never Eat Alone,” that suggests how you can start making these kinds of connections.
Outsource everything you can
Running a business from home requires a wide array of skills.
While your goal may be to do it all yourself, networking may uncover specialists that can do some small tasks better or quicker than you can.
When you outsource your time-munching tasks to freelancers and specialists, it frees your time to do what you actually care about. That way you can focus on the big “why” of what you do.
Originally published on Sept. 9, 2018.