I work from home, which means it’s easy to fall prey to an unproductive, poorly managed day. Over time, I’ve tried out so many different time management methods – timers, mobile apps, notebooks, whiteboards, sticky-notes, web apps, advice books – just about everything! I know that many small business owners and solo business owners face the same problems. As much as we might like to believe there is some magical time management app or productivity method out there on the internet to solve all our problems, it’s just not the case. Each person gets work done differently and works better in different circumstances. I want to give you a bit of advice for helping you become more productive and manage your time more efficiently so you avoid some of the pitfalls I came across.
Find Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Think about the times when you’ve been really productive. What happened to make those times productive for you? Now think about the times when you’ve been very unproductive. Single out your weaknesses from those times. With your productivity strengths and weaknesses in mind, it will be a lot easier for you to be and stay productive. It took me a long time before I finally accepted that I just was not a morning person. I had read so many articles about how much better it is to get working right away in the morning and how much time you save by doing so. But I just couldn’t make it work for me! By taking a hard look back at the times I had been productive, I realized that I had more energy in the afternoon and was able to accomplish so much more by saving my energy for that time frame. Now I do my easy tasks in the morning and save my big projects and writing for the afternoon because I know I’ll be more focused then.
Don’t try and force yourself to be a morning person. Don’t try and force yourself to use a time management method that goes against your own strengths. If you’re the kind of person that works best in short spurts, try using that to your advantage and utilize something like the Pomodoro Technique. Many people find that Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method of habit-making works great, but not everyone is motivated in that same way so it doesn’t work for them.
Combine and Tweak
Since there are so many different apps and note-taking methods out there for being productive, it’s easy to find a few that you might like. Try and combine different mediums and methods that motivate you the best, focusing on your own strengths and work habits. I always have a notebook open in front of my computer, so using a to-do list system like BulletJournal works well for me. My daily and weekly tasks are always right in front of me, so I’m reminded of what to focus on. To keep me from getting writers block, I use Focus Booster to break up my work into more manageable time chunks. Combining these tools has helped me stay focused on my work without sacrificing work quality.
If you find a productivity method that works well, don’t be afraid to tweak it as needed. I don’t use BulletJournal in exactly the way outlined on the site – I find keeping track of the Index and all of that too messy and it takes up extra time I don’t really need to spend. This goes back to knowing your own strengths and weakness. If part of your work flow is keeping you back, try and cut it out or minimize it as much as possible.
Experiment, But Not Too Much
If you find that your current work habits and methods aren’t getting the results you want, don’t be afraid to try new things! Maybe you’ll find keeping a journal to jot down notes helps you remember your tasks better. Or maybe you’ll discover an app that really keeps you motivated through long work sessions. If you don’t try new things you might stagnate, and none of us want that to happen.
That said, don’t go crazy with re-doing your entire work schedule all the time. It’s best to ease into a new time schedule so that your work doesn’t take a big hit if it fails. It’s also important so that your co-workers and collaborators have a chance to adjust to whatever schedule you might be using. I made the mistake of trying to switch my entire way of scheduling my day all at once. It made me even more unproductive because I was so focused on the change of schedule and not my work. On top of that, it didn’t last very long because I was too frustrated with the change.
If you’re looking for some apps or software to try, check out this list of 15 Time Management Apps and Tools as a starting place.
If you’re having trouble having productive work days, take a few moments to figure out the things that give you energy and motivation to complete your tasks without being distracted. Try out new tools and methods that play up those strengths. Don’t be afraid to ditch advice or apps that don’t sufficiently motivate you and help you get things done. Use as many methods as you need – or none at all! As long as you recognize the strengths and weaknesses in your own work habits, you can make sure you accomplish everything.