I love working for myself. I love my job, and I love setting my own schedule, and I REALLY love that most days of the week it’s completely acceptable to never get out of my pajamas (can I get a hallelujah?). BUT… for someone like myself who is not a “Type-A” or super organized personality who can naturally keep all their balls in the air, it can be really hard to stay on track and get things done on a regular schedule. Actually, about the only thing that comes naturally easy to me is procrastinating.
When I initially quit my very last “real” job and went into photography full time, I was still in a Monday-Friday mindset and the first few weeks went great… and then all of the days started to blend together, my sense of time management slipped away, and I started to do what I do best: put off anything I didn’t want to do.
In the following months I spent a lot of time on Facebook, or looking at photography inspiration (and a lot of cat memes), without actually working much. I was really unsatisfied with my progress in my business which just further made me want to avoid buckling down and getting to work, and the time suck vortex of social media and the internet was just too tempting to avoid.
At some point I realized I was never going to be a successful business person if I didn’t learn how to manage myself, so I started seeking advice and tools to get myself on track.
1. Write out your goals for the workday ahead of time.
Every day when I call it quits I write myself a post-it note of the key things I’m going to finish (or start) the following work day. Not only does it help me remember where I left off, but it lays out in front of me exactly what I need to finish before I’m allowed to goof off. Also, I get a really huge kick out of being able to crumple up my accomplished Post-Its at the end of the day.
2. Avoid social media during work hours.
By far my biggest time waster is the combination of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I can lose entire days on those sites – not only because I can get so sucked in I lose all concept of time, but also because my friends (who are also procrastinating, or are lucky enough to have a day off) encourage me to keep participating. No matter how well intentioned I am when I sit down to work for the day, all it takes is one Facebook notification that someone commented on a status to make me jump ship and run back to the arms of social media. I have no willpower.
Luckily it appears that a lot of other people have the same problem, which is why popular browser plugins like StayFocused (Google Chrome) and Leechblock (Firefox) exist, and completely rock. Block any user specified sites for a certain amount of time to keep you from being tempted so you don’t cheat.
3. Check/respond to email only at specific times.
On work days, I don’t check my email first thing when I start working at 9:30. I do my first round of email during lunch at noon, and I limit reading/replying to half an hour. I check it again at 4:30 when all of my other work is (usually) finished. My experience is that anyone contacting me via email does not have an urgent matter I need to get back to them immediately about – if they did they would call me, so checking my email every 20 minutes or every time my phone pings is pretty pointless and a huge distraction.
4. Turn off WiFi/data on your cell phone when you’re at your desk.
If your phone is binging and pinging every 5 minutes with social media, emails, and game notifications it’s nearly impossible to not want to check it… even if it’s just reading ONE email or responding to ONE Facebook message, that stuff takes time, and again it’s usually NOT urgent. The only thing my cell phone does during work hours is make phone calls.
5. Time yourself.
Okay, so my cell phone actually does ONE other thing besides make phone calls when I’m working… I use alarms and timers constantly. I set them for every task I do, and I mean every task. It’s become a running joke in our household; if an auto-repeat alarm goes off on one of my vacation days my husband and son make bets about what it’s for.
It can be so easy to get sucked into one really fun/exciting project and just ignore all other less fun, less exciting jobs, and then suddenly the whole day is gone and the important work still hasn’t been completed (hello 4am all-nighter!).
There are lots of ways to do this, you don’t have to use your phone. Get a timer app for your computer desktop, (Mac or PC) or grab your kitchen egg timer and stick it on your desk. Decide how long specific tasks are going to take and stick to it.
- Bonus! With a timer set, I have a reminder when it’s time to move on, and as an added bonus it also helps me realize how long tasks actually take to finish vs. what I THINK it will take – allowing me to effectively price myself and not feel like I’m being underpaid.
One final tip: Take a few breaks throughout the day. 15-20 minutes here and there to get up and give yourself a stretch, take a walk, do some yoga, play with your pet, make a Starbucks run, whatever it may be. Giving yourself “me” time during the day breaks up the monotony of sitting at a desk and will make your whole day more enjoyable!
This post was originally published on IHeartFaces on March 10 2014, and reposted to AmandalynnJones.com in January 2017