What makes you get up in the morning when you don’t have to show up in the office at 9 am, when no boss expects results and when no colleagues are counting on? That is one of the most common problem among people who work for themselves. It can be quite isolating and frustrating at times. No boss tells you what to do, when to do it and when to stop. Well, guess what? Every single small business owner who runs an online company has the same problem. Working whenever you want is exciting but also challenging at times. Some tips and tricks can help you overcome your natural tendency for procrastination. And hopefully it’ll help you get out of bed in the morning :)
1. Don’t wake up in the morning if you don’t feel like it
Who can say that in order to be productive you need to wake up every day at 7 am, start working by 9 am and finish at 5 pm? Some people prefer to work in the evening – some are even most productive when everyone else is asleep. There’s no magic formula that works for everyone. The trick is to know yourself. You need to figure out when your best time for creative work is (it could definitely be between midnight and 2 am). Forcing yourself to wake up and start working by 9 am is useless if you’re not in the mood. You’d get annoyed at the world and waste time. You need to be in the right mindset in order to be productive. Find the time when you work best, whether it is morning, afternoon, evening or night and arrange your working schedule accordingly.
2. Find an environment that allows you to concentrate
Avoiding distractions is extremely important. We always underestimate the time lost in going back to our optimal concentration level (25 minutes according to science). Sometimes you need to acknowledge that the environment you are working in is not right. It could be too noisy, too silent, too dark, or too full of distractions from friends, family, partner or your cat. Whatever it is, you can’t fully concentrate for a substantial period of time. Finding a working environment that works for you is essential if you want to do great work. Depending on the nature of your work you might prefer a different set up. For work that requires a high level of concentration, you might need silence and to be alone, that’s when you’d rather work from home. Whereas if you do creative work, like graphic design, your best environment could be outside in nature, on the balcony, or on top of a mountain. And if you reply emails, or are dealing with dull tasks, maybe you’d rather stay in a coffee shop. In short, according to the task to be completed, a specific environment works better than another.
3. Turn off your social media notifications
Have you ever noticed how Facebook kills your productivity? Every time your phone rings, you can’t help it but check what’s going on with your friends on Facebook (valid for all other social media networks). This is the biggest productivity killer during the day. If you really want to get work done, I’d strongly advise you simply turn off ALL your notifications during the time you have to work. You can also download an app (I use StayFocusd) that restricts the access to Facebook to a specific amount of time every day. This advice is valid also for social media managers. You don’t need to spend the whole day on social media. Instead use scheduling tools to avoid spending too much time on social networks.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of breaks
Allow yourself to take breaks. In my opinion, they are extremely beneficial in the long run. Firstly, no one can ever work all the time without risking a burnout. Secondly, taking breaks allows your brain to rest and digest everything you’ve been doing. Taking distance from your work is as important as doing the actual job. When I just started my business, I would take no holidays, no weekends, and work way too many hours. Does that sound familiar to you too? After a couple of months, I realized that this was counterproductive. I was working relentlessly on useless things and therefore wasting time and energy without producing any results. From then on, I decided to take my weekends off and reduce my productive hours to 4 hours a day. I also defined a daily routine to allow my brain to cool down: one hour walk per day in nature (or a park when I live in the city). And believe me, since then I’ve never been more satisfied with my work flow, my achievements have doubled while my working time decreased.
5. Focus on the single most important thing
As I said before, being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being productive. Has it ever occurred to you, the feeling of having done a lot during the day, but you can’t even remember what? That usually is a red light for “you are not working on the things that matters most”. Every day I try to focus on one specific task that will help my business run more smoothly while making my life easier. This is the first thing I do in the morning. When the task is too big, I divide it into smaller sub-tasks that can be done in 4 hours each and spread them over the whole week. To date, this is the most powerful habit I’ve picked up.
6. Create routines that work for you
For those of us who have lost the constraints of the working hours, routines are one of the most important element to put us back on track. To create a routine, start by selecting one habit you’d like to integrate into your current lifestyle. Ideally this habit should immediately follow an existing habit; for example, if you wanted to write a journal, you could decide to start writing right after brushing your teeth every morning. According to science, a habit takes about 2 months to become anchored in your lifestyle. So don’t stop after two days. For example, I always start my morning with a cup of tea and a business book so that my mind gets set up in business mode. I know it always takes me 2 hours between the time I wake up and the moment I start working. And it’s okay.
As you explore productivity, you’ll find out a whole range of technics and tools that have been developed. Try as many as you need until you find what works for you. The secret is to know yourself and figure out how you can make the most out of your working hours.