Are you looking at your to-do list right now… and your calendar… and wondering how in the world you are going to get everything done by the end of the year?
I know I am. And if you’re like me, you’re not just thinking through your personal to-dos like holiday cards and parties. You’re also trying to juggle your business responsibilities, especially if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, or a side-hustler — because when you’re working for yourself in some capacity, the responsibility to hit deadlines and deliver is all on you. You’ve got to get it done, no matter what it takes, because there is no one else to step in to do it for you.
Well, I can certainly relate to that feeling. And while I don’t usually mind the pressure — after all, that’s why I thrive as a solopreneur — I also know we need to make our lives manageable, especially during the added pressure and expectations of the holiday season. So, with that in mind, I offer you 4 tips to help you stay productive between now and January 1.
- Make a plan.
This doesn’t have to be a detailed, perfect, unbreakable plan. In fact, it’s probably best if you maintain a roughed out plan, maybe in pencil so you can erase and readjust without too much pain. The key is to be realistic about how long it’s going to take you to do something, factor that into your planning, and do your best.
Example: You see that photo of my calendar for today? It’s got a rough plan with not much on it right now, except for some deadlines and hard plans. The To-Do list to the left is a list of things I need to get done in general. I’ll pull some items off that list to do today — probably a few client articles, and some personal errands over a long lunch.
- Start earlier than you need to.
Many of us have the tendency to procrastinate. It’s an even greater temptation when you’re your own boss, because no one can stop you from leaving your desk to go do laundry or take an hour to read a book. If you start projects earlier than you need to, you’ll be ahead of the game, which is key to managing a busy schedule. It’s actually how you free up time for yourself, to be honest.
You can start earlier in several ways — by starting your work day a little earlier, spending a little less down time at lunch, working a little later, or working on the project a day or two earlier than you think you need to. When you fail to start early enough, you can end up miserable.
Example: Failing to plan enough time for things can get you in the situation of having to do what I did this past weekend. I worked super late Friday night to meet a deadline I would have met easier if I’d started working on the project just one day earlier. And I worked over the weekend on articles I could also have finished earlier in the week. I was exhausted. I got sick. Procrastinating wasn’t worth the pain.
- Be prepared for the crazy to happen.
Even if you’re a good planner, disciplined, careful, you’ll still face something absolutely nuts at times that throws off your schedule. Small business owners, solopreneurs, and freelancers are especially vulnerable to this kind of disruption, so you should pad your schedule to account for it.
Example: I have three indoor cats that normally get along pretty calmly. And on nice days, I open the glass sliding door to expose the screen door, giving them and me some fresh air while I work. And this also normally works great.
Except for the day last week when a strange cat came onto the back deck, violating cat rules of territory. Because my cats couldn’t get outside to chase the stranger away, they attacked each other instead, and I suddenly had the mother of all cat fights skidding across the floor.
Three hours later, I had isolated the cats so they could calm down, bought some Feliway and calming cat treats, tried to soothe them individually…and missed both the rest time I’d planned for that afternoon, as well as the two hours of client reading I’d planned.
STUFF LIKE THIS HAPPENS when you work for yourself. You better expect it to happen, when you least expect it, of course. You’ll laugh about it later, probably, but when it happens, you just have to roll with the punches.
- Spend time on yourself.
It is all too easy to get lost in the to-do list and deadlines, especially when the holidays are approaching and you have added things to care for — such as gift buying, visitors to make room for, relatives coming for dinner, and more. Don’t neglect caring for yourself as well. Getting enough sleep, taking a break from work to walk or stretch or hit the gym, journaling, reading a good book, having a leisurely lunch with a friend — activities like these recharge your battery and give you more energy and creativity, which you can take back to your work or to-do list. These two things — hard work and rest time — go hand in hand in ramping up your productivity. You need to do both. Don’t neglect one for the other.
Example: After my overly full weekend, I gave myself permission to rest on Monday. Of course, I wasn’t feeling well either, so that also fed into my decision. But I gave myself permission to not feel well, and thus not be as productive as I normally hope to be. I read a lot, I napped, I sipped tea, and I didn’t expect to get any client work done. It was glorious, and much needed.
Do you have any favorite tips and tricks for staying productive during the holidays, or any other time of the year? Please share in the comments, so I can learn from you.
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