How to stay productive when you’re self employed
If you’re self-employed you already know the struggle.
Everyone you know thinks being self-employed means waking up late, lunch when you want and the ability to work from home.
“Being your own boss must be great”
For the majority of us – this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When you’re self-employed you’re up earlier than everyone else. You have to juggle being an: Accountant, Customer service representative, admin, and a million other things. Just to stop everything from crashing and burning.
On top of that you need to be making money to make sure you can put food on your table and survive. You determine how much you make, you don’t get it if you don’t put in the work.
It can be overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong I love being self-employed but sometimes you just can’t be fucked.
For me, I went through a period of three months, where I would wake up with dread. I had such a long list of big and small tasks, everything was going wrong and on top of that I had to deal with friends and family.
I’m not saying my life is any tougher than any other self-employed person, but for that short period of time. I struggled. I really struggled.
It felt like there was no way out, the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I was depressed and my business was suffering.
If you’ve ever felt like this, it’s truly terrible.
You feel like shit and everything goes to shit. Which means:
- More problems,
- More tasks
- More stress
You either quit being self-employed or you suffer.
You’ll look online, but what do you search?
I have too much work, how do I make my work go away
I’m self-employed and stressed please help me, please.
How do I stop my ridiculously long list of tasks getting any longer?
It’s not exactly clearly laid out. Being self employed you feel quite alone.
Luckily for you, you just stumbled across a little blonde Irish kid who has the answer you need.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow so to speak.
Yes, I did just use a leprechaun reference. It’s ok though because I’m Irish.
I wish I would have found this solution quicker, but unfortunately I didn’t.
The following methods I’m about to tell you have made my life exponentially better.
You’ll need to do a few things to stop the feeling of wanting to lie in bed and avoid all your tasks.
- You’ll have to wake up earlier.
I’ve already covered why you should wake up early on this so I won’t go into too much detail.
Basically waking up earlier gives you access to a 2-3-hour period in the morning of interrupted work. A period of pure focus. A time where you can actually get shit done.
You need this time in your life, it’s literally changed my life – and that’s not BULLSHIT.
2. You need to write down and establish what you need to complete
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with your list of tasks, if you don’t write your tasks down.
If you don’t write down what you have to complete on a piece of paper or on your phone you’re in trouble.
You need to write down the tasks you need to complete. Then you need to write down the tasks that pop into your head as you’re doing other tasks.
When you’re writing tasks down take some time and write absolutely everything down. You can prioritize these tasks if you want to be super-efficient but I don’t do that as it take too much time and it can be used as another form of procrastination.
Writing your tasks down reduces stress in two ways:
- You will know exactly what you’ve got to do
- You’ll not be worried about forgetting anything.
A lot of the stress of being self-employed comes from the stress of not knowing if you’ve completed all your tasks, or that horrible feeling of thinking you’ve forgot something.
If you take a quick note of your task instead of thinking “Better remember that super important task” before you forget it in 27
It’s simple solution but it will save you a lot of heartbreak.
3. Take it one task at a time
The one thing my computing science degree has taught me that I use every day is this.
When you’re facing a big problem, don’t think of it as a big problem. Think of it as a series of really small problems and solve one problem at a time.
Yes, you have a HUGE list of tasks, I get it.
But guess what? Every other self-employed person has one as well.
I was under the impression that I was so special, that no one was working as hard as me but that’s just not true. As Ramit Sethi says you’re not a snowflake.
Stop complaining about your tasks, instead pick one and do it. Then repeat the process.
Don’t juggle multiple tasks pick one and don’t do anything else until it’s done, this includes texting, emails, Instagram and every other thing that is trying to distract you.
The stupidest of tasks can seem important enough to distract you, but don’t give in. You can clean your shoes later, or whatever else you’ve persuaded yourself you just have to do.
This isn’t a magical solution and it takes time, but the most important thing is that it gets you to take action. Taking action gets shit done.
Because the more time you spend thinking or complaining about your tasks, the more the tasks will pile on.
The quickest way to overwhelm yourself is to multitask, do one task at a time.
Slowly but surely you’ll start chipping away at your long list.
4. You need to create a timetable/schedule
Remember back in school you had a timetable of all your classes.
When you’re in school – You’re trying to juggle all these different places you need to be, things you need to learn and tasks you need to complete.
Being a student in school is a lot like being self-employed.
When your self-employed you have different places you need to be, things you need to learn and tasks you need to complete.
So, you need to create a timetable and a routine.
But every week is different, this advice is stupid.
Too much effort
I don’t know what I’m going to be doing, how can I make a timetable?
All of these common bullshit excuses reveal your problem.
If every week is truly different, you’ll be waking up at a different time, you’ll never have the same appointments, you’ll never do certain tasks on certain days – no wonder you’re stressed out. You never know what to expect.
You may think that creating a timetable is impossible for you but it’s not it just may be more difficult.
- Do you wake up at the same time every day?
- Do you have the same lunch time every day?
- Are you always in your office every day?
- Do you do the same job just with different clients or customers?
- Do you post items at roughly a certain time?
Even if your job is completely dependent on your customers and you have no control, there are certain aspects that you should timetable. A timetable will be beneficial to you for a few reasons.
- You’ll know exactly how long you have to complete a task this will stop you wasting time checking your phone
If you’re not scheduling your activities, you’ll quickly become inefficient. Without a timetable there’s no deadline so you’re in no rush to get a task done, “heck you can just finish this tomorrow”.
Think of the difference in knowing you have to write a blog post that day vs knowing you have to write a blog post between the time of 1-3pm. Do you see how powerful that is?
- You’ll never be stuck wondering what to do next.
When your self-employed there is always something that needs to be completed, some task that needs fixed. If you don’t have a schedule you’ll find yourself checking emails, when you really need to be meeting up with manufacturer. Take time and create a quality schedule and you won’t have problems knowing what you should be doing at that exact time.
- You’ll know when to stop work.
If you’re self-employed you’ve probably noticed that work doesn’t stop. You’re always “working.”
You’ll always be checking emails.
Reading blog posts about increasing your conversion rate
Or thinking about your business in some shape or form. This is a problem that almost every self-employed person faces.
But it’s what we’re supposed to be doing isn’t it? Everyone else is out their hustling 24/7 so we have to be as well.
The reality is, if you want to perform you need downtime, scheduled time that doesn’t involve work.
A timetable allows you to say when your day is actually over, because it’s tempting to sit up all night on email or adjust your website but it’s not productive. It’s just staying busy. Give yourself a damn rest!
Something that I recommend is scheduling in time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Taking at least an hour for lunch.
“Are you crazy? I can’t take an hour for lunch”
You can and you should.
Your brain can only cope with so much, if you want to stay creative, happy and energized you need time to enjoy some down time and get some food. On your lunch you shouldn’t be checking emails, be on social media or anything else instead you should be taking a break. From all business related stuff, read a book, exercise or enjoy some time with your friends.
Enjoying life is just as important as hustling every second of everyday. Always remember why you’re hustling.
Let me know in the comments if you’re going to implement any methods yourself, or if you have any tricks yourself to stay productive when you’re self employed.
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