Over the past three years, I have spent a lot of time dedicated to growing myself and my business. I have joined countless programs promising to make my business grow if I just follow the steps and invest in the seminar (they gave some great ideas, but rarely worked for me). I read books almost daily to help motivate me (some are great, others are victim-sob-stories that I almost immediately put down). I even have been looking at different pads to help me organize my tasks.
A few things have really helped though, and instead of making you wade through all the b.s. I did, I am just going to lay them out here:
The Traditional To-Do List
One of my coworkers (140 days until my last day of teaching, woohoo) came in to my room and was devastated by the overwhelming number of ideas and tasks she has to complete to grow her photography business.
I walked to my cabinet, grabbed a magnetic whiteboard and a marker, and handed it to her.
"Just make a to-do list for the next three days, then prioritize it, and pick one thing a day to work on. It feels good to just cross things off and have that visual reminder."
My whiteboard cost about $2.50 at Walmart, and I use old pieces of fleece as erasers. It hangs on my metal exterior door, right by my desk, and the biggest expense is that I love buying different colored/sized markers to make my to-do list magical.
The biggest profit? I LOVE when it is blank and I always can see what I need to get done.
Whether you use a whiteboard, chalkboard, or a simple legal pad or notebook, making a to-do list can improve your productivity ten-fold.
I have to be honest here: social media is my ultimate time suck.
In order to combat falling down the rabbit hole, I started limiting, or blocking, my time spent engaging with social media, marketing, email, etc. This is one tidbit everyone talks about - because it works.
I schedule out each day in 15-minute increments. There are designated times for answering emails (I check once every 2 hours because we live in a world of instant gratification and people appreciate a speedy response). There are designated 30-minute blocks for scheduling social media 1x/week using Facebook and Planoly for Instagram. There is even time scheduled to wake-up and get ready.
Yes, I spend 15 minutes a night scheduling out the next day - a list of times on scratch paper.
This helps me prepare for the next day, and also set boundaries for activities that must get done but have potential to be a distraction. It has helped me know when to move on to the next task.
As always, we need to be gentle with ourselves. Often, I will schedule 2-hours to complete editing a shoot, and only need 90 minutes. On the flip side, sometimes I get really ambitious and end up needing more time. My options with the latter are to just keep going, or to adhere to my schedule and add it in to my schedule for the next day.
Take a Break
I don't know if you have seen The Shining (the original movie adaptation), but I relate so much to the line, "all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy."
I get really dull when I don't make time for myself.
Every day, I schedule a break for myself. Sometimes it is stuff I want to do like go for a hike or work on organizing a styled shoot. Sometimes it is stuff I know I need like going to the gym or reading. Either way, it is MY time.
Being busy and overworked has become a badge of honor in our society, and while I value hard-work, I need a minute to recharge. Most of the time, it is through movement and physical labor. Laundry can be a break because it forces me to step away from my desk and clear out mental clutter that is always on my to do list.
Making time for friends and family also leads to better productivity, too. A lunch meeting with a fellow wedding vendor where, yes, we talk shop, but we also laugh and engage with each other is one of the best recharges I can get.
Try implementing one or all three of these strategies and see how they work for you. It may inspire something different that works better for you. Just remember to have a plan as you continue on your business journey.