How I Organize My Day For Success!
Organization is both my obsession and my worst nightmare. For years I was the girl who's favorite line was "i'll do it later!" which really meant you better remind me tomorrow because it still won't be done. At that age I truly thought that being an organized person was a skill you were born with and those of us who hadn't been sprinkled with 'orderly personality' pixie dust would never know what it felt like to wake up in the morning and have a list of to-do's ready to go.
That was until I decided to head off to university at the ripe old age of 21 and received the firmest lesson in "If you don't get your work done by this deadline then you FAIL!" I have ever leant! All of a sudden there were real consequences to my disorganization and I quickly developed a hatred for the feeling you get when you leave things to the last minute and then have to rush. I have to be honest with you it took me a long time and a lot of research to finally feel like I have my daily routine down but the tips and tricks I've picked up along the way have literally given me the tools required to create and most importantly build my own businesses with no boss looking over my shoulder shouting at me about upcoming deadlines.
So i've made a list of 10 things I do each day to ensure that I've set myself up as much as possible for a successful working day. I hope you guys can find something useful to incorporate into your own daily routine if you're looking for a little guidance on how to organize your workload.
1. Write To-Do Lists in the morning or the night before!
I remember well that getting into the habit of writing daily lists took me a little while to get used to at first. Like I said I was the girl who thought she could easily remember everything she had to do in a day and inevitably someone would have to remind me of ten things i'de forgotten by the middle of the afternoon.
Eventually I decided to stop fooling myself into thinking I could treat my brain like my own personal planner and I actually sat down and started to scribble my to-do's on a scrap of paper I carried round with me or kept by my computer, just to see if this whole making notes malarky actually worked and after a little practice and finding the right technique for me i've found it truly does.
Don't be surprised that if you're not the natural type to want to document your daily routine, that it might take a little trial and error to find the perfect method of making lists that actually helps you but if you stick to it and find the right method for you it can really work.
I experimented with a wealth of different techniques when it came to making to-do lists before I found the right one for me so don't be discouraged if you find it hard to stick to following your list or even creating them daily at first. For me I found that I prefer to make my list first thing in the morning as soon as I sit down in my office chair.
I know others think its better to write their list at night but truly I think it comes down to personal preference here. Personally I like to come to my desk with a fresh mind and jot down five or six must-do's that I plan to work on for the rest of the day. I like to write them down in order of importance or usually boringness (if that's a word) so when I work down my list I get the dull or essential tasks done first before I can focus on the more fun but often less essential aspects of my business for the rest of the day.
Over time I've also discovered that I love to add a little tick box at the end of each of my tasks so that when its completed I get a little thrill of officially ticking it off. Sad I know but I find it truly helps.
I'm going to be honest. Creating a to-do list is not the hard part of this process, sticking to the tasks you've written down each and everyday is truly the habit you need to learn in order to make the most of this trick when it comes to the nuts and bolts. That's why I suggest really commiting sometime to experimenting with what works for you and your business.
It's all well and good me recommending you try handwritten list making over to-do list apps or using your online calender but in reality what matters is what works best for you. Do some research and give different methods a try.
More than likely you'll end up with a mixture of techniques that suits you and how you like to plan your day and that's truly what works best for me too.
2. Give Your Brain Play Time!
Now this might sound kind of odd and to be honest with all the research i've done on being more organized I haven't heard anyone really recommend this so I don't know if I'm alone here but for me and my over active brain, there is nothing harder than sitting down at my desk and trying to force my mind to take my to-do list or my workload seriously if it hasn't had a little playtime before we start.
What I mean by this is that first thing when I sit down at my desk each morning and sometimes once or twice during the day (depending on how excitable my mind is) I like to schedule 20 minutes of free time for me to do whatever I like on my computer or just in my office before I start my work day.
Quite often this entails taking a look at what's new on my favorite motivational blogs that i've been thinking about all morning or doing a little research into a kooky idea my brains conjured up in the night to see if it's got any worth.
Other times it may just be 20 minutes to clean up my office because i've suddenly became aware of the mess when I sat down or even just looking on my favourite shopping websites to try and find the next item i'm looking to buy.
Whatever it is I just let myself do it... just for 20 minutes and simply because I know that if I try to ignore my thoughts and just get on with my work I will be so much less productive as my mind remains torn between work and fun. This might not work for everyone but I can't tell you how important it is for me to actually schedule in this time.
If you're like me and your thoughts have a habit of wondering off regularly to a stray idea or desire you've been ignoring all morning try scheduling a few minutes to satisfy your minds curiosity and then get back to work.
I seriously find this helps me with procrastination, knowing that i've factored it into my day and that I'm still able to schedule time for work.
3. Use a daily planner or calender to note important events
There is nothing more annoying than when you sit down at your desk to start work, you've writen out the most perfect to-do list you know you'll blast through before clock off... and then abruptly at midday someone calls or texts to remind you that you're meant to be meeting them for coffee in 1 hour or it's your dogs haircut appointment and you haven't even got time to change out your sweats before you're meant to drop him off.
Ok, so this might just be my experience but i've come to realise over the course of the two years i've been building online income that there in nothing more shattering to your daily work routine then forgetting essential appointments or events that will tear you away from your work.
Suddenly everything you've got planned for the day has to be drastically pushed back and it sets you in such a down mood that you can't even really enjoy being out with your friend or at your aunties birthday party because you're paranoid of how far its setting you back.
This might sound a little dramatic to some but trust me, when you're fully ingrossed in your business and working so hard to keep everything running like clockwork it really can be that desructive to forget important events in your work week.
That's why for me i've leant to preempt these events as much as I can.
There are always going to be unforseen incidents that occur every now and then during your working hours that have to pull you from your workload but I find keeping a calender or planner with important events such as birthdays, scheduled meet ups, pet appointments e.c.t. on my desk and checking it each morning allows me to work around these occassions much better with far less of the "I'm not currently working" guilt that we all know and love (not).
After about a year I'm fully in the habit of making note of events coming up over the year that might require me to down tools with my work. On those days I might schedule to do a little less so I know I will have time to make the event and still feel like i've got a little work done.
Other days I may cancel my work altogether and rearrange to catch up either the day after or the day before. The most important element of this tip for me is that it helps me elevate 'workaholic guilt' (which is a whole other subject I will address in another post) and it allows me to actually enjoy the special occasions I schedule in that moment instead of listing off in my head a wealth of things I'm going to need to do to catch up as soon as I get back to my office.
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4. Create and Stick to Time Slots!
This is a little short and sweet tip I wanted to slip in here that i've found works great for me when I know i've got a wealth of things to get done all at once...I create specific time slots. For me this usually means that I will break my to-do list up into managable chunks by assigning 30 minutes, an hour or even more to a specific task and clear my mind of anything but that job during that specific time slot.
For example if I know I need to create 10 new products to sell in my online store and I want it done by the afternoon, I will schedule 3 hours to purely focus on researching, designing and uploading those 10 designs and I will use a timer on my phone or computer to ensure I stick to that slot.
After the 3 hours is up I always allow myself what I like to call the '10 minute' clean up to just finish off anything i'm doing and unwind from an intense few hours of concentration.
If I know that one or two of my to-do tasks consists of alot of elements that are going to take time and focus then I always use this method to get the workload done.
An important element of this method that I feel is really important to remind you of before you start (if you want to give it a try for yourself) is to always allow yourself excessive time to complete a task.
In the example I gave you of my product creation time slot I actually know that if I pushed myself really hard I could probably complete that task in 2 hours instead of 3, however I always choose to give myself extra time for unforeseen situations, bathroom and tea breaks, if an aspect of the creation takes longer than it usually would and most importantly so I don't burn myself out.
Remember the aim of time slots is to make them work for you not the other way round. Don't set yourself unrealistic time goals to get something done and then wallow in the disappointment if you don't complete it in time.
If you need more time then schedule some. Move onto your next task but make a note to come back at the end of the day for 20 minutes or tomorrow to carry on.
5. Batch / Chunk your workload!
This is almost a continuation of tip 4 but I feel this piece of advice is so important I want to separate it and clarify exactly what I mean. You may of seen the advice "Batch Your Work" a hundred times over on every organization or business blog and thats simply because it's such sound advice.
There are very few things harder when it comes to business then trying to multi-task a wealth of very different projects all at once and actually acheieving good results.
Whether you're a business owner, a parent, an employee or anything else you can most likely relate to situations when you find yourself running around trying to complete twenty wildly different tasks in one day and getting almost nothing done. From my experience I know how hard it is to have your accounting hat on one minute; sorting through a mountain of reciepts and crunching the numbers only to find yourself throwing your creativity hat on top when you suddenly need to switch to writing a blog post or create a new product line the second you've packed away the paperwork.
The truth is more likely than not the sudden change over doesn't work and as a consequence not only does your work but your mind suffers as you try and handle the disappointment that comes when you just can't get into the right mindset for the next task.
So that's where batching comes in and for me it's been a true help to not only my business but my lifestyle as a whole.
I'm not going to go all the way into how batching works as I want to write a separate dedicated blog post to it at a later date but the gist of batching is that you dedicate specific time and motivation to completing one task at a time much like I mentioned in the time slot tip above. The additional factor that I wanted to talk about in tip 5 however is that in batching you actually go above and beyond.
For example if I know that I want to focus on writing a blog post for my website that day then I could choose to set a time slot to write just one and then move on.
However with batching I would instead schedule a large chunk of my day to write several blog posts that I am then able to schedule ahead of time on my blog so that from them on I don't have to focus on writing blog posts for the rest of the month in my daily to-do list and i'm free to work on other tasks that might require me to be less creative or have a different mindset without worrying about keeping up with writing new articles aswell. Using batching i've been able to complete a large portion of my tasks well ahead of time.
Another example is when I choose to batch my social media content over the course of a day in which my to-do list's main focus is to schedule all my social media content for the month.
Yes i've had to accept that it's cost me about a days work to batch this task and during that time I can't really focus on anything else, however the payback is so worth the effort as for the rest of the month I don't even have to think of scheduling in social media creation on my daily to-do list, leaving me time to stash my social media hat away for the rest of the month and get on with other work.
You can do this for a number of different tasks including paperwork, content creation, product creation even elements of your personal lifestyle but for now I will leave it here and give you time to do your own research on batching / chunking if you'd like.
6. Make A Messy List
Now do you remember that I was talking about to-do lists in my very first tip? Well tip 6 kind of walks hand in hand with tip 1 but trust me I recommend doing both. In tip 1 I noted that a To-Do list is really useful when it comes to helping me organize my day.
I wake up in the morning, get dressed, make myself a cup of tea and write my To-Do list like clockwork before I even hit the on button on my mac. What I didn't mention however is that almost always sitting right next to my neatly written out to-do list with the cute tick boxes on the side that I now write in my planner, I still keep a scraggy free piece of paper with a matching copy of my to-do list on it that I use as my messy list.
A messy list (as I like to call it) is a copy of my to-do's that allows me the freedom to scribble all over it, make non-sensicle notes by its side, add or rub out words or sentences that help me focus on the task at hand or don't and generally mind dump all over my to-do list whilst still having a clear copy of the tasks safely stashed in my planner for reference.
At the end of the day it doesn't really matter if my messy list eventually gets lost in my mountain of paperwork or if it looks a state by the end of the day as long as I get the tasks complete and I'm able to tick off the little tick box on my planner copy thanks to the scattered thoughts and words i've jotted down on my messy list.
I don't know if anyone else creates a messy list but if not I really recommend you give it a try. I love having a clear copy of my goals and tasks neatly written in my planner as it helps me keep track of the work i've done during the year and enables me to schedule anything I haven't completed again another day but I absolutely adore having a messy list at my side whilst I work day to day.
I know this might sound strange but it makes me feel as though I can interact with my list of tasks, that they're not completely set in stone and boring chores I have to get on with with no say.
If I think of a way to improve a task during the day or something useful that might help me complete a project faster or better, then I'm free on my messy list to write it down and it doesn't matter that it won't make sense to me in the future.
If you're struggling to follow a to-do list adding an interactive messy list might really help!
Remember the to-do list isn't your boss hauling orders that you have no choice but to get done. It's a tool to help you focus on what you need to achieve in your business, feel free to add notes heck even inspirational quotes to push you through the task and make it more fun.
7. Remove Those Distractions?
This one might be obvious but I personally don't think it's quite so clear cut as people would have you believe.
I know that for me if I was to sit in my office with no music, no youtube or no audiobook I probably would go mad by the end of the afternoon and have nothing to show for it but a doodle of a bored looking dog. I understand why people might recommend shutting everything down and focusing on your work completely because it makes a lot of sense on an "ideal world" level.
Distractions are the evil of productive work, however if you're like me and often times silence can be just as distracting as alot of noise then I personally recommend searching for your version of "white noise".
I work from home on my own for most of my week. If I was to sit in a room in silence for that length of time I think I would probably go stir crazy by day 2. This was a particular problem for me when I first started out and I had no idea how to work on my own for such a length of time, remain motivated whilst somehow keeping myself entertained through the silence.
That's when I started focusing on trying to find things that I could listen to in the background that wouldn't distract me too much but would help keep the boredom at bay whilst I got on with my projects.
For me this turned out to be old re-runs of shows i've watched a thousand times and could probably reel off every word, motivational lectures that I knew well and loved but felt comfortable listening to in the background and tuning in and out of and alot of relaxing music that didn't make me want to jump up and get the party started whilst I worked.
Now I'm not saying that any of these will specifically work for you and if you are one of those lucky people who enjoy working in relative silence then I'm super envious but I just wanted to add this tip in there because as you will know if you've ever worked from home or even if you're building an online business in your free time after work, sitting infront of a computer for hours can be impossibly lonely especially when you're trying to do productive work.
So don't feel guilty about having some white noise on in the background and remember to take regular short breaks to stretch out and keep your mind from distractions and focused on your tasks whilst you work.
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8. Automate As Much As Possible!
I'm going to keep this one as short and sweet as possible as I'm going to do an entire article on all the tools I use to automate my online businesses and how they work but I just wanted to make a point that automation really is a huge help when it comes to organization.
The more elements of your business that you can 'effectively' automate the better. I use the word effectively because I personally think there is a real art to incorporating good quality automation tools and techniques into a business and it's something you should really do your research on before you start.
I've had plenty of trial and error with automation tools that promise the earth and end up being more trouble then they're worth and i've also had great experiences with really amazing programs that now I couldn't do without.
In a future post I want to show you guys the exact tools I use on a day to day basis to help maintain my business but for now I just want to say that if you're really focused on organizing your day to day workload in the most efficient way possible then perhaps consider looking into automating parts of it if you haven't already.
Scheduling your social media is a great place to start. Automating your post releases on pinterest, instagram and twitter can really free up your time and give you more room to work on those tasks that require your personal attention.
Check out Tailwind (for pinterest), Planoly and Later (for Instagram) and Buffer (for Twitter) as just some examples. Stay posted for an upcoming article all about how I use my tools to free up so much of my time coming soon.
9. Don't Be Discouraged If You Don't Get Everything Done!
For me this is a big one and I'm guessing that most of you out there have at some point felt like you've let yourself down if you haven't finished all the tasks you've set for yourself in a day or you've let a little procrastination hold you up.
I really want to make this point because I feel like it's not made often enough. Yes reaching for your goals is amazing and life inspiring and often fun but when you start beating yourself up over and over again over the things you let slip through the cracks or the work you haven't done it's time to re-evaulate how you're treating yourself and exactly what you're doing this for.
If the motive for you building your own business or creating some additional passive income is because you want to get to a place where you can be your own boss, or live a life with a bit more freedom yet you're clubbing yourself over the head everytime you miss a deadline or don't tick something off on your task list then you might aswell stay working for the evil vindictive boss that you hate so much and just let them do it instead.
Yes money is a serious game and i'm not saying slack off and don't step up if you never get anything done but always remember to take a cold hard look at yourself and think... Is what you're getting so upset about really worth the hours of sadness and anger you're putting yourself through or can you underline that task or make a note of the project you forgot to do and go at it again tomorrow?
Be kind to yourself in this game, money isn't going to give you a big hug when you're feeling stressed out and catatonic over a missed deadline and it never will. No amount of business success or income can make up for the negative psychological effects treating yourself badly over the years will cause.
So remember to take a breath and organize yourself the best you can... trust me you're doing great even to be trying to improve the way you organize yourself so appreciate how hard you're working towards your goals and never be discouraged if something you planned to do today has to wait untill tomorrow.
10. Give Yourself A Life Full Of Variety!
I know that this blog post is mainly aimed at helping those of you who're looking for some extra tips and tricks on how to organize yourself towards a successful working day whether you're building a full time online business or trying to manifest a little extra income online in your spare time.
I also know that whilst you're creating these amazing online businesses, researching how to build them, taking tiny steps towards carving out new income streams and gradually becoming consumed in this world of online success, that just like me you will find that there are times when you forget that real success actually starts the minute you turn off your computer and fling open your front door!
Yes creating income and following your dreams in business can be super important and rewarding but the other day someone said something to me that really knocked me and my single minded vision to succeed in this online world. They told me that they'd realized that roughly 80% of what they'd spent their time doing in their adult life evolved solely around work and they were only 35.
What surprised me the most was how strongly I reacted to this information and how much I didn't like the reality of it even though I am somewhat of a workaholic myself.
I think it's something that needs to be talked about, not to bash anyone who loves to work such as myself but just as a reminder that life is about more than planning your day for work tasks, beating yourself up over and over again if you don't manage to get them all done and waking up the next morning to repeat the process.
Remember that variety is the spice of life. Make time (heck schedule time) to go out, experience life, your friends, your family even just time for yourself.
Yes building a business and income may be super important to you and on some level if you're a work junkie like me it may even make up part of who you think you are inside but I always have to remind myself that although I enjoy being a #girlboss 40% of the time I also want to experience so much more than just work in my life.
Tip 10 is simply a reminder to schedule time for the real world. Don't let the world of work or money consume every aspect of yourself or you might wake up one day with all the money and success on earth but nothing to remind you of how much fun you had along the way.
I've been guilty of letting this tip slide quite a few times during the course of these 2 years so I've written this down probably more for myself than anyone else but if you ever find yourself hunched over your computer screen or a stack of work papers wondering where all the fun went in your life then remind yourself to carve out time in your busy schedule to step away from your business and succeed at something in the real world aswell.
Catch up with friends, spend time with your family heck even the dog. Your day to day existance should never be one dimentional so always remember to schedule variety into your life.
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