So you have left the corporate world and become self-employed. Now you are in charge of your time you can work more efficiently, dealing with enquiries and tasks quicker, and keeping your clients happy. And you are in total control.
Or are you?
Are you stopping mid task to reply to emails that have just arrived?
Is your inbox owning you, or are you owning it?
My top tips for improving your productivity are:
- Plan your week ahead – be realistic about time needed to drop children off/travel to meetings/do household chores/have lunch. Is there a specific day of the week you tend to do networking or client visits? If so keep it free for this and try as much as possible to book appointments on this day. Add in time for reading/CPD and marketing. If you can keep tasks to the same day then great, however don’t be afraid to move tasks around if you need to
- Manage your client’s expectations – by replying to all emails immediately you give clients a certain expectation. Ask yourself who has asked for such a quick reply – the client or your own perception of what they need
- Switch off your email notifications – both visual and audio – so that you aren’t distracted
- Work for a set time, then look at emails and decide which ones do need your immediate attention. You might find the Pomodoro Technique of help with this.
- Work out what time of the day you do certain tasks better. You might find that you can do thinking/creative tasks in the morning and are better at doing the more mundane tasks in the afternoon, or vice versa
- If you are unsure where your time is going keep a diary for 2 weeks to record what tasks you did, when and how long they took. Try and include where you became distracted by other tasks. Review the diary to see if there are any patterns and to identify times where you feel you were more productive
- To do lists can be great to help you plan what you need to do each day, but don’t write a list with everything you need to do on it. This will become unwieldley, will give you too many options of tasks to complete, and may de motivate you as the list doesn’t appear to reduce
You need to be disciplined to work on your own, but keep in mind that you should take frequent breaks and identify a time after which the laptop will be switched off, and the office door shut. This will keep you refreshed and help keep your work/life balance in equilibrium.