I remember when I first started out in Internet Marketing I was busting out posts left right and center. I'd be submitting multiple articles to sites like ezinearticles every day, writing a blog post or two on my own site (and later “sites”), and spending every spare minute writing or learning something.
People would ask: “How do you get so much done?” and I'd say “Well, I have a lot of spare time”.
I think in all honesty I was just on a high about starting something new and was also pretty impatient. The only thing I could do to speed up my success (so I thought), was to keep writing.
Fast forward 2 years and here I am with MORE free time, now that I do this work full-time, but I get less done.
I think this is partly down to the fact that the “novelty” has worn off and I'm not going to be such a prolific writer anymore. It's also down to the fact that I prefer to write less often, but in more detail, and (hopefully) to a better quality.
A major aspect though is that I'm disorganized.
I'm always working on say, 5-10 different projects at the same time, and honestly, I don't want to hear you telling me to focus on just one thing. That's ludicrous to me. I can't do it.
When I focus on one thing I get impatient with it, I lose interest, or I simply don't get enough done and waste time waiting for the next step.
I think most entrepreneurs have multiple projects going at the same time anyway. While I don't like the term “entrepreneur” as such, I think the mold fits.
I Don't Get Enough Done
However, it has occurred to me over most of this year that I've been working inefficiently, and until just recently, had no idea how to turn it around.
I tried writing “to do” lists. I tried just writing lists of things that needed doing at some point, and working on them when I could.
I tried assigning specific time periods to work on something (that's impossible though, stuff always gets interrupted or takes longer than expected).
I tried writing things on a whiteboard and on my phone and on a notepad. I've got dozens of abandoned lists scattered around my apartment.
If you're in a similar position to me, what do you do about it? Should we just resign to being inefficient workers? Should we say “Hey, this isn't moving along as it should, but at least it's still moving”?
Afterall, my business IS growing. My traffic IS increasing. My income HAS increased 300% this year. Maybe I should just shut up and get on with it eh?
I've Been Trying Something New
A few days ago I got an email from Pat Flynn. I'd love to say he emailed me personally, but it was an automated email from being his subscriber. It's close enough though!
As a side note, Pat's emails are great. He sends them out a lot less frequently than others do, and he just fills them with a piece of advice. There's no selling at all. I think a lot of the time he doesn't even link you back to his earlier content.
What this particular email told me to do was plan my days and my “to do lists” differently. It was such a small and subtle change, yet something I've immediately had results with.
Today I got a few things done in an hour that I had assumed would take me several hours. Cheers Pat!
Here's what he said:
If you want to TL:DR version it's this:
When you make “To do” lists, you never get them finished, which makes you feel negativity around your habits, and bad for motivation.
So what Pat suggested we all do instead, is to break everything into projects. Let's say I'm building out a new site; there are dozens of steps to do.
Instead of assigning several of those steps to my To Do list and then failing to get them all done by the end of the day, I just listed all the steps needed in total to get the “project” of building that site done.
Now every day I will assign some hours to work on that project. Let's say today I'm going to work 2 hours on it. I'll start with step 1, and keep moving through the steps for 2 hours.
This might not sound like a big deal, but it really makes a huge difference.
Instead of thinking “Ah I wanted to get 3 things done and I only got 2, my life is over”, I will think “Cool, I got two hours done, look at all the steps I achieved in that time!”.
I started it earlier this morning, and got way more done than I would have done otherwise.
I couldn't even decide what to write for today's post, and now I've had something to write about as well. Bonus!
Trello is a free project management website that lets you organize your projects into “boards”. You can assign boards “cards” which generally signify a step.
Here's a look at what I mean:
When a step is completed I can move it over to “Done” or “Doing” if I've not had it finished yet. I can also create other columns as needed.
Therefore when I'm telling myself to work on X project for 2 hours, I can just fire up Trello, take a look at the list, and get moving.
It can be a bit tricky to learn initially (Well, it takes like an hour), but it's a really good tool and so free!
Also, I participated in a project management expert roundup post over at Doug Cunnington's site in the past. If you want more ideas for managing your time, definitely give it a read. In fact Doug has loads of good posts about project management.
Is This Just The Honeymoon Period?
I'm aware that this new way of working could just be a honeymoon period for me. You know, you try something new, it works, you feel great, then a few weeks later you're back where you started.
This could be the case here, but reading Pat's email, everything just made perfect sense to me. I think he discovered a fundamental flaw in the brain or the way we think, because it was a serious “aha” moment.
So even if this new method doesn't work out for me as much as I hope, it still makes more sense than what I was doing before. So for now…weeeeeee!