How do you and your small business survive while working from home and juggling everything else? In this post I want to talk about how you can get ANYTHING done!
Although firstly, if you don't get anything done, that's absolutely fine. I'm not for a minute suggesting that you should be trying to get things done during this very difficult time. If nothing gets done in the next few weeks, then in many ways that's OK. This is about staying safe and keeping others safe.
I just wanted to try and share some of my tips and thoughts about dealing with this particularly extreme situation. If you're someone, like me, thinking about things that you want to get done and wondering how on Earth you are going to manage it, then this is for you.
We're all juggling right now
Even in more normal times, we are juggling multiple roles - parent, child, business owner, partner, friend - the list goes on. Normally, we're able to have at least some separation between all of these roles, but right now, they are all happening under one roof at the same time.
The luxury that I used to have where the house was mine for 6 hours a day has completely gone which means a major re-calibration in terms of what I can actually achieve.
My first suggestion is to find a way to get 30 minutes to start with a brain-dump.
Take a piece of A4 paper, fold it in half then half again so that you have four sections. Label each section A, B, C or D.
Start writing down everything in your head - work or home related. As you write, put each task in to one of the following four categories:
A - Urgent and important. Must be done today. Perhaps it's fulfilling orders or checking in on family.
B - Should be done this week, but not as urgent as A. For example, check that your packaging supplier is still operational or catch up on that Insta Live you want to watch before it disappears.
C - Important but not urgent. These often take up lots of our mental space but in all honesty, these are not going to be your focus right now. Lots of longer-term tasks fall into here. Re-do your website, look at SEO, take a Pinterest course, that kind of thing.
Yes, this is the perfect time to be focusing on these longer term projects, but if that's not going to happen this week then that's fine too.
D - Not important, not urgent. All those niggly tasks that are on your list but don't need to be top priority. Get them out of your head anyway so that they are on paper, but further down the line you may decide to just cross them out.
Focus on the urgent
Whenever I do this exercise, I always end up with the conclusion that there is not nearly as much that needs to be done RIGHT NOW as I think there is. Focus on the A tasks for today, and park everything else. You can always re-visit this list tomorrow and see what's become urgent for that day, but for today, ignore everything else on the list and focus on the urgent.
Re-work your timetable
Another task that will help you identify how much, if anything, you can get done is to completely re-look at your timetable.
I used to have 9 - 3.30 as guaranteed quiet time which is now pretty much flipped on it's head. So I sat down and went through my week, looking for times that I could get some focused time. For me, that means a couple of evenings a week working in my office and looking for those other time slots where I can focus without interruption.
Once I'd identified where I could still get some things done, it made me feel more relaxed, and also to be much more realistic about how much I could actually achieve in a week. Yes, that's much less than I would achieve normally, but I'll take small steps right now!
Work out what needs focus and what doesn't
As part of this exercise, it's worth thinking about which tasks in your business need deep concentration and which can be done while the family are around you.
For example, can you dip in and out of your emails while the kids work around you, but you need to focus to write your Instagram captions? Look at your ABCD list and work out which of the A and B tasks can be done alongside your daily life, and which are going to require you to be somewhere where you won't be interrupted.
Use time-blocking techniques
When you do have those blocks of time to actually get some focused work done, it's important to make the most of them as best you can. I use my kitchen timer to help me stay focused. It's amazing what you can get done during 20 or 30 minutes if you remove all other distractions. I especially recommend putting your phone in another room unless what you are doing involves it in some way!
Ultimately, the reality is that you just won't get as much done as you normally do. But sorting your tasks to identify the most urgent, and working just on those, will really help you stay on top of what's important.
Re-look at your timetable and work out when you can have some time to yourself, and when you do, try and stay focused. And don't forget to be kind to yourself - as I read this week, it's OK to not be productive during a global pandemic!
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