Hello everyone! Please enjoy this post from a blog friend.
I recently took an elite blogging course.
There were many timely and impactful lessons. One that was especially so, was a lesson on working smarter, not harder.
I’ve been spinning my wheels a bit these last few weeks, after I quit my day job to be a full-time freelance writer and blogger.
It was actually easier for me to build my business as a side hustle on top of my day job, while being the breadwinner and mother of two toddlers.
Who woulda thunk?
I thought I knew what my limitations were before I took the leap. I thought the hardest part would be finding more clients to hire me and pay me for my services. Boy was I wrong!
I think it was easy for me to work harder, but not smarter. I wasn’t necessarily putting in a ton more hours, but I was able to focus on my new business for many more hours and stretches at a time. So, why wasn’t I more effective?
Focus Beats Hours, Every Time
You can work all of the hours that you want. But if you aren’t focused, if you don’t take the time to do the hard things first, you can while away an entire day in no time flat!
That’s what happened to me. I’d start my day (at home) checking email over a cup of coffee while my two toddlers watched Disney Jr., crawling on and off my lap for a few snuggles. I thought I was being productive and killing two birds with one stone. After all, I was spending time with my babies and working. Or was I?
I think as women we believe the lie that we’re naturally good at multitasking and that we can in fact handle it all. We can’t, we’re not super woman and we all have our limitations. It’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it!
What I’ve learned instead, is that I need to be focused on work, while at work. And I need to be focused on my family, while with my family. I can’t do both and frankly, I shouldn’t try!
I decided instead, to try something new. To own my limitations and not try to be everything to everybody all at once. At the end of the day, if I give everyone all that I have, what will I end up with?
Instead, I’m striving to change my ways and learn better ways of doing things. Here are three hard and fast rules that I’ve implemented in search of my own form of balance.
1) Don’t Check Email First Thing in the Morning
This will take some practice mind you. I’ve been an email junkie for far too long, for this to become an overnight success/habit change. It’s okay, I’m cool with being imperfect.
Instead, I’m going to apply a Tim Ferriss approach and schedule in only two times per day that I can be in my gmail inbox. Again, not shooting for perfection here, but I figure that if I succeed nine times out of ten, that I’ll be making significant progress. Progress, not perfection is the name of the game, is it not?
2) Tackle the Most Boring/Hard Things First
Are you an expert procrastinator? I am – at least when it comes to things that are less than thrilling or interesting to tackle. I know how to rationalize with the best of them and create many excuses to not do the things that are important, but that I need to get done.
Since I’m okay with owning my faults, I’m not scared to share these sentiments with you. I’m going to give myself some grace and start practicing changing my ways. I’m going to pick the biggest, fattest and ickiest task on my list and get that done the first thing, everyday – or at least four days out of five. Friday is a free for all, isn’t it?
I hope you join me with this challenge. Just think, if we were able to cross our most difficult to do off the list four out of five days, what we could accomplish? I bet we’ll be ruling the world before we know it!
3) Apply the Pomodoro Technique
Lastly, I’m been to revisiting the Pomodoro Technique. This is something I’ve tried to implement in the past, and when I did, it was effective. So, why did I stop?
Well, it takes work. It takes a half a second and a few key strokes of extra effort. And who has time for that? Just kidding, I got lazy and I got out of the habit. And it showed. Shame on me.
The good news? One can start applying this technique again at any time. This technique exists on the theory that we are only productive for a maximum of 90 minutes in a row at any given time.
What you do is set a timer (or use one of them handy, dandy web apps) for 25 minutes. When the buzzer rings, you take a break for five minutes. Rinse, cycle repeat.
In theory, if you had six dedicated hours to work, you’d have 12 pomodori to work with. So you could choose 12 (or less) really important tasks to cross off your list. In between you’d get that five minutes of rest, when you could choose to do whatever you please (I’ve been exercising, using this 5 minute no-equipment necessary workout).
In theory, it sounds like a no-brainer, no? I agree. Now, let’s practice that whole habit building thing and make this a part of our daily routine. You in? Great, me too!
I really appreciate you coming along through this thought journey of mine. Productivity is a really important topic. So is procrastination.
Without one, we don’t really have the other, do we? If you’re like me and get a little lazy or demotivated at times (distracted counts!), then I hope you join me in trying to work smarter, not harder.
Let’s start by not checking email first thing in the morning. Then let’s tackle the hard things first. Lastly, let’s implement the Pomodoro Technique and working with your mind/body, instead of against it.
Why not us, why not now? We can succeed – are you in?
P.S. Did you know that I recently updated 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success – an email course for brand spanking new freelance writers? Version two is now available for the low price of $47.
Anyone that decides to pull the trigger and purchase in the next 72 hours will be automatically entered into a drawing for a free half hour coaching session with me (valued at $50). If you’re looking for a new way to earn income on the side (or full-time) in 2015, it’s worth a consideration.
I love helping others get started and make a decent living as a freelancer – hopefully I can help you quit your day job soon too!
Bio: Gina Horkey is a full-time writer for the web, with a background in personal finance. She recently launched a 30 day email course for aspiring freelance writers to help others break into the freelance writing game.