I hated the last 3 months at my 9-5 — mostly because I wanted to rush home and do some real work.
I’d started a new business selling hair growth supplements. I was sure that every minute I wasted in my cubicle could have instead been spent on making money in my new business.
Three months later, I was sitting in an AirBnB rental in Paris staring at my to-do list. In 9 hours I’d only made a dent in 1 of the 6 things I had planned to do that day.
I was failing at entrepreneurship.
Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. That means if I give myself 10 hours to do a task, it will take me 10 hours. If I give myself 3 hours to do the same task then it will take me 3 hours. In my first few weeks as a full-time entrepreneur, I was finding this to be very true.
I knew something had to change. Luckily it did. With some easy shifts to my work day, I was able to drastically improve my productivity and finally go to bed at night feeling like I got work done.
Check out these 7 easy tips that will help you finally focus and get your work done.
Have you ever made a long to-do list in the morning only to find that you did not complete even one thing by the end of the day? It’s the worst!
The personal disappointment alone is enough to kill momentum. My challenge to you is to get real. To-do lists are awesome, but you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to get too much done each day. I like to make a list and then choose one thing that, if completed, will make me feel like my day was a success!
I also use the scrum management method. Scrum is a project management methodology often used by software companies to complete their projects.
Sometimes there are tasks that you did not necessarily complete, but made a large dent. Scrum helps you see where your tasks are in the process of being completed. Is it in progress? Is it stalled? Is it waiting for approval?
Get more realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and take time to acknowledge what you’ve actually done. It will help calm down that anxiety and guilt associated with a lack of productivity.
What do you hate to do? Common advice is to do what you hate first. My advice is to not do it at all! Instead find someone else that enjoys your crappy projects. There are a ton of freelancing websites where you can find reasonably priced help for the most tedious work (e.g., Upwork, PeoplebytheHour, Fiverr, etc.).
It takes me forever to make a decent looking graphic on Canva. Instead of wasting my time, I just outsource the work. Same with blogs. I hate editing my blog posts so I have a friend who looks over each one for grammar, flow, and spelling errors. This gives me more time to focus on the parts of my business that actually make me money and saves so much stress!
3. Choose your environment
This is basic but so important. You’d be surprised how many people can’t focus in absolute silence. So cater to your preferences.
If you need a quiet room, then arrange your work around quiet hours in your home or co-working space. If you need a little background noise, then find a favorite coffee shop or put on some music. Certain music can also help with focus. Do an experiment to see what helps and what hinders you.
4. Quit multitasking
Checking social media every few minutes is totally killing your vibe. Research shows that switching between tasks actually slows you down and causes you to make more mistakes.
Instead, use tools to keep the distractions out. Install a plugin on your web browser to block certain websites that you know are the culprit. Also, try turning your cell phone completely off instead of putting it on vibrate.
5. Apply the pressure
In college, I used to write my best papers the day before they were due. After a certain age, those school paper deadlines are hard to come by. So create artificial ones. Hire a VA that will keep you accountable to a deadline. When you’re working on someone else’s time there is more accountability around getting your tasks completed.
You can also create project GANTT charts with tools like Instagantt, that show how your tasks are dependent on the completion of others. You can create a Gantt chart, schedule tasks in a timeline, and set start dates and dependency lines.
Or find an accountability partner. Heck, I even know a guy who goes to the coffee shop without his laptop plug and powers through as much work as his battery life will allow. Crazy right? You don’t have to go too extreme but if you know pressure works for you then embrace it.
6. Give yourself a break
Breaks are an awesome motivation for getting things done. I love the Pomodoro Method, a time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals of focus and rest. I use it to work in 45-minute increments and then set my timer for a 10-minute break where I surf social media (my vice).
As soon as my timer goes off then I’m back at it again! You don’t have to schedule your day down to the minute. You can achieve the same idea by breaking your day into big chunks that involve work time and fun activities.
7. Take really good care of yourself
For years I battled brain fog and the constant urge to nap. The culprit to my sluggishness lay in my crappy diet and lack of exercise.
Once I got a Nuribullet and started going for a daily walk, my productivity improved drastically. So put on those sweatpants, go get some fresh air and a yucky green drink. You can thank me later.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Dayo Adiatu is a Nigerian – American entrepreneur and blogger who is passionate about encouraging diverse cultures of female entrepreneurs. After a few years of working in business and marketing, Dayo used her own experience building a Marketing Consulting business, SixMarketing, and nutrition based supplementation business, Fulfillity Hair, to help other female entrepreneurs of color navigate the dimly lit way. She shares her journey and know-how via her blog – sixof7.com. Connect with @thesixof7 on Twitter and Instagram.