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Getting things done is often a circus juggling act: Family, work, exercise, to-do lists... it goes on and on. How can you finish what you start? How can you accomplish dreams that are so big you don't even know where to start?
It can be easier than you think with some effort and consistency.
Here are my seven go-to steps for finishing what I start and achieving goals.
1. Make a schedule.
A flexible schedule is one of the best benefits of working from home. But you still have to actually have a schedule. It's harder to complete tasks at home because there's less accountability. Keeping yourself on track and prioritizing your tasks requires a designated work time each day. You are your own supervisor—so act like it. Each Sunday, sit down and determine your schedule for the week.
Outline all your commitments for the week, from taking kids to school or practice to doing any required housework or errands. Be honest with yourself—don’t plan on an eight-hour workday when you have a ton of errands to run as well. Look at the tasks necessary to complete your work from home, and create your work schedule.
2. Set deadlines.
Most jobs outside the home live by deadlines. When I worked as a newspaper journalist, deadlines either made or broke your career. I set a deadline for myself, three days before the editor wanted it.
When your home-based work involves clients, they will have deadlines. Having one deadline for a big project (or even a medium-sized one) isn’t good enough—you need several deadlines spaced throughout to ensure you’re hitting milestones and staying on track to finish on time.
Make deadlines a habit that's hard to break.
3. Set mini-goals.
Mini-goals are much more manageable than larger projects. Create a flowchart. List the main goal at the top, then break down the process by creating a second, third, and even fourth tier of mini-goals.
Next make a list of the steps required for each goal in order from smallest to largest. Creating this list of tasks both ensures you won’t leave any step out and it will give you a clear and detailed path to follow as you work.
Whether you want to start a blog, write a series of articles for a client, or write a novel for 2019, any project you work on can be broken down into individual tasks or goals. A few examples of this might be:
- Buy a domain and hosting by January 1.
- Install a theme and plugins by January 8.
- Outline the first five posts by January 15.
- Write and publish the first five posts by January 30.
- Outline client articles by January 1.
- Write and edit article one by January 8.
- Write and edit article two by January 12.
Determine what you want to write a novel about. Divide the number of words needed into the number of weeks until you've determined what's the deadline.
Write it down on the calendar. Get a plan. Make it detailed.
You can organize the work into phases, assign milestone points within each project, and set your deadlines accordingly. As you complete tasks and mark them off, you have a visual showing you how far you’ve come. Celebrate your progress and allow it to keep you energized and motivated.
Don't give up or stop until you get the job done.
4. Take the most difficult job first.
If you wait to tackle the major task on any given day, it can cause anxiety or frustration and even depression the rest of your workday. Maybe you're dragging your feet because you don’t want to start (it’s so difficult!) or you feel overwhelmed by your scheduled tasks.
Write the hardest tasks at the top of your next day’s to-do list every night and get it done and over!
There’s a serious benefit to getting the big task out of the way. You can relax a bit, feel as though you have accomplished something and boost your energy to push on toward the next tasks. Subsequent tasks seem much easier when you’ve got the big one down.
I hate tackling the mountain of emails each day. But I know I have to. So I do it first thing in the morning. I set a timer for 45 minutes. For those 45 minutes, I don't think about anything else, I concentrate and finish. Then I set a timer for 10 minutes to get up, walk away, stretch, and refocus, then it's another 45 minutes till every email has been answered or filed.
It's the same with the parts of my work that aren't fun. I set a timer for each until I've completed the tasks, taking mini-breaks throughout.
5. Save the most enjoyable jobs for last.
As much as I hate addressing emails in the mornings, I love connecting with friends on Instagram. But if I do that before I complete my jobs, I will find that hours have passed. My workload pressure will be greater and my time vanishing. Leave that for later after everything else is done and take all the time you need to enjoy it.
6. Work in blocks.
As a social media manager, freelance writer, and coach I often balance more than one client a day. I also want to pursue my own writing.
Depending on how successful you are or what services you offer, you could have five, 10, 15, or even more clients. Each one has their own projects and blocks of tasks that you need to accomplish for them. It can seem overwhelming when you look at all the work.
One way to ensure you’re getting all your tasks done for your clients—and your own—is to work in blocks.
Setting specific days to accomplish specific tasks can help bring balance and focus.
Monday and Wednesday mornings could be dedicated to social media management or a specific group of clients or job tasks. Afternoons could be dedicated to different clients or groups of tasks. Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you tackle freelance writing and other clients. Fridays could be your special time to spend on your own personal projects. For me, I paint on Fridays. It keeps me sane and increases my creativity.
Setting aside blocks of time will help you to focus on each individual client and give them excellent work. Working in blocks of time means you can actually finish tasks for them instead of making a tiny bit of progress on four different projects on each day.
Being able to complete tasks each day will not only build your confidence but the confidence of those depending on you to get a job done right.
7. Use what works for you.
Getting organized can seem overwhelming, but when you find a system that works well for you, it will allow you to make the progress you desire. Time is wasted where there's no direction. You spend most of the time trying to decide what to work on and how. Make a decision and stick with that decision.
For me, a spiral planner which has a daily, monthly, and yearly calendar works best. It also has a sidebar for weekly and monthly goals where I can break these down into daily tasks.
As I mentioned earlier, I use my phone as a timer. I set it for exercising, answering emails, and individual clients.
It may take you a while to find the method that works best for you but it will be worth the investment.
Like Abraham Lincoln once said,
"The best way to predict the future is to create it."