Time and task management is such a key skill for solopreneurs that it comes up a lot in my work. I was already an avid student of productivity even before starting this business, and now I make it a point to always be testing and improving my practices. One trap that is easy to fall into is getting sidetracked during task work.
Task work is the nitty-gritty work you do to run your business. It’s not the big picture and planning work, but actually doing the keystrokes, calls, or actions necessary to do your work. Much of this kind of work happens on the computer or online, so it’s ripe with places to get sidetracked. How does it happen? You want to log into a site and find out they want you to change your password. You go to your email to get the reset link, and see just one email you have to take care of right now and hours later you still haven’t reset your password or finished the initial task. Social media is the worst for getting sidetracked!
There’s lots of ways to avoid this, and the important thing is that you do avoid it! Here’s a few ideas to try:
- For especially bad tempting sidetrackers such as email, news sites and social media, have designated time slots to check and use them daily. If it’s not your time, you should only be on those sites if it pertains to your current task.
- Do your big picture planning so you know what the best project to be working on right now it.
- Plan your projects in enough detail that you know what your next few tasks are
- If something tricky comes up that is going to require multiple steps and therefore increase the risk of getting sidetracked, use a piece of paper to write down the steps so you don’t forget what got you where you are.
- Consider using a prominently placed post-it note or small white board that always has your current project on it so you can only ignore it if you try.
- Schedule your calls ahead of time and have limited phone hours so you don’t feel compelled to answer the ringing phone.
- Support your own efforts to focus – use headphones, shut the door, close programs you aren’t using, have a good chair, etc.
What helps you stay focused on small tasks? How do you avoid getting sidetracked? Share your ideas in the comments.