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July 29, 2015

Never End your Workday Until you Complete This

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Have you had one of those days when you woke up, checked email, scrolled through Facebook, moved onto Twitter and eventually headed into your craft room only to look at a stack of projects, wondering where you should start?

On the other hand; have you had a day where you wake up, excited about a new project, knowing just where to dive in and your day just seems to flow?

If you have, then you’ll know just how uplifting the 2nd type of day can be and how detrimental the 1st type of day is to your morale. It goes to show you how easy running a business can feel when you have direction. That’s why I never end my workday without completing this one task:


MAKE TOMORROW’S TO-DO LIST


Simple right? Creating a to-do list for the next day ensures you can hit the ground running when your brain’s a little foggy. By the end of the day, we’re usually on a roll and have to force ourselves to put down the knitting needles or laptop. While your brain is in this productive mode, take advantage of it. Determine what didn’t get done today that needs to be done tomorrow and which new tasks you need to get completed. If you don’t have any troubles figuring out what needs to be done in your business and staying on top of it, you can stop here; short and easy article for you!

But if you tend to neglect certain areas of your business, have troubles determining what needs to be done or want a little more guidance on building a proper list, keep reading, there are lots of tips!


DEFINE YOUR CORE AREAS OF BUSINESS

Think about all the different areas of your business that you work on in a week and that you need to take care of to ensure you maintain and grow. If you’re drawing a bit of a blank, you can research other businesses to see how they’re breaking things down or work your way backwards from a goal of where you want to be. Have a goal of making X amount of sales in a year? Brainstorm how you might get there:

  • Through craft shows
  • Through social media
  • Through your website
  • Selling wholesale through boutiques
  • Getting into the media

Now you’ve got 5 main areas you know you need to work on in order to increase sales; events, social media, website, boutiques, media. Add your daily tasks to that (i.e. creating product, answering emails, etc.) and you’ve got your list!


DEDICATE DAYS

What can be really helpful when it comes to running your business and determining what to work on, is a guideline for each day. You can work off the list you created above and dedicate a specific day for each area. If you have your routine in place that takes care of the basics (i.e. creating, selling, emailing, etc.) but struggle to fit in things like; posting to social media, connecting with local events & boutiques, blogging, etc. you may want to create a guideline similar to this:

  • MONDAY - Social Media
  • TUESDAY - Press
  • WEDNESDAY – Wholesale
  • THURSDAY – Events
  • FRIDAY – Website

Scheduling tools are a great way to stay on top of everything. How many times do you get lost in a project and forget to post to Facebook? Use their ‘scheduled post’ feature and schedule all your posts for the week so you don’t even have to worry about it. This also makes it easy to dedicate a day for working on an area of your business without worrying whether it’s the best time to post. Sending out newsletters on a Friday afternoon isn’t typically going to get you a great open rate, but if you use Mailchimp’s schedule feature, you can use Friday afternoons to draft up your next newsletter and set it to be sent out at an optimal time the following week.


DEFINE EACH STEP IT TAKES TO COMPLETE A TASK

Time to make it really easy for your future self; break down, step by step, what you need to do for each of the areas above. This is helpful for so many reasons.

  • On those days you’re drawing a blank and are too tired to think, turn to your instructions to see what needs to be done and how you need to do it. It’s your own friendly boss, suggesting what you should work on and giving you the manual on how to complete it ;)
  • You can use it to keep track of how you executed something in the past. Only put contests on twice a year and forget the tools you’ve used in the past and the steps you’ve taken? Reference your instructions.
  • Helps you stay on top of all aspects of your business so you’re not neglecting one area. Twitter account hasn’t been tweeted from in several months? People may wonder if you’re still in business or unfollow you thinking it’s an inactive account.
  • Helps you as you grow too! When you get to the point that you need to hire help, you’ll already have a jump start on your employee handbook. Or if you’re under the weather and need your business partner (or life partner) to help cover your tasks, you have a set of instructions you can send to them so they don’t skip a beat.

How specific should you get? The more specific the better! Let’s use Friday’s tasks of working on your website as an example. Under website tasks you may have the following areas to take care of:

  • Blogging
  • Updating Photos & Text
  • Newsletter
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Technical Support

From here, you can break each of these sections down to explain what each task entails and continue breaking them down until you have really detailed instructions.

BLOGGING

1) Brainstorm 4 ideas for posts (or more if you post articles more frequently)
  • Draw on favorite magazines, books, etc. for inspiration
  • Look at calendar for themes (i.e. Halloween or Christmas)
  • Look into current events
  • Look at past articles to see if you can expand on them or make them more current for a new post
2) Use a calendar or planner to schedule posts
  • Plan at least a month ahead
  • Mark the day the final draft will be posted
3) Write posts
  • Determine catchy titles for each topic
  • Lay out the structure (main points you want to cover)
  • Research any topics you need more info on
  • Write first draft
  • Find stock images or create images
  • Edit first draft and finalize the post
4) Post article
  • Add article to website/blog
  • Add photos and images and ensure layout is easy to read
  • Schedule when it should be released/posted
5) Share article
  • Share link on: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Newsletter
  • Contact any press or bloggers you think may be interested in covering your article

You can see once you break it down, how many steps there are and how easy it may be to forget something when you have a hectic schedule.


CREATING YOUR DAILY LIST

  • Create your list based on what you see as most important to complete that day. A good question to ask yourself is: if I only complete one task today, which task would I need to complete to feel like I accomplished something? This will tell you where your importance is. If you complete 10 tasks but put off the one thing you need to do to move forward in achieving your goals, even though you got lots done, you’re going to feel like you fell short. Add around 3 – 6 tasks to your to-do list for tomorrow and number them in order of importance. When you start your day, begin with number 1 and work your way down. This takes the guesswork out of “what should I work on next?”.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew or you’ll feel overwhelmed trying to fit everything in and unaccomplished if you continuously don’t complete your tasks. Each business is different; you may have several 15-minute tasks on your list and can fit more check boxes into your day. If your work takes longer, you may only fit a few tasks in.
  • If you don’t complete your list at the end of the day, don’t feel bad, just move the uncompleted tasks to the top of tomorrow’s list. Add a few more new tasks to top you up and continue this pattern.

BONUS TIPS

LEAVE A TASK UNFINISHED – this is a great way to jump right in the next day. Usually the hardest part of a task is getting started and since you’re already in the middle of a task, the hard part is out of the way. Pick up where you left off yesterday and go straight into work mode.

CREATE A "POP UP" LIST - for tasks that pop up outside of your daily routine. This is a great place to take all those thoughts running through your head (when you’re trying to fall asleep;) and get them down on paper. These tasks should be more of the outside-of-your-typical-workday type tasks. If something comes up such as having your sewing machine repaired or mailing a cheque for an event application, you can add it to your “pop up” list.

DREADED TASKS FIRST – if there’s a task you really don’t look forward to doing or maybe don’t mind it but tend to put it off, get that task completed first thing. The longer we put something off in the day, the less likely we are to complete it.


TOOLS

There are some great tools for keeping track of your to-do lists. You’ll have to check them each out for all their features, functionalities and plans but they all have a free basic membership which is probably more than enough for a small handmade business.

Trello – this one is really easy to use and has a click and drag feature which comes in handy for moving your tasks around if you want to assign it to another business partner, move it into a completed column or reorganize your tasks.

Asana - I like that this one allows you to add a project, tasks within that project and then descriptions for each task with a layout that allows you to easily view your breakdown. There are many more features to explore with this website.

Evernote – one of the most popular organizational tools. It allows you to add your tasks and track when they’re done. They also have a great app for those of you who use your phone more than your laptop.


Do you have any favorite techniques or tools you like to use when it comes to organizing your day? Share in the comment section below!

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