When you’re self employed it’s so easy to fall into the trap of ‘busy foolishness’. After all, there’s only one person to do everything - you. And before you know it, you’re running around, being all things to all people and using all of your hours on many little tasks that offer little or no reward.
So how can you tell if you are busy? Or just a busy fool?
Do any of these traits sound familiar?
And that’s only 10 tell-tale signs. I’m sure that you could add a few more to this list yourself.
We’ve all been guilty of exhausting our limited supply of energy by flitting from one thing to another and having very little to show for it except a bunch of receipts for coffees and chocolate, which we needed urgently to boost our flagging energy levels.
But there is a better way.
Imagine, sitting down every Friday evening and planning out the following week. Imagine knowing how much time all of your various takes will take to complete. Imagine starting the day with purpose and direction, and finishing the day with energy and a sense of accomplishment? Yes, it can be done.
1. Track your time - use toggl for one week.
Quite simply, if you track all of your time spent across all of your tasks (even the tiniest of tasks) for one week you’ll be amazed at how much time you waste on things that do not deliver any results. And there’s no better way to see where and when you’re being a busy fool than by using a time tracking tool.
It might sound painful, but it’s not if you use Toggl. This is a very cool, beautifully designed tool and app which allows you to track your time with no fuss and with one click of a button. You can get it on your desktop and add it as a Chrome Extension too.
In fact, Toggle love tracking time so much that even when you land on their homepage, it starts tracking time spent on the page from the second you arrive (and even if you don’t want to use the tool, just have a look to see their lovely videos on the homepage).
Getting up and running on the app couldn’t be easier - just click ‘get started’, create a task, start the timer and off you go. It really is that simple. There’s also the option of upgrading so that you can use the billable rates feature which is invaluable for calculating quotes or invoices.
It’s free to use, so why not give it a go and make the first step in getting your day under control.
2. Repel procrastination. ‘Be effective. Not busy’
Do you find yourself putting off important tasks that you hate by distracting yourself with a to-do list filled with many small tasks of low value? Or to give it another name... procrastination.
We procrastinate for many reasons. Either we are not good at the big important task, we find it difficult, we don’t know how to do it, it’s boring, or it has such a high value for us that we don’t want to start it because we’re afraid we’ll fail. Whatever the reason is for avoiding the task at hand, you need to get to the bottom it.
Just take a moment and honestly answer this question “Why don’t I want to do this?” Whatever the answer is, acknowledge it, and give it an imaginary handshake. And then you need to be just like those people who don’t feel like going out for a run, but they put on their trainers regardless and say “I’m coming back in 10 minutes if I don’t feel like running”, and then what happens? They end up running for an hour.
So really, it’s just the thought of expending effort that manipulates our brains into not wanting to even get started. And the funny thing? The actual act of doing the task, instead of putting it off is much easier.
Don’t let your brain bully you into avoiding tasks. Put on your imaginary trainers and just try it for 10 minutes. Chances are that you’ll keep going for much longer than that.
3. What are my high-worth valuable tasks?
It’s an unfortunate truth that not all tasks are equal. Valuable tasks fill us with joy - billable hours, working with clients and winning new business. Boring tasks fill us with dread - finances, taxes, administration.
But how about when we let other tasks fool us into thinking they’re valuable? For example - checking emails every 2 minutes and replying immediately to everything that comes into our inbox. Or how about when the phone rings and we jump to answer it regardless of what we are doing. Or having meetings with potential clients when you just know that they won’t pay your asking price and you'll just about break-even.
For one week, track what is valuable - this can be in monetary terms or non-monetary. But be honest with yourself. Weed out those pesky fake-valuable tasks, and concentrate on those tasks that have real rewards.
If in doubt, just remember this quote from one of my favourite productivity authors, J.D. Meier of Microsoft,
“Is your day by default or by design?”
And finally. Turn off your phone. Turn off your emails. Get off the internet. Set a timer for 20 minutes and GO
Creative writing work from Louise Bunyan.