Five keys to productivity for a creative entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur is simultaneously the scariest and most exciting job you can have. In this job, you get to set your priorities, work at your own pace and be your own boss. Depending on the day, that idea can make me jump for joy or want to hide in bed all day. The key to success and organizing your time so that you aren't completely overwhelmed all the time is to plan and align your days in advance. And if you're not a planner, I'm sorry - it's necessary to plan ahead in order to stay organized in this job. I promise we can help you out, though - read ahead for some tips and tricks.
Structure your days for routine productivity.
There are morning people and night owls, those who like to work eight straight hours and those who prefer to spread work throughout the day. As an entrepreneur, you can set your own schedule and figure out how to make your day productive. Even if you aren't a planner, being able to plot out your days consciously will result in much more productivity than if you were just winging it. After testing out a few versions of my schedule, here's what most of my weekdays end up looking like:
8:30 a.m.: Wake up, get ready for the day, make breakfast, do any household chores like dishes, laundry, etc. 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Work at home. I usually schedule any phone meetings during this time slot and will do any work that requires illustration or paints during this time. 1 - 2:30 p.m.: Make lunch, read or watch TV. 2:30 - 7 p.m.: Leave the house and go to a coffee shop or library to focus on computer work for the rest of the day.
I'll also always make sure to go over my schedule for the week on Sunday night to evaluate my week and see if there's anything I need to plan around. For example, next week I'm spending the day with a friend on Wednesday, so I'll need to work extra the night before or after. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work out in the morning, so I end up working later into the evening on those days. Knowing what your days and weeks will look like before you are in the midst of them will help you focus on the work that actually needs to be done.
Make a to do list and stick to it.
During my weekend review of what work I have in the upcoming week, I also create a to do list for each project I'm working on. I'll then go through each weekday of the upcoming week and create morning and evening assignments for myself.
Although I don't always end up sticking exactly to this a hundred percent of the time, it streamlines my creative process and eliminates a lot of work slipping through the cracks. I'm able to group related projects together to maximize time and also allows me to prioritize my own brand. For example, I reserved a morning every week for illustration work, where I draw out illustrations for my own company and other organizations I'm working with so they can all be scanned in and digitized together.
Relatedly, you can also figure out what tasks are best for you to work on at certain times. For example, I usually reserve mornings for brainstorming and creative work, and afternoons for writing and other computer work. It's all about figuring out what's most productive for you.
Find a workplace that's productive for you.
Like I said earlier, I usually spend my mornings at home and my afternoons at a library or coffee shop. I'll be honest - my mornings are usually fairly unproductive. I use this time to ease into things, brainstorm, sketch and bounce from task to task. It's an easing into my afternoons and evenings, where I do my most valuable work. At home, I end up getting distracted by the TV or laundry or end up just playing with my cat all morning. But that might not be the same for you. There's no one size fits all kind of work station.
Don't forget to take time to work on your own brand.
It's easy to get lost in your current clients or go down the rabbit hole of researching new companies to possibility work with. In the scheduling of your time, don't forget to include working on your own brand. I tend to go by the 30-10 rule - if you're working 40(ish) hours a week, it's a good rule of thumb to allocate 30 hours to client work and 10 to your own brand. This will allow you time to work on your own website, write content, schedule social media messaging, reach out to prospective clients, and more. It's good to think about the 30-10 rule as you establish rates, too.
Don't judge yourself by a 40 hour a week standard.
It's one of my favorite quotes: "Entrepreneurs - the only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks." I've found myself working 11 hours some days, and four on others. And that's okay. The best thing about this gig is that no one is here to tell you that you're doing it wrong. You very well might also find yourself much more productive than you ever were at a desk job since you're able to focus exclusively on one task at a time - I know I have. It's all about using your time wisely, and you very well might not be hitting eight hours every day.
I recommend Toggl, an timing app that segments your time by client and project. You can see a) exactly how much you're working every week, and b) exactly what projects you're spending all your time on. Tracking your time in general is a great way to evaluate how you allocate your time.
Overall, the entrepreneur life is tough - but it's hella rewarding. To be able to say you did it, and did it all on your own - that's a feeling that unparalleled.