I am typing this as I have a million to-dos on my mind, music blaring in my ears, and massaging a minor panic over the hours ticking away from my weekend. Time that’s supposed to be mine to dedicate to whatever I want - and I’m burning it away flipping through songs and writing notes across multiple notebooks. Unless there’s a hard due date (not an invented one a la moi), I struggle to actually sit down and complete a large project and I know I’m not the only one.
Entrepreneurs and founders struggle to manage all their daily tasks, and there are often a lot of reasons for this mismanagement. Entrepreneurs are often pulled in a million directions. Throughout the years I mastered ways to escape my horrible habit of procrastination, for the most part, and have figured out a failsafe way to complete work in a timely fashion.
Find a Place to Work that's Exclusively Dedicated to Working
Living in a small condo in the city doesn’t always allow for a separate space to work, but you do deserve a spot that’s dedicated to your work. If you can’t claim a section on the couch or at the dining table as your own, then your work area doesn’t need be at home. It only needs to be a place you can access fairly easily. This could be a co-working space that’s a quick transit ride away or a coffee shop you can walk to. As long as you can get there without much hemming and hawing, this place will suitable. A co-working space we love is Make Lemonade downtown Toronto (psst... check out our podcast with the founder, Rachel Kelly!).
Set up your Workspace Ahead of Time
Setting up your space is the easiest excuse to use to drive your procrastination. Sitting down only to stand up every few minutes because, “I forgot to grab my headphones!” “I don’t have my water!” “I need a snack!” seems justifiable but it’s only interfering. Set up your desk before you settle into work mode. You know what you need to work properly. Get your desk prepped and ready so that you can get right into your tasks at hand. I find other justifiable things to concentrate on: such as finally trying that new task manager that keeps advertising at me or making my tenth coffee.
Set a Real Due Date for your Work
It’s hard to hold yourself to a date, because what’re you going to do? Judge yourself? Berate yourself? Though you can certainly make yourself feel bad, it’s not exactly a great motivator. You need to tell someone, or preferably many people, who can hold you to the date you need to hit. Tell them to ask you about it on the due date and to show your work to them.
Work in "Sprints"
When you’ve got a lot to accomplish, it’s easiest to break your projects down into doable tasks and aim to have them complete by the end of the Sprint. Though Sprints are typically used for products or dev-related tasks where there’s a backlog to manage, there’s no reason you can’t apply the same methodology to your project. For example, in completing a podcast, there is a lot to accomplish. We need to do guest outreach, set a recording date, book a recording location, send information to our guest in advance, record the podcast, edit the content, and upload to our podcast hosting platform. My work isn’t done after that either, I need to edit the website to add a guest bio, a podcast page, write or publish an accompanying blog post, then get to work on social media organic posts and advertising. All this needs to be accomplished within my two week Sprint. Sprints can be any size less than a month, so choose projects that can be realistically accomplished and broken down within that timeframe.
Get a Task Manager
Often, to properly manage a Sprint, you will need to track your tasks/backlog of work and what’s being accomplished in the Sprint. I have my preference for how I like to work, and my task manager reflects that. I have tried every task manager in existence and so far the only one that I have no complaints about is Monday. It’s like creating an Excel sheet (my ideal task manager) in a much more visually appealing and easily sharable way. Find a task manager that works for you. If you don’t continually rely on it, then it’s not the right task manager for you. Thankfully, many of them have trial periods so you can see how it fits your work type.
Learn to Forgive yourself: Things Happen!
Sometimes, you realize a project will take longer than you think. This podcast website is a good example of it. I was sure I could develop and create this in a week. I realized that I needed bios, images, a handful of blogs, and at least one recorded podcast to go live properly. It was no longer just a quick “who we are” that I had to write - I needed a lot for this website to be properly fitted to send to potential guests and sponsors. This delayed me by an additional two weeks, which I continued to berate myself about. If you truly can’t accomplish a piece before completion that is necessary to finishing the project, then reset your dates.