In my article from last week, I provided the first two steps any aspiring entrepreneur needs to make progress toward self-employment every day. Those two steps, working toward small victories and setting blocks of time to focus on one task, will give help you from becoming overwhelmed and give you the confidence that you are making progress. The next three steps are designed to keep you organized as you increase your workload and keep you motivated as you progress to achieving work you love to do.
Create lists and projects
When most people think of a to-do list, they think of listing everything they need to do in one big list. This will not work, because a long list with no structure or priority will overwhelm you. For those of you who use Microsoft Outlook to manage your tasks, you know exactly what I mean. Even though you can assign high or low importance to certain tasks, it’s very difficult to see how those tasks fit into what you really need to do.
The key to effective list and task management is to organize your list into projects. David Allen, creator of the Getting Things Done organizing system, defines a project as anything requiring more than one step to complete. If you must do three things to complete something, that’s a project. Writing an article is a project, because you must develop an idea, perform research, organize your thoughts, and write the article.
There is no shortage of tools to help you manage lists, tasks, and projects. I use a free and very simple application called Wunderlist, which is the first tool I’ve seen that balances ease of use with great organization. Wunderlist is available on the iPod/iPhone/iPad platform, Android, Mac OS, and PC systems as well as through the Internet. Wunderlist also allows me to create lists for any project as well as specific lists for article ideas or “backburner” items. If you tour the productivity app section in your phone’s marketplace, you will find plenty of options to help you stay organized.
Always have a way to record ideas
We are a mobile society. Whether we are working or doing personal tasks, being on the go is a staple of life. Ideas come at any time, so having a way to record ideas and “get them out of your head” is a critical factor to developing that next big thing for your business. It does not matter how you record your ideas, but you must develop a system that you will consistently perform. The goal is to not force yourself to remember ideas. If you cannot remember a seven-digit phone number more than a few moments (I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you since I can’t do this myself!), then have a way to capture those thoughts.
I use three things to help me remember ideas. I carry an Action Runner notebook from Behance, which is a 3 x 5 inch notebook with one side to record action items and another side to jot notes. I also use my iPod Touch’s voice recorded or a Roland R-05 digital recorder to record the thoughts that don’t go on paper.
Take time to celebrate your victories
Building a business is a long and difficult, but extremely rewarding and fulfilling process. Unless you are extremely lucky, you will not become an overnight success. As you build your business, you will have a series of small victories. You need to step back and celebrate those wins. Take your spouse to dinner. Buy the new smartphone you’ve wanted to buy. Take an evening off from building your business and sit on your deck with your drink of choice. Just take the time to sit back, reflect on what you did to make this achievement, and use it to motiviate yourself for future success.
Progress means moving forward. Even if that progress is not as fast or as big as you would like it to be, any progress means you are closer to your ultimate goal. It’s hard to not be overwhelmed as you make the leap from traditional jobs to self-employment. If you follow the five steps I’ve outlined in this post and part 1 of this series, you will face your journey with more confidence.