I often get asked by online and offline friends how I accomplish so much. I have written previously about time management but I would like to share some of my own strategies with you in this article. Often just knowing about time management isn’t enough to actually produce positive results. You also need to know how to apply that knowledge.
In this article, I’ll share with you how I’ve used my time management knowledge to increase my branding, promote my Artfire Studio (and previously Etsy shop), and accomplish more marketing tasks with only a small amount of time.
(Image Credit: Auric Angels, Artfire.com)
Create Bookmark Folders.
I have set up bookmark folders for nearly every subject you can think of in my browser. The ones that are most important are my “Daily”, “Weekly”, “Monthly”, “To Do”, and my “To Do Now” folders. When I sit down at the computer everyday, I don’t waste time wondering “What were all those things I was supposed to do?”. I don’t ever miss anything that I want to get done each day, week, or month. I also get all my tasks done quickly and easily.
Each day, I simply open all the bookmarks in the “Daily” folder. What used to take me a few hours, now takes me 30 minutes because I never waste time trying to figure out what I need to be doing. I also don’t have to worry about forgetting something new I’ve added to my online routine because it will be right there in the bookmarks.
Every Friday or Sunday, depending on my schedule, I work through my “Weekly” bookmarks. The last weekend of the month, I focus on my “Monthly bookmarks”. Having a set day of the week to work through my “Weekly” bookmarks, and a set week of the month to work through my “Monthly” bookmarks, ensures I never let a week or month go by without completing those tasks.
My “To Do” folder has bookmarks to remind me of things I would like to do but that aren’t urgent or pressing. The “To Do Now” folder has more important bookmarks that I want look into and perhaps add to my routine in the near future. I remove bookmarks from my “To Do” and “To Do Now” folders as I work through them. I go to these folders when I have a few extra minutes (like between commercial breaks!).
I would highly suggest you find a strategy that will help you work through all the tasks that online sellers need to do consistently. Bookmark folders work best for me for all my online tasks.
Make a Mega List
I have an ongoing “mega list” of “to do” tasks. I used to keep this list in a notebook but I found that it took me too much time to flip through all the pages and figure out what was really important. Now I keep a running list in Excel. I have it set up so that I prioritize each task and looks something like this:
As you can see from the image above, the first column is where I indicate when a task has been completed. The second column is where I set the task priority (Daily, High, Medium, Low, or Weekly). I don’t need to add the tasks in order of priority because I can always arrange the tasks into priority groups by selecting the tasks I want to see at the top of my list (with the drop down menu shown). This is the best feature about using Excel for a "mega to do list" for me. I like to add tasks to the list as I think of them so I don’t forget to add them later. It’s so nice to know that once the task gets added to the file, I don’t need to try to remember it for later. It will always be there, organized in priority, and ready to remind me that it is an outstanding task in my Excel file. The third column is for the task name, and the forth column is for extra details.
Having a mega list of tasks like this helps me stay focused on what needs to be done first. Before I used this part of the system, it was far too easy to get distracted by other tasks that weren’t a high priority. Doing marketing tasks as I thought of them was quickly taking over a lot of my time. I was becoming stressed out because if I didn’t do a task as I thought of it, I would forget about it. Or, I would write it in my notebook, sometimes never to be seen again! Now I don't need to worry about forgetting to do something.
Another advantage to using a prioritized mega list is that it helps me to focus on completing a task fully before bouncing around too much to other tasks. Multi-tasking is only good if it’s smart multi-tasking. I will talk about this in future articles. In the past, I was multi-tasking because I got sick of one task so I would start something new. Or, I had lost sight of priority of the task I was working on in the first place. I was wasting valuable time by stop and starting a dozen different things in an unorganized matter. Now my priorities are clear cut and I never loose sight of why it's important to work on the task at hand. Prioritizing goes a long way.
Make Realistic Daily To Do Lists.
If you have taken me up on my advice to start a Mega List, you surely have a long list of tasks now that you need to get done. You also know what you need to get done first. But how do you get all those tasks done without getting overwhelmed? The answer is making realistic daily to do lists, and don’t feel guilty about the tasks that didn’t make it on the list that day! As someone who suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, my energy is extremely valuable to me because it’s so limited. I’ve had to learn the hard way that just because I’ve written a task on my daily to do list, doesn’t mean I’ll have the energy to do it! Even if you’re not suffering from chronic pain and fatigue, I’m sure you can relate! It’s easy to write a lengthy “to do list” for Friday on Sunday afternoon when you’re well rested and recharged from the week before, but you need to be realistic. For myself, adding one “major event” per day is usually all I will schedule in. For example, if I have a full day at my “day job”, I wont schedule in any major projects in the studio for that day because that’s not realistic for me. Nor will I schedule in “photography” because photographing my products takes a lot of energy for me, which makes photography a “major event”. You know your body and personality better than anyone else so be realistic. If you know that Wednesday is a busy day already, don’t try to schedule a lot of other tasks in. it’s important that you’re honest with yourself when scheduling tasks so you don’t continue the cycle of having a love/hate relationship with your “to do list”.
Think about the times and days that you feel the most energized and motivated to market your business. For me, I’m a total nighthawk, so I plan to do a lot of my online marketing at night after my husband goes to bed. I also know that on Friday’s, I don’t have class or work, so I can schedule in tasks that require more energy and focus, like photography. It may take some time to figure out when you are really “at your best” to market your business. If you haven’t had success with daily to do lists in the past, I suggest tracking your tasks for a week. Write in everything from laundry, to grocery shopping, to packing orders, listing items, and even your “down time”. This will give you a better idea of what days of the week are already too busy to schedule in any major events.
When it comes to actually sitting down to write my daily “to do list”, I actually write a week at a time. The large picture shows the pad of paper I use. It has a spot for every day of the week (Saturday and Sunday are together in one box). I find I’m much more focused, and can write a more realistic to do list when I do it all at once. Yes, you can even write it on a Sunday afternoon as long as you’re being realistic about your plans! I find writing my weekly plan out when I’m relaxed helps me focus on what priorities need to come first. With my university classes in full swing again, I write in my assignments first. This helps me plan the rest of my week. Next, I write in the days that I will work at the university. Right away, after planning for these major events, I have narrowed down when I will have time to work on my business. I write “Handmade News” in each daily, and “New Artfire Listing”. I also write in "Daily bookmarks". You’ll remember these from my previous article. As you can already tell, the amount of time left to actually market becomes smaller and smaller. Luckily for us, there are simple, quick, and easy tasks tucked away in our "Daily bookmarks" that count as marketing tasks (assuming you’ve added these into that bookmark folder). You should also have a bookmark folder for all the places you promote your new listings, or you can add these bookmarks into your "Daily bookmarks" folder – it’s totally up to you. If you’ve added marketing tasks to your "Daily bookmarks" folder you can be sure you will get at least a little bit of marketing in everyday. When you have more time, you can look into new marketing strategies and schedule time in the studio.
By just doing the basics I’ve listed above, my days are already pretty full. If I wrote a “to do list” without all of those things in mind I would only be setting myself up for failure. As much as I would like to be a super woman and complete two days worth of tasks in an afternoon, being realistic with my expectations keeps me grounded and free from guilt. It’s too easy these days to feel guilty for not being as productive as someone else. “Someone else” is not you and they may have a completely different lifestyle, personality, and product line. Be true to yourself and your craft – do what you can, when you can, and be smart about it. In my next article I’ll clarify how to “be smart about it”. Hopefully you are already off to a good start to feeling like you can tackle that mega list, without the guilty feelings of not getting it done sooner. Remember, you set up that mega list for it to be just that – a mega list. It will have tasks that may not need to be completed until next year, so don’t sweat it if you’re not racing through it. It’s meant to be an ongoing process. Work through the “high priority” items and everything else will fall into place.