The most difficult part of cobbling together my own income is not bringing in clients.
It’s not self-marking and promotion.
It’s not even making enough money.
What I’m finding to be the most challenging is juggling a lot of balls at once.
Ironically, that’s also the best part of being a solopreneur. I don’t have to focus on one interest or skill or project! I can report as a freelance journalist and help small businesses with social media and write my second book — all at once. Since I’m in charge of my time, I can spend it how I choose.
But sometimes I find myself stressing over balancing so many buckets at once. It’s not that I have too much work; three months into solopreneurship, my workload is totally manageable. It’s not even that I have trouble hopping from one project to another. I’m one of those people who thrives on multi-tasking.
What’s challenging is wrapping my mind around all the things I want to do. Because I’m an idea person, my head tends to go a mile per minute, developing an idea for Project 2 even when I’m working on Project 1.
So I’ve been thinking over the last few weeks how to use that energy to my advantage. How can I harness all of those ideas and go with the flow even while accomplishing each task that has to be done on any given day?
Here’s what I came up with: a massive Google Doc, a spreadsheet that will serve as a checklist.
A to-do list isn’t new, of course. I already use or have tried digital tools like TeuxDeux (an online to-do list) and ReminderFox (a Firefox add-on) and Tasks on my Google Calendar. But none of those tools were giving me quite what I needed.
So I created a spreadsheet that includes every task I have to complete, letting me know exactly when I have to complete it (inspired by Jenny Blake’s templates). It reminds me when to tweet for each client, which afternoons to dedicate to editing blogs I oversee, and how many blog posts I have to write on any given day of the week. I rigged it so tasks I’ve completed are red, and those that are waiting on action are green.
That way, I can easily look at my spreadsheet every day and see what needs to be done. And when it’s done, I can work on whatever’s calling my name at that given moment — without stressing that I’m forgetting a crucial task.
Being super organized like this is important partly because I’m planning to travel in March. (It’s looking more and more like Nicaragua…) This will be the first test of whether I can take my business on the road. To succeed, I need to have a plan in place for what works needs to get done when.
A big part of working for yourself, I’m learning, is figuring out which tools and schedules and systems work for you. Because no one can tell you how to be most efficient and effective. You have to learn that for yourself. And you’ll only discover it through trial and error.
So ask yourself: What one tool could I add to my daily routine that would help me be more efficient? It could be a budget-tracker or a networking reminder or a trip-planner or simply switching to a better email system. What would help you do your job and live your life better?
If that tool exists — and it probably does — find it and give it a try this week; I’ll be trying out my new tool, too. If it doesn’t exist, can you create it? Can you find a way to build it from scratch or tweak another tool so it will meet your needs?
I’d love to hear what that life-saving tool might be for you, so please share in the comments!
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