As I mentioned yesterday, working from home brings a whole slew of unique challenges related to time management and focus.
We already know that busywork is a poor substitute for doing work that matters.
When you work for yourself it is so much easier to get caught up in the busywork.
I discovered this first hand about a year and a half ago just after our big relaunch of the new Tools & Toys website.
A couple of months after the relaunch I realized I was spending the best parts of my day checking traffic and affiliate stats. What a total waste of my time!
So I made some big changes to my day. I’m going to share some of them with you in a second.
My history with tasks and time
Lest you get the impression that I am a naturally organized and administrative person, I’m going to let you in on a little secret:
As a kid, my room was once so dirty that my parents literally brought in the snow shovel to help me clean up all the toys on my floor.
When I got older, I kept track of important things by writing them on my hand.
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I even began to care about tidiness, organization, being reliable, etc.
I used to see a schedule like a jail cell. I considered schedules to be constricting and prohibiting. I thought a schedule would keep me from having fun or living a spontaneous and free life.
Actually, it’s the opposite.
Managing your time is liberating. (Just as a budget liberates your finances.)
A financial budget empowers you to spend your money on the things you want and need.
And a time budget — a.k.a. a schedule — empowers you to spend your time doing the things you want and need to do.
The key to success? Diligence.
It was five years ago that I quit my job to begin writing full time.
There are many things which have contributed to my ability to continue writing (as opposed to crashing and burning and having to go get a job at Starbucks).
But, by far and away, the most important component to building a business is diligence.
It’s more important than money, talent, relationships, audience, tools, or anything else.
Those resources and assets are all very important to be sure.
But unless you show up every day and give focused time on the most important work, you’re not actually building anything — you’re just shuffling the cards.
Without taking control of my time, there’s no way I’d still be here today, writing for you from my basement office.
There are many things that are part of my day-to-day life which help me to stay on track and show up every day.
But I think these are probably three of the most important “practices” which help me stay diligent with my writing.
I mostly ignore email. Just ask anyone who’s ever emailed me. I’m terrible at it. But I’m terrible on purpose. It’s something I’ve chosen not to give much time to so I can focus on writing and “creating” content.
The Note (a.k.a. my editorial calendar). This is something I’ve done for quite a while now and it helps tremendously with making sure that each day when I sit down to do my writing, I’ve already got a plan in place for how to spend my time.
Schedule every minute. Yep. I take about 5 minutes each morning and schedule out every minute of my day. This liberates my day and helps me make consistent and meaningful progress on projects without working wild hours or feeling anxious.
(I share much more detail about my approach to planning and scheduling over here.)
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Something I’ve learned over time is that diligence and focus are not personality types. They are skills.
You can develop the skill of being diligent.
You can get better at showing up every day.
You can work that muscle of focusing your time and attention.
I’m still getting better at it myself. (I’m not longer writing my schedule out on my hand, thank goodness.)
Next I want to share with you some thoughts about getting a system that works… a system you can stick with… a system that helps you.