By Louise Miller

As I sat down to write this post for Pip, I considered comparing running your business to joining the circus. You know, all that juggling, plate spinning, feeling like you’re flying through the air without a safety net, being the charismatic ringmaster a la Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman. But, I quickly realised that the circus metaphor has its limits, so let’s just say that running your own business can be tough!

I mean, there’s always so much to do! Taking good care of our clients always comes first (that’s what we’re here for after all) but finding time for all the other stuff we need to be doing to grow our business is a real struggle. Which is why you need a plan! I mean, can you imagine the carnage if Cirque du Soleil took to the trapeze (or whatever it is they do) without one? Ouch! So, first things first. Get yourself a plan so you can clearly see what needs to be done. It helps to include a timeline, so you can identify what needs your attention when. And do try to remember there are only so many hours in a day!

Of course, it’s all very well and good having a plan, but life has this annoying habit of getting in the way. Before you know it, the weeks are whizzing by and you’re no closer to launching your new course or updating your website. And let’s not even think about your poor, neglected social media profiles! When you constantly feel like you’re behind and your to-do list just keeps growing, overwhelm kicks in making it impossible to switch off and relax.

But never fear! With a little thought and planning, it’s possible to regain control and start getting stuff done.

So, if you’re struggling to keep all the balls in the air, allow me to share a few tips that will help you make progress.

Turn projects into tasks

Take a look at your to-do list. Could each thing on your list be done in one sitting (whether that’s 15 minutes or a few hours)? If not, you need to break things down.

When you turn a project (e.g. write website) into a series of manageable tasks (e.g. map out site structure, draft home page etc), you immediately increase your chances of making progress. You see, ‘write website’ feels overwhelming. It feels like a big job that needs a big amount of time. And as you never have a big enough chunk of time to spare, you never get to it. But ‘draft home page’? Suddenly that feels achievable! ‘Map out site structure’? You could do that in between client calls!

Breaking projects down into tasks is one of the first things I tell my mentoring clients to do because the impact is huge and often instantaneous. Before they know it, they’re ticking off tasks and finally feeling like they’re getting somewhere!

If it’s not on your schedule it won’t happen – put it in your calendar!

Let me ask you a question: how important is marketing to your business? For many of us it’s crucial. Without it, people wouldn’t know we exist. If marketing and product or service development are critical for the survival and growth of your business, it’s important to take them seriously. So, prioritise those activities by scheduling them in.

Decide how much time you want to dedicate to marketing and/or development each week and use your calendar to block out that time. There are a few ways of doing this:

  • Think about how much time you want to spend on each activity and schedule them into your calendar individually (e.g. 2 hours blog writing, 2 hours course development, 1 hour to schedule a week’s worth of social media ).
  • Set aside small chunks of time for things like social media interaction which require just 10-20 minutes per day.
  • Dedicate half a day or a full day each week for marketing and development work.

The important thing is to choose an approach that feels most achievable to you.

If you work well with structure, fix those times in your calendar and honour them as you would a meeting with a client.

But don’t worry if the thought of a regular, fixed routine brings you out in a cold sweat; you can still make this work! Create those blocks of time as recurring weekly appointments in your electronic calendar and think of them as moveable feasts. Move them around each week depending on what else is going on, but don’t allow yourself to delete them. That way, they remain in your calendar each week, albeit at varying times. Commit to them as you would an appointment with a client.

Once you start using your calendar in this way, you’ll be less likely to overcommit yourself. You can rest, knowing you’ve set time aside to work on the development of your business. The days of getting to 4pm on a Friday and realising you still haven’t moved that important project forward will be behind you.

Get some accountability!

Do you find it hard to get motivated when someone else isn’t relying on you? Do you work better under pressure or when up against a deadline? If so, you might find it useful to introduce some accountability into your life!

Here are five suggestions to get you started:

  • Get an accountability buddy
    Find someone else who’s looking for accountability and agree to keep tabs on each other. Agree on a format that works for you, and then start sharing your intentions and watch your productivity soar.
  • Forfeits
    Have some fun finding a forfeit that would motivate you to get things done! You could use forfeits with your accountability buddy or enlist a friend or family member to hold you to them!
  • Make a public declaration
    Take to the airwaves and tell everyone what you’re going to achieve today/this week/this month. One way that I help my community to do this is in the ‘Accountability Corner’ in my Facebook group. Knowing you’ll have to explain yourself if you don’t do it can be a great motivator! Why not come and join us?
  • Work with a coach or mentor
    This is a really powerful way of getting accountability (as well as expert advice and guidance) for developing your business or tackling an area of personal or professional development.
  • Tell your audience what you’re working on
    If you’ve been wanting to create something in your business but never seem to find the time, tell your audience you’re working on it. As well as giving you the accountability you need to get it done, this can also create a buzz amongst your followers and help you see if there’s an appetite for what you’re doing.

When you run your own business there’s often nobody to answer to but yourself (and your clients…but hopefully you have no problem meeting their expectations!). Getting some external accountability, whether from a friend, business buddy, mentor or the wider community really can light a fire under you.

If you’re used to flying by the seat of your pants, making these sorts of changes may take a bit of getting used to. But give it a go and see what happens – you may be pleasantly surprised!

Discover your biggest block to productivity by taking my nifty online quiz and I’ll send you a tailored guide packed full of tips to get you on the calm path to a more organised life.