Are there certain writing or other tasks that you keep moving from day to day on your to-do list? I know I have a few. Most of mine relate to administrative or routine things like filing, updating my financial records, and sending invoices. (Yes, even though invoices bring in the money—and you might be surprised at how many free-lancers share this feeling.)
J. J. Ramburg has written a book called It’s Your Business in which she shares almost 200 tips gleaned from hundreds of interviews she’s done with entrepreneurs. Here are five, adapted to apply to the kinds of things we writers often don’t like to do:
1: Look for a better way. It’s so easy to do research on the web now that it’s worth spending a bit of time (not too much!) finding out whether there’s an app or any software that might make the task easier. Maybe somebody else has found an easier way of doing it.
2: For reluctant networkers: Get to the event first. That way it will be easier for you to introduce yourself to the other early arrivals and feel comfortable before the larger group forms.
3: Ask for help. If you’re shy at networking events, tell the organizers, “I’m a bit shy at things like this. It would really be helpful if you could introduce me to two or three people to get things started.” They want their events to be successful, so usually they’ll be glad to oblige. Similarly, if keeping good financial records is a trial for you, ask your accountant for some guidance on how to do it.
4: Do one chunk of your least favorite task first thing in the morning—no more than 15 minutes to start. “Do it first” is advice often given, seldom followed. It’s just too off-putting to take on some big, undesirable task first thing, but most of us could manage spending fifteen minutes on one chunk of it. If that gives you enough momentum to keep going, do it. If not, do another 15 minute chunk of it before lunch and repeat the next day.
5: Document your processes. Certain tasks come up only once every few months and it’s easy to forget how you did them. For instance, let’s say the printer breaks down and you go online to check the trouble-shooting pages of the manual and follow a six-step procedure to get the printer working again.
Document the process by printing out the relevant pages of the manual and jotting down anything else that was important and put it in a folder called “Printer” (where you also keep the receipt, warranty, etc.). If it happens again, you’ll save time by seeing what you have to do.
If you want more innovative ideas for managing your time, I recommend my book, "Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done." It's published by Pearson and is very concise--no padding! You can get it from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.