Do you know what’s one of the best things about running your own business and being your own boss? No one can tell you what to do, when to do it, and why to do it the way you’re going to do it. Do you know what’s one of the hardest things about being your own boss? No one is there to tell you to do anything.
And, as we all know, we can oftentimes be our own worst enemies. The Internet is rife with distractions and opportunities for procrastination. When you have no set working hours, no supervisor hovering over your shoulder to make sure you get the job done, and no imminent deadline that you absolutely must meet lest you wish to be fired, there’s no one to keep you accountable but yourself.
How can you make sure that when you sit down in front of the computer to do your blogging, affiliate marketing, product development or whatever else you do that you actually do the work and not waste your time surfing aimlessly around Facebook and YouTube?
Start with “Mise en Place”
“Mise en place” is a French culinary term that literally translates as “put in place” or “putting in place.” what it means is ensuring that you have everything in place before you even get started with the real work at hand.
Consider this from a chef’s perspective. If you start preparing a recipe, but you keep having to leave your workstation to go grab some more peppers from the fridge or some more spices from the pantry, if you have to divert your attention to cut some mushrooms or portion out the coriander, you’re not going to be as effective. But if you already have everything prepped and ready before you fire up the grill, you can focus on delivering the best dish possible.
Your work as an online professional is no different, except you need to manage both physical and digital/virtual “ingredients.” Make sure you have everything you need before you get started. You don’t want to waste time walking to the other room to get a form or rummaging through your drawer to find a flash drive.
Keep Email and Social Media Closed
Even if you think that you don’t want to be distraction, your mind and body will naturally welcome the relief that these distractions can bring. What’s the harm of leaving your Gmail open in the other tab anyhow? The harm is when you see you have an unread message and that (1) starts burning a hole in the back of your retina.
To focus on the particular task at hand, ideally you want to keep all of those other windows closed. This way, there’s no temptation to tab over to Hootsuite to check on Twitter. If you must keep those windows open, at least minimize them so they’re not a visual distraction.
Enable “Do Not Disturb” Mode
Extending on the previous idea, another incredible source of distraction and procrastination is your smartphone. You think that you want to keep your phone on your desk in case you get an important call or text message, but that nagging notification light could be nothing more than telling you it’s your turn in Words with Friends.
If you really want to hunker down on a project, turn on the “do not disturb” mode on your phone (or other). Both iOS and Android devices have some variation of this capability, temporarily muting notifications so you aren’t tempted by the blinking light.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
As focused as you try to be with the work that you want to do, it’s not realistically to force yourself to be 100% productive for hours at a stretch. Your brain just doesn’t work that way. Instead, a much better method is to leverage what is called the Pomodoro technique.
There are tons of mobile and web apps that can aid you with this. The default setting will get you to work for a concentrated session of 25 minutes, followed by a forced 5 minute break. After a certain number of completed pomodoros, you are treated to a longer break. It’s like high intensity interval training (HIIT) for your productivity.
Define Your 30-Minute Tasks
To-do lists are very useful for staying organized and making sure you don’t miss anything. However, when you have an item on your to-do list that’s far too large and broad, the intimidation factor could leave you neglecting what could be a very important item because you don’t want to tackle it.
Having “write an ebook” on there isn’t going to do you much good, because it’ll feel like it’ll take you forever to tick that off your list. Instead, redefine your tasks such that they can be completed in 30 minutes or so. You can stretch that to an hour if need be.
It’s much more motivating when you get to tick “write outline for ebook introduction” off your list, pushing you along to the other steps you’ll need to take in the process.
How do you stay motivated and on track when working by yourself? What methods do you use to block out unnecessary distractions?