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Running your online business means a lot of work, a lot of uncertainty, and a seemingly unquenchable need for ever-greater productivity.
Whether you’re running your online business on the side or you’re all-in as a full time entrepreneur, it can be exhausting staying on top of all the work and keeping track of everything you need to do.
If you’re in this position, take a deep breath, and let it out. You’re not alone.
With time, practice, and the right productive approach, it gets easier. In fact, you’ll probably find that turning the chaos into something you can manage is one of the most exciting and fulfilling parts of being an entrepreneur. Plus, it gives you a huge amount of opportunity to stand out from the rest and achieve great things with your business.
If you are running your online business (or you’re thinking of starting one) and you want to build something awesome with limited time and resources, these productivity tips will help you save time, get more done, and deliver your most amazing work.
1. Get It All Organized
Running your online business is not just one job, but a collection of many. Whether you’re a content creator, an artist, a maker of some physical product, or you offer a service directly to clients, that’s just the first of many hats you need to wear.
Whatever your “main” job is in your business, you most likely have at least a couple other roles:
- CEO / Administrator
- Sales and marketing
- Social media management
- Order fulfillment
- Webmaster / technical support
- Customer service
- Quality assurance
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to think of “running your online business” as a single role. But under the hood, it’s really a BUNCH of different positions bundled into one.
Each of these roles comes with not just its own responsibilities, but also its own documents, websites, applications, accounts, deadlines, and so on. If, like me, you have at least a passing interest in not going insane, it will be a big help for you to get these things organized – and then keep them organized.
Separate tools and materials into meaningful buckets by work function. Sort files into folders, bookmarks into categories, etc. Same goes for physical materials in your workspace, too.
When you show up to work, depending on which hat you are wearing at that moment, you will know exactly where to go to find everything you need, and nothing besides. This will be a huge boost to your productivity, and also help you manage stress and maintain your sanity.
2. Establish Clear Goals
To succeed in any major pursuit, there must be a “why.” This is what motivates you to keep making progress when the initial excitement of the project wears off, and helps you to remain productive in both good times and bad.
You probably remember pretty clearly why you started your business in the first place. Maybe you wanted to earn more money, quit your other job, or make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. This is a great start, but it isn’t the whole picture.
Every business, of every type and scale, needs goals. That includes both the large, overarching missions that could take years to accomplish, as well as more granular objectives to help guide the way.
Take time to think about and write down your goals. You should always have, somewhere in your mind, a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish with your business in the long term, as well as what you aim to accomplish in the short term. Give your “whys” clear names and faces. Keep yourself focused on where you want to go, and energized to get there.
3. Get Serious About Timelines
One of the trickiest parts of being your own boss is the, well, being the boss part. That is to say, we all need to be accountable to someone who helps us stay on track and meet key objectives. Even if that someone is ourselves.
Without some form of accountability and structure, things can quickly get scattered and fall behind. And for a small business owner, this is where the value of timelines comes in when running your business.
To be more productive when working for yourself, it is key to mark important dates on your calendar, set clear deadlines for your big objectives, and then do your best to meet those deadlines.
Some of this structure may seem needlessly formal or stress-inducing at first. But in the long run, giving yourself a sense of urgency and clear targets to aim for will fuel the focus and motivation you need to complete big projects and follow through on your goals.
4. Set up Regular Self Check-Ins
A weekly, monthly, or even quarterly self check-in is one of the most valuable tools an entrepreneur can use. Part journal, part performance review, part business development meeting, a regular self check-in offers many benefits to the online business owner. It gives you the chance to:
- Celebrate the parts of your business that are succeeding and doing well
- Highlight opportunities to improve your work and business
- Identify important upcoming projects
- Keep yourself motivated and fend off emotional burn-out
The format of your self check-in is entirely up to you, and may take a little tinkering to find something that’s the right fit. But it helps to start with a few simple questions to ask yourself at each check-in. For example:
- What did I accomplish this week (or month, quarter, etc)?
- Which projects do I want to focus on next?
- What was great about this week?
- What can I improve on next week?
- Is there anything else major going on in my life to be aware of?
Whatever the exact format looks like, a regular self check-in is an extremely helpful mechanism for improving your productivity and keeping on track with your major business goals, all while offering critical maintenance to your most valuable asset: you.
5. Figure Out What You DON’T Need to Do
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to building up your business is not the mile-long list of things you need to do, but rather knowing what you don’t need to do.
Just like we talked about in point #1, running an online business isn’t just one job. It’s more like 312 jobs. And each of those 312 jobs you have to do is itself made up of many individual tasks that call out for your attention.
But that doesn’t mean they all deserve your full attention.
There is a virtually infinite number of things to which an online business owner could commit their time. But not all of these are equal in value, nor in what they cost you.
When planning out and moving through your day, imagine yourself interviewing each potential task or activity. Your time and resources are limited, so they can only go to the most valuable candidates. Consider for each possible task:
- What will this add to the business? How does it serve my long- and short-term goals?
- How much time or energy will this take?
- Does the benefit outweigh the cost?
- If I need to do this, do I need to do it right now?
- Is there something more valuable I could be doing with this time?
Your time is precious and your options for how to spend it are many. Treat yourself as your most valuable asset. Decide which uses of your time will bring the most value to your business, and turn away from time-sinks that offer you the least value (or none at all).
With these simple tips, and a readiness to keep learning, you will be able to turn the hectic chaos of running your online business into a productive and finely tuned machine in no time.