It’s easy when you work for yourself to just wing it. After all, there’s no one standing over your shoulder, no boss to please, and no colleagues tapping their feet waiting on you to get something done.
Which has the potential to be good or bad depending on your personal motivation, your work ethic, and your daily habits.
It’s just you.
Bad habits will sink your home business dreams faster than you can imagine. So it’s important to start good habits as early in your home business journey as possible.
There’s no time like the present.
Plan your month, week, & day
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The most important thing to do if you want to run a successful home business is to plan things out. No flying by the seat of your pants. Instead, plan your high level goals and then break them down in to quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals, and then into the daily granular tasks. These are the best good habits to start that will help you be successful in your home business
The reason I suggest planning is that without a plan, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re getting things done and being productive, while not really accomplishing anything at all. And yes, I say that because it’s a mistake I’ve made (and I’m not alone).
Planning gives you a roadmap to follow. It helps you know exactly what it is you want to achieve when you’re done. Once you know where you want to end up, you can then develop a plan to help you get there.
Think of it like setting out on a road trip. You probably wouldn’t just start driving in any direction. You’d probably know where you wanted to go and then you’d sit down with your map (I’m dating myself, but I still like paper maps) or Google and you’d start planning the route you’d take to reach your final destination.
Once you’re developed your big, overall plan, you then spend time thinking about how you’re going to turn the plan into reality. That means you’ll come up with projects that support the big goal.
Now projects are bigger things that take more than a day to do. In fact, it may take several weeks to finish a project. And that’s why you want to break the project down into smaller pieces that can be scheduled into certain months, weeks, and then days.
This then guides your plan for each week and day. It would be foolish to sit down without a plan and ask yourself, “What should I do today?” You’d spend a lot of time doing things that didn’t move the needle forward.
So if you’re not making long range plans and then using those to guide your daily work, set aside some time asap to do that. This will enable you to use your time working productively on the right things that are going to make a difference.
Set up systems
When you first get started creating your home business and working on your own, it’s easy to think that you’ll always be small – you’ll always be working by yourself and you’ll always remember what you’re doing and how you did something.
This is a mistake.
Even if you do always work by yourself, there are going to be things that you do infrequently enough that you forget what you did from one time to the next.
This is where documenting what you did and keeping copious notes is critical.
Let me give an example of just a few of the things I’ve had to relearn because I didn’t remember how I did something the first time:
- I didn’t remember how to set up my Gumroad store when I set it up on my second site. I had to go back in and re-read to figure out what I did.
- Hubby and I forgot exactly what it was we did to connect our email service provider with the website. Had to re-watch videos again.
- Hubby didn’t remember exactly what changes he made to the website child theme when we set up site #3 so there was a lot of re-reading he had to do again.
- I needed to make some changes to an email automation in my Shopify store…and I’d forgotten what I did.
And there have been other things we’ve forgotten. So we’ve both made it a habit to take notes when we first do something and put them in a text file that we keep in a digital file on our respective computers. I’ve labeled my file something like “Things I Did Once & Might Have To Do Again” because that’s the way my brain works. Hubby has a much more professional sounding file system…but I often can find what I need faster than he can LOL.
Then within that digital file I have folders for each third-party system we used or each task that we had to learn how to do. This keeps us from going over the same information multiple times. It’s much easier to take notes about the important points than to have to learn it from scratch.
Additionally, you need systems for other aspects of your business as well. I suggest you have a system for tracking your content development process, for tracking the products and/or services you offer, your affiliate links, your financial information including receipts and invoices, and anything else you can think of that you’ll need regular access to.
Trust me, even if you choose to always remain a small, one-person show, you’ll be glad you got systems in place. They will make your life easier and will make it much easier if/when the time comes that you decide it’s time to bring in help.
Get religious with your planner
It really doesn’t matter whether you prefer paper or digital planning. What DOES matter is that you get them set up correctly for your needs, and that you use them consistently. That means that you check them at least once a day…and I’d suggest referring to them frequently throughout the day to make sure you’re getting your most important tasks done (you know – the ones that you decided previously were going to help move you forward in meeting your business goals).
Now I’m a hybrid planner. I use both paper and digital but for different purposes.
I use paper planners for planning out my month, week, and day. This is where I keep all those daily appointments for meetings and classes. It’s where I list out the daily chores I need to get done to keep the house running. It’s where I track when I need to get bills paid. In other words, my paper planner is my second brain so that I don’t have to worry about forgetting the daily stuff that keeps life doing.
Through the years I’ve used a wide variety of planners. You can see my review of Planner Pad and At-A-Glance planners by clicking on the links. I’ve also fallen in love with Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathings planner system after I took a class from her. I use that for goal planning on a high level then work my way down to a more granular planning for the weekly and daily stuff.
But there are times when a paper system gets too unwieldy. For that reason I have used both Trello and Asana. Both have free and paid versions and I’ve found the free versions sufficient for my needs.
However, with the free version of Trello you only get ten boards which is my frustration with that. However, Trello has some features on their boards that I prefer over the boards that you get with Asana. For example, I love that in a Trello board you can add checklists. That’s a feature I use a lot.
The main thing I’ve found with Trello is that I have to very discerning in what boards I want to set up since I’m limited to ten.
With Asana, however, I’m finding that it’s a great place to keep ALL of the ideas I need to remember.
Here’s where paper fails me…I always have more ideas than I can keep track of. And I was finding that I had notebooks and sticky notes everywhere. Then when I needed to reference something or when I wanted to develop an idea, I couldn’t find where I’d written it down. I would hunt through all of the paper on my desk (and in other places in my house if I’m really being honest) and end up frustrated.
So when I discovered Asana it was like the heavens opened and the angels began to sing!
Asana lets you set things up in several ways: as boards or lists. So this is where I capture all of the ideas for blog posts I want to write, for fiction ideas that come to me, videos I want to create, etc. Anything that is rolling around in my head gets captured and loaded into Asana.
And another thing I love about Asana is that you can view things on a calendar! This lets you see everything you’ve scheduled at a glance. And you can drag and drop as things change (as they frequently do). You can also share tasks with other people so if you have a VA who works with you, they can also access the items that you choose to share with them.
Basically, I find that Asana is a great place to store both those big ideas and scheduled tasks so that you can easily find them. No more scratching your head because you can’t find a piece of paper, and no more frustration because you lost an idea that you wanted to work on.
One more word about how I use Asana…I do tend to write things down when I get ideas or when something brilliant pops into my mind. The difference these days is that after I write something down on paper, I put that piece of paper (or sticky note or notebook) over on top of my desk by my computer that I will remember to put the information into Asana. That way I still get the convenience of writing things down whenever lightening strikes, but I have an effective capture system for remembering and categorizing it.
When you work…work
This means that when you’re working you need to focus your energy and attention on the task at hand.
Turn off social media. If that means that you need to put your phone in another room or in a drawer so you’re not distracted by dings and rings, then do it. We may tell ourselves that we won’t take a minute to read that text that just came through, or that we won’t take a quick peek at what’s new on Facebook or Instagram, but if we’re honest, we’re generally lying to ourselves. There’s something about hearing those notifications that there’s something waiting for our attention that is just too alluring to pass up.
That means that you have to be proactive and take the dings and rings away so that you’re not even aware of them while you’re trying to focus. It doesn’t mean that you have to go for hours at a time without checking (after all, this would make my hubby crazy if I ignored a text with an urgent question), but it means that you schedule when you’re going to take a break.
Or silence everything except things that come in from your family. But be aware…sometimes family (God love ’em!) can be the biggest distractions of all. They need to be trained when you’re working and what REALLY qualifies as an emergency.
Just someone wanting to chat is NOT an emergency. But if you let yourself get distracted every time something comes up, you’re letting your time be dictated by others who may or may not have your goals in mind. I don’t mind admitting that I ignore texts that don’t meet my definition of an emergency (unless it’s hubby – I always respond to him but he is good not to bother me when I’m working).