If you're like me, staying organized and on-task does not come easy. I tend to fritter my time away on things like photography forums, Words With Friends, Facebook, random computer searchs - masquerading as research - and whatever I can do to keep from accomplishing whatever tasks I may have on hand. The irony is that each morning, I wake up resolved to be more productive and get my business on track. Today, I'm going to make it all happen!
Of course, once I sit down at the computer, the procrastination begins and I repeat the cycle all over again. There's a way out however. Though I'm far from perfect in this area, I've managed to introduce a measure of discipline in my work and feel better about my efforts. The best part is that I've done with little effort on my part. No major life change here, even though my life has changed - and definitely for the better.
My secret is that I've introduced the simple To Do list into my life. I've tried this for years, but now that it's on my ever present iPhone, it's finally stuck. You're probably thinking, "What's the big deal in a To Do list?" Stick around and I'll tell you.
I use the Things app for the iPhone. I first purchased it for my laptop, but despite my best intentions, I never stayed consistent with it. Once I purchased the iPhone version, I never looked back. Here's how I use it:
- Every single thing that I have to do goes in the To Do list. It doesn't matter how big or how trivial, if it's needs to be done, it goes on the list. My list often includes: pick up dry cleaning, call my friend Joe, edit photo shoot, respond to client email, update blog, look up movie times, and talk to Bob.
- Whenever something pops into my head, I pick up the iPhone and immediately pop it onto the list. I'll do this even if start the task immediately. Just because I may start something right away doesn't mean I'll finish it right away. Besides, as I'll talk about in a second, I want the glorious reward of checking it off the list.
- Everything on the list is of equal importance and value. I give myself the freedom to do anything on the list. Indeed, everything on the list must be accomplished. If calling a friend is on the list, then I do it guilt free.
- Crossing stuff off the list is rewarding and makes me feel productive. The more productive I feel, and this is the key, the more productive I become. I may start out with easy stuff on the list. However as I begin to cross them off, I feel more empowered and motivated to tackle the more serious tasks on the list. Initially, I may not want to tackle a tedious project, but once I get going, I'll do anything to be able to tick one more thing off my list. Once you get the ball rolling, you're likely to find it hard to stop.
- Put things you like to do on your list that you may not normally get around to. For example, put "Go photograph Spring color" on your list if it's something you'd like to do. Most of us get bogged down in the tedium of processing files and dealing with clients. It's too easy to put off getting out and doing some shooting for yourself. When you put it on the list, you force yourself to make time for it.
- Whenever you start to drift into endless Facebooking, return to the To Do list for guidance on what to do next.
- When I'm done with the stuff on my list, I can go home or do whatever I want. By creating a set of tasks that I'm obligated to do, I also create an end point for my work. The desire to finish up and get out of the studio is a powerful motivator for working efficiently. Without a list of things to do, everything is something to do and there's no end to what you should be doing or when it should be done. The end result is way too much time in front of the computer. The To Do list helps you to break that cycle.
In any given day, we're lucky to get five things done. It doesn't matter what those five things are, just that they get done. On most days, I'm doing well to cross five things off my list - some days it's more, some days it's fewer. Some things will be easy - make a phone call - while others will take more time - edit a photo shoot.
Once you break things down, monitor your progress (by ticking things off your list) and create realistic expectations for what you can accomplish, you'll be amazed at how much better you and your business will run. The main thing is to first try using the To Do list (using whatever software you choose) and then stick with it. Before long, you'll be saying goodbye to your slacker self and hello to the newest titan of industry!