Everyone gets overwhelmed at one point or another, especially when you’re wearing a dozen hats in any given day. I have many things on my proverbial plate that need to get done, and when that happens to me, I find that I wind up focusing more on my to-do list than I do on any action item itself.
In conversations with my other blogging friends, I’ve learned that this is by no means something that just happens to me. I am NOT alone and neither are you, dear reader, if you often find yourself feeling this way. So what do you do to fix it? How do you stop wasting your time on Facebook games, Skype chats, or discovering that you have 30 tabs open in your browser?
The answer is so simple, so easy, I think you’re not going to believe me when I tell you what it is.
Are you ready?
Pick one thing, and do only that one thing.
Set yourself a pre-determined amount of time to spend on that one thing, and shut down any and all distractions. You cannot “take a break to check your email”. You may not use your smart phone to respond to a tweet or check your blog stats. Just. Do. One. Thing.
Let’s pick some scenarios here. Not all of these are related to blogging or community management, but they’re all related. Put yourself in one of these situations for a moment (because I know you’ve actually been in them at least once before):
Look around. Your house is a disaster area and it seems that you’re the only one who “sees” the mess. Laundry is so “everywhere” you can’t tell what’s clean and what isn’t, and there’s a gigantic dust bunny in the corner of the kitchen that you think just might be getting ready to grow legs and very sharp teeth.
Stop what you’re doing, it’s perfectly okay to get off the computer for a while. (Seriously, it is!) Go work a room or two from the ceiling to the floor. The benefit to this? Well, besides having a clear, clean room or two, you won’t have it weighing on your mind any more when you’re trying to work. I firmly believe that once you get a room done, you’re GOING to want to do another. And another. Just force yourself to get through that first room without constantly thinking, “Gah! I need to be blogging/tweeting/facebooking! I don’t have TIME for this!” Whenever that thought pops into your head, crush it by saying to yourself, “No! I can’t sit in front of that machine knowing that this room is such a wreck! I owe it to myself to get this done, and done FIRST.”
I bet you’ll wind up cleaning the whole house top to bottom, will end your day with a shower, grab a beverage of your choosing and tweet away for a while, but will wake tomorrow feeling like you can finally get done the next day-long task you pick.
You’ve spent the past three days tweaking the width and color of the vertical line between your content area and your sidebar on your blog, and haven’t written a blog post in a week because it took you that long to figure out how.
So you find yourself taking a week reading blog posts and surfing the WordPress.org forums looking for answers to your questions, tweaking the width and color of the vertical line between your content area and your sidebar a hundred times to get it “just right”. Between that, you’re checking out the blogs of your competition (or others in your niche) and you’re stressing that their blog looks so much more professional, or that they have six ads and you only have one so that means they’re making way more money than you, or that they have 4,007 blog posts and you only have 17, or… wait!
You only have 17? They have 4,007? This means that you’re avoiding writing for some reason. Dig deeper. Figure this part out. As a blogger, your main focus should be building content. Sure, you might have other things you do for work, like many of us do. Some of us are consultants, some have “day jobs”, some have families and children to distract them from writing. But the bottom line is that you’re NOT going to have a successful blog if there’s no damn content on it. Period.
For one day, do nothing but write. I don’t care if what you churn out winds up being complete crap. Just turn off your internet if you have to, and open up a Word doc, and write. Keep writing. Go to the bathroom, refill your coffee, and write some more. Don’t answer the phone unless you know it’s an emergency (they’ll call back after getting your voicemail if it is, trust me), and freaking write!
Once you get a few good posts together, turn back on your internet, but just to go to your blog and schedule out those posts for throughout the week. If you only have three, that’s okay, hit it up for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then go clean your bathroom or do some laundry, you slob!
You haven’t looked at your Facebook fan page community in weeks. Your last tweet was an instagram pic of the dessert you had three days ago. So was the tweet before it. The one before that was about the bitch at the grocery store who took the last jar of peanut butter right out of your hands. Your inbox has 237 unread messages in it. What the hell have you been DOING online?
I bet you’re one of those people who reads and comments on 30 blogs a day. Or you’ve spent hundreds on ebooks and coaching programs and you’re reading to death. Or, what’s worse than even those things, is that you finally reached level 50 in Farmville!
It’s time you set yourself up with a plan. Go sign up at HootSuite (the free version is fine) and bookmark the link. Use it to manage your Facebook pages and Twitter account from one place.
Now, the hard part… Give yourself 20 minutes at a time, 3 times a day. This is difficult for just about everyone, because sometimes they get wrapped up in stuff that will keep them longer than 20 minutes, and others will struggle with what to talk about for 18 minutes, and then find themselves bailing out on what could’ve been a decent conversation.
But this is important. You need to be super strict here, so use an egg timer or your computer/phone alarm system. Sure, if you’re involved in some kind of #chat or are really enthralled in a conversation with someone, that’s one thing, once in a while. But really, there’s nothing that needs to be done on Twitter or Facebook on a daily basis that should take longer than that. If you’re already a super productive person who’s well organized, fine, but for now, let’s stick with the plan.
One Last, Extreme Trick To Increase Productivity and Organization
I know you’re an adult, but remember back in grade school, when you had to have a routine? You woke up around 6am, showered, had breakfast, grabbed the bus, and then moved around every time a bell rang? Then you came home, and either banged out homework right away, or took a two-hour break to relax, had dinner, then watched your favorite television shows, and were in bed by an exact time?
When I was in high school, the first bell rang at 8:10am and the last rang at 2:25pm. Including lunch, we were “working” for 6 hours and 15 minutes. Homework usually took less than 2 hours unless a big paper was due or we were cramming for a test. That’s less than 8 hours of actual working. Think about that.
As adults, we have more responsibility than we did as kids. Less room for fun. When you’re working 9-5, you live for the weekends. When you’re working for yourself, it’s WAY too easy to get up at 6am, grab coffee, and “work” until midnight, 7 days a week. Just STOP.
I’m personally trying something new…
Waking up at 630am, grabbing coffee and sitting down to work. Making myself some breakfast around 8, and actually STOPPING my work day by 1pm. What this does is gives me a definitive time where I can close the laptop and go clean something, go grocery shopping, do laundry, or work on my creative offline projects like my art and jewelry. It also forces me to be more productive during my day because I’ve promised myself (and my boyfriend and friends and family) that I’ll be offline by a specific time.
Plus, I’ll feel like I’ve reclaimed daylight.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there will be plenty of times when I have one of my online coaching sessions set up for 3pm, or a deadline on a website to finish, or something going on in a community that happens during any time outside my 630am – 1pm window. That’s fine. It’s realistic. But what I’ll do is get offline earlier, and come back to it at whatever scheduled time I have to, or take hours off the next day to make up for it.
So there you have it, the ultimate truth. Now stop multitasking and go get something done!
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