Earlier this week, I did an IGTV post about the difference between being busy and being productive. The post was inspired by a comment I heard from makeup artist Mia Connor on an Industry Experts panel at a recent networking event. When the panel was asked for their tips on dealing with self-doubt, Mia answered that she keeps herself busy, and then went on to talk about some of the things she actually does.
This got me to thinking… being a full-time freelancer who only averages 3 days a week actually DOING makeup/hair jobs, that’s a lot of hours and days left over. Of course, I have my education business, and Bridal Beauty Pro App that keep me busy as well, but often I will get to the end of the day and think to myself “oh wow, I’ve been so busy today, but I’ve got nothing to show for it!” Do you ever feel like that?
The problem is, I have spent my time being “busy” and not really being PRODUCTIVE. BUSY is where you are spending time doing stuff… anything at all, other than sitting on the couch watching Netflix really… whereas being PRODUCTIVE means that you are doing tasks that will lead to a result, hopefully these actions will get you closer to your goals.
So, just how do you go about making sure that you’re spending your time being PRODUCTIVE, and not just BUSY? Here’s my 5 tips to being more productive:
Have less things “to-do”
I know, I know… we’ve all been taught to write a list of ALL the things we need to get done each day and then cross them off the list, one by one. One of the biggest problems with a long to-do list is that it can be overwhelming; the list gets so long that you don’t know where to start, so you know what? Let’s just go check out what’s happening on Facebook for a while, ok? And 30 minutes later after the third tear-jerking America’s Got Talent golden buzzer audition video, you realise you’ve got nothing done! (Yes, I will admit, I did catch myself after watching three of them in a row last week!!! Can everyone stop posting them to Facebook please?)
This year I bought a Planner/Journal which has space for only FOUR items on the to-do list each day, and let me tell you, it’s been life changing. No longer am I overwhelmed by all the different things I have to do. I have a running bucket list of projects I want to get done each quarter, and then every morning I just write three tasks down in the journal that I want to complete that day (the fourth slot is for exercise – yes I write that down because I like the feeling when I tick it off).
Having less things to-do allows you to focus more, and when you focus more, you achieve more.
Focus on the RIGHT things
Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? Also known as the 80:20 rule, this principle talks about how 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. I love this ratio, because I also think its true when it comes to being a successful freelance makeup artist or hairstylist, you’ll spend only about 20% of your time and efforts actually DOING makeup and hairstyling, the other 80% is spent doing all the supporting work.
The key here is to identify those things that make up the 20% . These are your Income Generating Activities. Obviously, doing hair & makeup jobs is a big one, but there are other important IGA’s too. Networking with other industry professionals, and organising photoshoots are two others that come immediately to mind. Developing a new logo, re-organising your website, scrolling through Instagram “researching” even doing accounts and admin… probably not so much.
Think about all the things that you want to get done, and break down your larger goals into small manageable tasks, and then write several of those tasks down as a “to-do” for each day. For example, if one of your goals is to book more brides, you could break down that goal into smaller action items like: create a killer bridal portfolio; network with other wedding vendors to generate referral business; or ask past brides to leave a review on your Facebook page to build social proof. Then your daily task could be something like: Contact 5 wedding vendors to build a relationship, or Follow up last months brides and ask for a review.
When Mia answered the question and talked about what she does, she said that if she doesn’t have work on then she will find a model and someone to sit in her chair, so she can practice her craft, try out new products and new looks, and then take photos, creating content for her social media. Now THAT’s what I call being productive!!
But what about answering email enquiries and sending invoices? Yep, and that brings me to #3…
Studies show that each time you are distracted from a task, it takes much longer to go back and re-start the task, meaning a 1 hour task may turn into a 1 hr 30 minute task if you have several distractions (and that’s not including the time you spend on the actual distraction!)
So, set aside time for answering emails. Turn off the notifications on your phone (you can do this in each app, and most of them you can snooze the notifications for a set time – I often do this with Facebook Messenger). If you get a lot of emails or FB messages, you might like to set up a Chat Bot to send a reply message on your behalf – just make sure you have things set up so that you’re notified when the Chat Bot does this – I was trying to hire someone to help me with a task last week, and her chat bot was answering, but it took a couple of days before she actually got the notification and replied to me. Luckily for her I was caught up with other things and hadn’t gone looking to hire someone else.
One of the artists in my Business Boost program was asking about this on our Group Coaching Call last night, she mentioned that she sometimes gets overwhelmed with all the admin she has to do, and asked the group how much time we spend on these tasks every day. I suggested to her that rather than answering every email as it comes in, turn off the notifications, and set aside time to check and answer emails maybe three times each day, first thing in the morning, lunch time, and later in the afternoon. This is something I learned from Tim Ferriss in his great book The Four Hour Work Week. Don’t be a slave to your email ping!
Set Time Limits
You may have heard of the Pomodoro Technique. I’m not exactly sure where this one came from, but it says that you should spend only 25 minutes on a task and then take a 5 minute break. Apparently our brains struggle to concentrate on any one task for much longer than that, unless we are in our absolute zone of genius, when we can work away for hours not noticing time. When I’m writing (blog posts or new course material), I find that I definitely need to take regular breaks every half hour or so.
You can get an App called Pomodoro (it’s the Italian word for tomato – I don’t know what that has to do with 25 minute time increments, but the icon for the App is a tomato), or, just use the timer on your phone or watch.
A side note to this tip, is to actually schedule down time for scrolling Instagram or Facebook, reading the goss about the latest influencer saga, watching AGT audition videos… you know what they say about all work and no play…
Rather than a “TO-DO” list, have a “DID-DO” list
I’ve talked before about the power of Reflection and Celebration, and I’ve just been reading more about this over the last few weeks. I will admit, I struggle to do this daily, but my weekly Sunday morning reflection, where I look back over all my “wins” for the week – I actually write them down; is something I really look forward to, and I know it has helped me to become more productive this year.
When you look back over your day, and check off the things you Did-Do, you’re setting yourself up to be more productive the following day. This will help you focus on those few tasks that you will write on your to-do list tomorrow.
Becoming more productive doesn’t happen by accident. Neither does becoming more successful. But they do go hand in hand. If you want to become more productive, and hence, more successful, you need to act with intention; take control of your day, and act with intention. As freelancers, we don’t have a boss to tell us what to do each day, we are our own boss, but we still need to act like one!
I hope these tips have been helpful. Please feel free to share this post on your social media or send it out to someone you feel might find it helpful. And if you’d like to receive these hints and tips directly to your inbox each week, please join my mailing list HERE.