Focus and the art of getting sh*t done!
Update June 2012: Originally i posted this on my personal site a few months ago, but reading back it still rings so true. We’re already halfway through 2012, and some of my mantra has slipped, so time to get back on the proverbial horse … hope you enjoy – and if you find useful, have your own tips etc please share or contribute.
I have a simple business/lifestyle resolution for 2012: focus. There is a second part that would equally happily come after the word, so it could easily be ‘Focus and get sh*t done!‘. If you run a business / project / whatever, especially within the creative industries then this post could be for you. I’ve got to quickly interject and say that I can (and do more often than not) get shit done … it just usually comes from a roundabout process of procrastination and stress which leads to deadlines getting hit. Sound familiar? Read on ….What sh*t needs to be done?
Shit, or things always needs to be done! It’s true. If you create stuff for a living (digital / physical) there’s always something to do … here’s a personal list of some of my ‘favorites’.
- business development / growth strategy
- project proposal writing
- actual work (oh yes, that old chestnut – whatever your line of business is)
- marketing (social media, website updates, micro-campaigns, e-shots, blog posts, posters …. etc)
The list goes on …. but, time is short so …
Let’s begin ….
1. Why are you doing this / that / the other?
For everything you do: marketing, updates, blog posts, flyers, campaign ideas, washing up … whatever it is that you are doing, you need to question why you are doing it. There’s nothing worse than blindly getting pulled into things and getting you sidetracked or doing things that will bring you absolutely no reward whatsoever. I used to blame other people for this, but i have grown to realise that it’s my/your fault for not spotting these people and taking correct action at an earlier time.
2. The A-team’s Hannibal knows best
He loves it when a plan comes together. So what you need is a plan to begin with. We’re not talking War and Peace style length, but you / your business / your project / your idea needs a plan to begin with. Maybe your business plan is a little rusty, or your goals have changed. Make sure you make time to ‘take stock’ and hone these goals. This is the most important part of the process. All the efforts that you will subsequently do and decisions you make are all aimed at achieving these annual / weekly / daily goals.
My plans work on several levels: yearly / weekly / daily / project-ly – so make sure you get your plans and lists ready.
3. Lists are good
They are, honest! You can’t beat making them on pieces of paper just for the sole satisfaction of aggressively / happily crossing out things when they have been completed. Even if you don’t actually stick to them, just the mental aid of actually consolidating your thoughts onto one piece of paper each day is a healthy thing to do. Plus, if you have other people around you … they need to know that there is a plan, and that Hannibal is firmly in control of the team.
4. Rock solid foundations
Work-flow, process … whatever you like to call it, you need to get it nailed and you need to make sure you stick to it. Once you have your process, its much easier for you to
enforce ensure clients/ other people to follow and understand your process by way of contract /letter of engagement / email clarifying what you are going to do. Plus, it also gives clients a sense of security that you know what you are doing.
Let people know timescales, realistic deadlines, how you work .. .this all avoids nasty surprises and wrongful assumptions. To quote Steven Seagal (you know, the chef with quick hands) ‘assumption is the mother of all f*ck-ups‘.
5. Get off friendface / twatter / toomblr / flackr [insert social media of choice]
Honestly, switch it off for while you have to get sh*t done. The world won’t stop because you got an extra ‘like’ or because a new company is trying to leech from you, or …. blah blah. If you / your business is on social media – remember why you are there. (This could be a whole other post)
6. Bye bye emails
Switch off the inbox. The world will not explode – it will be ok. Trust me.
7. Surgically remove your phone from you hand.
Go on, put it down, it deserves a rest and while you are there, why don’t you switch it off. Ok, if you can’t quite make yourself switch it off, then turn the volume off, turn it upside down and make sure vibrate is off. Again, if someone phones you and its important, they’ll leave a message … right?
8. Customer Service VS Over Servicing
How often is it that you are in the middle of doing something when a client phones and its as if the world has stopped revolving and you need to sort it now. Do you really need to sort it now? Do you really? Do you worry that if you don’t do it now a bunny somewhere will meet an unfortunate end? Don’t pile the pressure on if you’ve currently got lots of sh*t to get done … you need to be judge of whats important and what is ‘just stuff’ that needs sorting.
9. Under promise / over deliver
Not so much a ‘focus’. But, it certainly makes the ride smoother. If you get the request from a client, whenever you think you can get it done by (realistically now) – ADD two days to the due date. Tell the client THAT date. Then, get it done and surprise them magician style ‘da daaaaaa’. They will love you.
10. Reward yourself
If you are a professional designer / photographer / artist / illustrator / carpenter / basket maker or whatever. Give yourself a reward on personal milestones. Do that ‘fun’ piece of work or personal work for 15minutes if you got the tender in / print deadline met / client updates done. Its the little things …
11. Make social media work for you
You need to be brutal. You need to limit your time on these ‘thieves of time’ – eg. 15mins morning/evening. If its part of your marketing plan, great – but make sure its a solid plan. Use some of the tools out there to help maintain your presence (hootsuite, stagger posts etc).
12. … and rest
Yep, sleep and rest are the best. The very best in fact. You cannot work to your optimum if you are tired. Take regular breaks from the screen or you’ll get square eyes (just like mother told you) – as a rule, 10minutes every two hours. Go for a walk, tidy up, make a brew … do something other than work. You need to let your brain breeeeeaaaaatttthhhhheeee.