If you’re a Mompreneur like I am, it’s possible that you’ve got a love-hate relationship with summer too.
Overnight my daily routine and productivity goes flying out the window. My normally quiet home office is no longer a completely peaceful haven!
Now there’s frequent interruptions and questions.
If only I had a dollar for every “Hey Momma…”
There’s little footsteps traipsing in the hallway. The constant white noise of the television. And toilets being flushed at all hours. Even though I’m in my office room with the door closed, I hear it all. Mostly because I’m not used to it.
Then there’s running the kid around town to her classes, camps, and workshops.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, so I’m just going to say it…
The first week feels impossible. It’s simply exhausting.
And I definitely don’t feel like “I have it all.”
This is my second summer as a work from home entrepreneur. Here’s my honest one-word solution on how to survive when suddenly your kids (or maybe it’s your spouse) are hanging out at the “office.”
Channel that Disney movie your kids watched a zillion and a half times last year and just “let it go….”
SURRENDER INTO SUMMER
Now let me be clear, surrender doesn’t mean you give up your business completely over the next few months.
No siree! You can still be super productive in the summer, I promise.
But perhaps maintaining your normal rigorous schedule while the kids are home isn’t realistic? Or, instead of feeling like a failure because your normal clients (who happen to be moms) are suddenly MIA, surrender to the fact you’ve got more time to spend time improving your biz.
And more importantly, that it’s okay.
INSTEAD OPT TO WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER.
For me, surrender means working fewer hours so I can take my step-kid to summer swim lessons and to an occasional “girl-only” afternoon out, and not feeling stressed to make up those “lost” hours.
Since I’m working fewer hours each week, my focus shifts to summer productivity.
I make the hours I do have count…in a MAJOR way.
Now if summer’s a slow season for you, perhaps it’s a good time to revise your marketing message, make other improvement, or create a new exciting offering for fall?
Or if it’s business as usual (only with fewer hours) here’s some productivity boosts, tips, and tools to help ensure you make every minute and spare second count to the fullest. You’ll call this “the summer of productivity” before I’m done.
TIP 1: SPEND LESS TIME COMMUNICATING
If your time is limited, then wordy back and forth emails or social media conversations are the #1 enemy. Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek nails it when he says on his blog that “email is the largest interruption in modern life.”
Even checking your emails and social media accounts multiple times a day can become a big time sink and ain’t no one got time for that in the summer!
The solution: Discipline (for you) & boundaries (for others).
Your new summer policy: You’ll only check emails twice a day.
If people are used to quick responses from you, setup an email auto-responder. Politely inform them that due to your current workload (or your summer schedule) you’ll only be checking emails twice a day: once in the morning and once in the late afternoon.
Obviously, modify this message to your preferred schedule.
And if someone needs an immediate response, let them know in the auto-responder to call your cell.
Then make sure, starting today, that your email responses are short and concise.
If you use Gmail or Google Apps, I find The Email Game by the creators of the popular Boomerang app for Gmail is SUPER useful when you’ve got to clear an full inbox.
It makes responding to emails a game, and the faster you clear out your inbox, the higher your score. They claim their timer makes users 40% faster at responding! And I bet part of that gain is because when time is of the essence, you say less. You get more concise. If you need a push and if you work well under (self-imposed) pressure, then give The Email Game a try! It’s fun AND it’s free…
And for the love of all that is holy, use an online scheduling service to book any appointments with clients. There’s nothing worse than going back and forth with someone trying to pinpoint a date and time. Popular options include Acuity Scheduling, BookFresh, or Calendly.
TIP 2: DISCOVER WHERE YOU REALLY SPEND YOUR TIME
Look, nobody loves this tip at first.
You’ll probably think you already know where you spend the bulk of your time. But nine times out of ten, if people spend even two short days tracking how they really spend their time – they discover patterns that really surprise them.
So I dare you to set ego aside and track what you do for 48 hours.
Are there areas where you’re spending too much effort being a perfectionist? Are you focusing on what’s your highest priority for the day? Are there tasks that could be delegated or even skipped altogether?
The most popular app for time tracking is Toggl, although many invoicing tools (I’m look at you Harvest and Freshbooks) also have daily time tracking built-in already.
BONUS TIP: If you’re on your computer a lot, then I’d encourage you to give RescueTime a go. RescueTime automatically tracks which apps and websites you’re working in. It’s premium plan also allows you to track how you spend your time offline, set daily goals, and can even block you from visiting distracting sites.
TIP 3: AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE, AUTOMATE
Why do the same boring task over and over again when we have computers?
I’ve been on a kick to automate more in my business, and YOU should be too!
For example, do you use Gmail or Google Apps for Business? If so, you can create custom filters for your incoming emails that’ll stick the right labels on them the moment they arrive. Or you can set your filter to automatically forward those emails to someone else, like your trusty assistant. You can even automatically reply with a pre-canned response.
I’ve taken email automation one step further even.
I have specials Gmail labels called “Keep 1 Day,” “Keep 3 Days,” or “Keep 7 Days.” The truth is that most notification emails, like the ones you get from Facebook or Twitter, expire. Same with emails telling you about a sale or webinar you should check out.
After a week or so, if you haven’t read it – it doesn’t really matter if so-and-so had a birthday or if there was a webinar. It’s over. The information in that email is moot.
So all regular notification emails that I receive are automatically marked with one of those special labels. If there’s an email that’s actually important, I just remove that label when I’m scanning my emails. (And that doesn’t happen often.)
Otherwise in one, three, or seven days at midnight, I have a script that archives those emails that “expired.”
My inbox literally cleans up after itself.
Then there’s my two favorite (and easy to use) automation tools, Zapier and IFTTT. Both work on the concept of an event triggering something else happening. They can automate your workflow greatly.
For example, you can have either tool “fire” at a certain time each day. So when it’s high noon, you could automatically send an email that reminds you to take your vitamin.
Okay, that’s admittedly a lame example – but Zapier and IFTTT can do a lot. An easy one for me is if I add a new client into my accounting system, then Zapier will automatically add that person to my email list. I don’t have to remember to do this. Easy-peasy.
Then there’s social media.
You probably already know that you can automate some (or all) social media posts using tools like Buffer, or HootSuite. (But seriously, please have a few unplanned candid posts. Because people can smell pre-written social media posts from a mile away…)
If you blog, you can use Coschedule to take it one step further. It makes scheduling your blog posts AND your social media updates a piece of cake.
And speaking of WordPress, I also recommend a plugin called Revive Old Post. It’ll automate regular tweets about your old blog posts, helping new people discover some of your older content.
I’m thinking about hosting a fun (yes, tech can be fun!) late summer Productivity Challenge. It’ll start you off on the right foot with automating small tasks in your business, so you’ll save time and not have to remember to do a zillion small things. It’ll also include my behind-the-scenes scripts and “recipes” that I use for myself and for my clients.
Interested? It’ll be a short, but completely sweet low priced online course that’ll help you love your business even more. Leave your email in the form below to get updates. I’ll only contact you when and if this program is launched.
TIP 4: THERE’S TOTALLY AN APP FOR THAT
There’s a million different so-called “productivity” apps. But since we’re talking about getting more done in less time, let’s look at apps that keep you on task and focused.
30/30 Task Manager by BinaryHammer
A super useful and wildly popular task manager for the iPhone or iPad. You set up your daily to-dos along with how long you thnk it’ll take and 30/30’ll tell you when to move on to the next task.
All it needs is a cool whip sound effect…
You probably know that taking breaks to stretch and give your mind a break is important. But if you’re like me, it’s easy to get sucked into your work (or that entertaining cat website), and suddenly *poof* the day is gone.
30/30 will help remind you to step away from the laptop and take a moment to recharge. I’m in love with this app, it’s helping me a ton. Check it out.
Concentrate for Mac
Need to concentrate? You setup what actions you’re “allowed” to do. Everything else – like browsing websites and social media is prohibited. It’s kind of like you’re grounding yourself, but it’ll force you to concentrate on the task at hand. Because you can’t do anything else really…
StayFocused for Chrome browser
It’s free browser plugin for Chrome that limits that amount of time you can spend goofing off on the internet. You set the allotted time and when it’s used up…no more internet for you. (Until tomorrow that is.)
Anti-Social by 80Pct Solutions
Same idea as StayFocused or Concentrate, but works for Windows PCs.
Yarny’s one of my favorite cloud apps. I use Yarny whenever I need to write new content for my blog. It’s a distraction-free editor and something about it’s utter simplicity (plus cloud backup and auto-versioning) really calls to me when I’m working on content creation.
Feeling unsure about writing content on the cloud with Yarny? Then try Scrivener. It has a distraction free mode, but it’s also a super powerful writing tool for Mac and Windows. Many business people use and prefer Scrivener over Microsoft Word. Scrivner’s authors have a very generous trial that’ll let you see if its right for you.
TIP 5: STEP BACK TO ENJOY THE SUMMER AND YOUR FAMILY
One reason why I became self-employed was to experience more flexibility in my daily life. It seemed incredibly silly to spend the best part of Every. Single. Day at a desk from 9 to 5.
That said, I love working. I’m most happy when I’m being useful and of service to others. It’s a huge motivator for me.
But summer challenges me to also honor and respect another personal motto of mine…
That’s why for me, the act of surrendering to summer’s hijinks and its temporary demands is acceptable.
(Plus, if I truly focus and use the time I do have to it’s fullest, it doesn’t really feel like much is being surrendered.)
Look, neither childhood or summer is permanent.
In a handful of years, my step-kid will be a teenager – and quickly thereafter, an adult. They grow up fast. (Shoot, we get old fast.)
Those few hours that I give up for the summer are worth making her childhood better.
And besides, September’s right around the bend.
So if you’re beginning to feel like summer’s taking a toll on your business, step back for a moment. Surrender.
Then get serious about the time you do have for your business, and make it count.
I’d love to have you share with me below which of the five tips resonated most with you. And can’t wait to see your summer productivity impove!