How To Get Shit Done When You Have No Time At All

June Cochran

July 9, 2013

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As most of you will probably know, I got back from a two week trip to The States late last Wednesday. While I love nothing more than getting away from the humdrumality (is that even a word?!) of everyday life and work, there is pretty much nothing more stressful than coming home to a to do list as long as my arm and an inbox fit to bursting.

I joked on Twitter that I should write a post entitled “How to get shit done when you have no time at all” to which many of you responded saying you’d love to know the secret too. While I can’t claim to be some kind of productivity wizard, as I powered through everything I had to do in the latter part of last week, I wrote down just how I did it. I hope you find it helpful and if you have any other tips I’d love to hear about them in the comments too!

A task will take as much time as you give it

Parkinson’s law states that any task will take you exactly the time that you give it. If you allow yourself a week to write a blog post then that’s how long it will take you – you’ll likely put it off until the last day because you know you have all that time or you’ll write it and then keep working and reworking it until your deadline. However if you’re up against it and you only have a few hours to write something, you’ll get it done. Why? Because you have no other option. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, it states, so set yourself some achievable deadlines and get on with it!

Do the biggest, ugliest jobs first

It’s very easy to think “Oh I’ll quickly do this or update that because it will only take me a few minutes” but doing the small, insignificant jobs first is a recipe for disaster. We often feel that by doing lots of little things we’ve achieved a lot but actually, getting through just one mammoth task will not only be much more satisfying, it will mean you’re much more productive in the long run.

Firstly, if you do the small and easy jobs first you’ll be using up that vital ‘just getting started’ energy on (by comparison) insignificant things. Then, when it comes to the monster task that requires more brain power (doing your accounts/ editing a wedding/ tacking your inbox/ writing a blog post) you’ll be wiped out… or at least less efficient than if you’d done the big job first.

Have a system

It’s vital that you have a system in place for anything that needs constant attention. For me, email templates mean I can wizz through this job with greater ease than if I had to handwrite a personalised response for every one.

Think about some systems that you can employ in your own job. If you’re a photographer maybe maybe you need to refine and streamline how you cull and process your images… if you’re a designer maybe you need to spend some time really learning the ins and outs of inDesign or Photoshop. Instead of muddling through each time, learning as you go, make the effort to really hone your craft so that in the long term you can do these jobs better and quicker.

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Know when you work best

Everyone has a particular time of day when they focus better and get more quality work done so make sure this is the time that you’re doing it. Turn off your phone, shut down your email and close Tweetdeck. Get rid of any distractions and just get on with it. Also make sure you’re always keeping this time free. Don’t schedule meetings when you know you do your best work and make sure you’re always able to be at your desk when you’re going to be the most efficient.

I do my best writing in the morning so if I have to go to London for meetings or I need to meet a friend for a catch up, I’ll always try and schedule it in the afternoon or early evening. Not only does this mean than I miss the horrific morning rush hour (I didn’t become self-employed for nothing!) but it also means that I can still get some work done in the morning and I never feel like I’m ‘wasting the day’.

Don’t put off those easy jobs

‘Easy’ or small jobs can quickly become mammoth tasks hanging over our heads if we put them off too long. Obviously don’t start your day with these (especially if you, like me, are most productive in the mornings) but when you’re at a loose end, crack on with them!

Maybe it’s sending that email that you promised a colleague months ago, replying to some blog comments or booking an appointment. They’ll take you just a few minutes on their own but if you ignore them soon enough you’ll have so many of them to do it will all feel very overwhelming and you’ll probably keep putting them off.

Multitasking isn’t always best

Multitasking makes it hard to focus on the job at hand which means things take much longer and require much more effort to complete.

If you’re easily distracted (honestly, who isn’t?) only use one programme at a time and close any windows you’re not using – now. If you’re writing a blog post, shut down your email and Tweetdeck, if you’re doing emails close down Facebook or your internet browser. Those constant beep beeps and notifications are only going to pull your attention away from what you’re doing (as a side note, turn off all social media notifications, you’re going to check in later anyway aren’t you?!)

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Take little breaks

It can be easy to think that you need to power through to get everything done but research shows that shorter bursts of activity with short breaks in between is a much better method for success. Every 45 minutes or so take a couple of minutes (no longer or you’ll get into procrastination mode) to recharge. Make a cup of tea, go to the bathroom, check your Twitter… and then get back to work!

Social media is not always your friend

I’ve lost count of the number of tweets I’ve seen from people saying “Ohhh I’m soooo busy!” or “Fully booked for this year, how will I keep up?!” In the nicest possible way, give me a break. If you have the time to tell everyone on Twitter how busy you are then I’m sure you have time to get through it all… either that or you’re just hoping that by telling everyone how busy you are you’ll get some kind of external validation that what you’re doing is worthwhile.

Procrastination is a big problem for a lot of us so let’s stop kidding ourselves that spending an hour pinning pretty things is helping our blog traffic, or that tweeting our ‘industry colleagues’ is helping to form lasting working relationships. Let’s stop with the vanity tweeting already and go and do some actual work, mmmkay?!

To list or not to list?

Pretty much everyone will tell you that making lists is the best way to stay on track. Now, while I love a good check-list as much as the next person, make sure you’re not writing to do lists as an excuse for procrastination. Sometimes you just need to get on with it!

I’m an email nerd, so instead of writing lots and lots of physical notes, I use my inbox as a digital to do list. If I have a task that needs some action on my part, I’ll often email myself what I have to do, or if I have a conversation with someone I’m working with I’ll also get them to email me to confirm everything. That way, I can simply go through my inbox and work through each task chronologically. I also know the things I have to do won’t get lost in the chaos that is my desk! Having a record of what you need to do and when is important, just make sure you figure out a method that works best for you.

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Unsubscribe

Unsubscribe from any newsletters or blogs that you don’t actually read or enjoy any more and unfollow people on social media that don’t interest you. I often feel that who we follow, especially in the wedding industry, it can be more political than anything else. If you’re really busy then why do you want to fill your brain with the pointless junk that you don’t need – or want – to see?

Launch and learn

I’ll let you in on a little secret – nothing is ever perfect, so don’t wait until it is. When I launched my blog it was far, faaaar from perfect. In fact it was a complete hot mess. It was only by starting it, muddling through and learning as I went that it has become what it is today. If you try to wait until everything is perfect you’ll be waiting forever. There is always something that can be improved or worked on and waiting around with likely only mean that someone with a similar idea will beat you to it.

The best way is always to learn, grow, make mistakes, change things up, reinvest and always strive to do better. You’ll then be able to organically and authentically become the business and brand you deserve to be.

The brilliant thing about working online is that things can evolve, change and progress with relative ease. Trust your gut and don’t agonise over every little detail. Stop trying to make it perfect, don’t be afraid to make the odd mistake and just get started already!

Work smarter, not harder

Like you, I’m a busy girl, but I still always find the time to catch up with my friends, hang out with my husband in the evenings or to visit my parents for Sunday lunch. Instead of feeling you have to work 24/7 to get anywhere, focus on accomplishing more in less time. Streamline your tasks and work towards doing the very best you can. Two hours a day of really solid work is much better for your business, your life and your happiness than a full day of stress, strain and pressure.

I get it, everyone’s busy these days, but being overworked should not be a badge of honour. Our goal should be efficiency and productivity not burn-out and 84 hour work weeks. Instead of taking on so much work that you can’t cope, take some time to implement systems that help you work smarter and create a schedule that fits in with the life you really want to live.

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77 comments

  1. Gracious

    Just want to give you a massive hug for this article!! Really needed to read some honesty about starting out on your todd! It’s hard but will be patient and keep learning!! Thank you!! Xxx

  2. i’m soaking in all the words written here …very timely to remind me to keep going no matter where i stand now in my business…slowly but still enjoying what i love doing while joggling with motherhood! 🙂 always thankful to you Kat! xo

  3. This is a great article. I hope you do this again. I found great advice from all the participants but Gala Darling and Shauna Haider hit the nail on the head. Most of the participants admit to trying lots of things that didn’t work. Fail fast and keep moving!

  4. Kat, this is a fabulous, insightful article, and I am so glad you wrote about it. As a young consultant whose mind is always full of ideas, it is great to read realistic advice from real girls. Keep it up 🙂

  5. Stacey B

    This was an extremely honest, personal, and great post to read 🙂 Thank you for sharing your ups and downs with us! As a small business owner myself I am always looking for blogs that I can relate to and learn from. I don’t have a degree in business and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t have dived into something so time consuming and financially draining. However, I do love what I do which pushes me forward. I recently read an eye opening book about running and growing small business called “Liber8 Your Business” (http://liber8yourbusiness.com) by multi-award winning entrepreneur and author Laura Humphreys. Laura started as a secretary and since has grown and sold multiple businesses, so you know she knows her stuff! The book primarily works on a backwards approach to business strategy, encouraging you to look at the end goal and build your business from there. It makes sense because too often we get caught up in the day to day routines of running a business and become complacent. By taking a backwards first look at our business plan, we can then successfully plan and execute the steps necessary to reach our goals and get the business to where we want it to be. Very professionally and intelligently written, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get ahead of the game when it comes to growing a business. Wishing you all the success! Hope you will give it a read 🙂

  6. Hi Kat,

    I’m glad I knew absolutely zilch about blogging before I started. If I had known how hard it can be sometimes I really don’t know if I’d have started out of pure fear!

    I can only describe my blog now though as my baby, a child I gave birth too and like any mother I’m super proud of any achievements and would fight to the death for it.

    One thing I never knew is how much my blog would become a massive part of my identity and self esteem, I never want to let that go :)) XxX thanks for sharing this post!

  7. Brilliant advice! However missed the important advice that is to set aside time to read blogs, so you don’t sit reading said blogs for 2 hours (because they’re so flaming good!) when you actually need to do some work! 🙂 Tx

  8. Oh wow! This was such a useful post!
    I am just starting to launch my business, and its very daunting! This post has been incredibly helpful and the advice of the contributors really helps! Especially the time frames.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to gather this 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for this, I have been trying to get advice, I’d trawl fb and Web for photographers that I liked the look of and messaged them for tips and advice non replied, I felt I’d hit a patch and these nuggets have really helped, I have bee a bit scared of pushing people to book me (or asking lol) and I’m Def guilty of waiting for people to come to me, I’m approaching my 3rd wedding season and this has just filled me with hope and motivation! Bring it on x

  10. Some great advice in here loved reading it and plenty to take on board, feel a little lost right now with my business but after reading this excited to take a step forward. Thanks!

  11. Wow Kat this is great! I love hearing the message ‘it takes time!’ over and over loud and clear from so many talented women.

    Being a freelance crafter is all consuming and sometimes it feels like I’m a swan (things look good above water, but below I’m kicking ferouciously to stay afloat!) and of course by ‘sometimes’ I mean all the time hahaa

    Thanks so much for linking us up to these fab girls!

    Big love,

    Kerry
    Be Brave Creations
    http://www.bebravecreations.co.uk

  12. This article is INCREDIBLE! So much truly helpful information and advice. It’s also really inspiring to read about all these fabulous success stories!

  13. This article could not have crossed my path at a better time. Having just been in the business 1 year, I found myself surrounded in self doubt this weekend after making (in retrospect) minor errors. Mistakes are a given and the more uncomfortable I feel when I make them, the more I will grow and be better as a result. Sometimes I forget that and it takes words of encouragement and little nuggets of genius like this article to remind me. That you for the little kick up the arse! 🙂

  14. Hi Kat, Another awesome Blog post. Thank you, so much helpful information that is so relevant to us right now!

    We launched our little Business {The Boutique Wedding Co.} Just two months ago, it’s still very much work in progress and at times we think ‘Can we really make this work?’ reading your article gives us hope and confidence that it is possible!

    Thanks for the burst of positivity!

    Lucy and Jesus
    http://www.boutiqueweddingsinspain.com

  15. Hi I just wanted to say what a massive help I’ve found this article! My friend and I set up our business last July and have been finding our way ever since. We’ve had some ups and downs but things are beginning to pick up and it’s just about hanging on on there and remembering after all the long hours it will be totally worth it 🙂

  16. Hi Kat!
    I just wanted to say thanks so much to you and your wonderful industry friends for sharing your experience and advice. I set up a wedding blog back in 2009, and have followed your blog (and lots of other fantastic wedding bloggers) ever since. My problem was that I was too perfectionist. I had a very clear vision of my blog, but for every thought I had I found a reason why it wouldn’t be as perfect as I’d envisaged it. Suddenly, after just 2 blog posts, I found myself utterly hampered by own thoughts. I stopped. The blog is still “under construction”.

    However, since then, I’ve learnt that life isn’t perfect. Two years ago I got cancer.

    Suddenly, I found a totally different reason to blog. I had “fought” my rare stage 4 Primary Peritoneal Cancer and won. Thanks to incredible medial team, the amazing staff at the Macmillan Centre, healthy eating, exercise, and endless baking, copious Star Wars-related fun (YEP – I’m a geek and it makes me happy!!) plus the love and support of my amazingly positive and caring husband, family, friends, colleagues, fellow patients, neighbours and even strangers I did it. I beat cancer in May 2012.

    However, following this amazing news I found myself in the wilderness. A sort of post-cancer limbo. My “fighting spirit” and Positive Mental Attitude, which had been my strength throughout my 17 weeks of chemo and surgery, suddenly seemed to have vanish completely. All that was left of my usual bubbly, ultra-positive social self was a shell of a person with severe anxiety and reactive depression. Try as I might I couldn’t “shake it”.

    Thanks to help from my amazing psychologist, provided by Macmillan Cancer Support, I managed to identify all the things that helped me stay positive throughout my treatment. To help myself feel better I started doing all those things again and recorded them in my own personal Positive Mental Attitude blog (LouiseWisson.com)

    Just by sheer virtue of changing my behaviour and capturing all my happy moments on my blog, I actually felt better.

    I so also delighted to learn the blog helped others around me too; both to understand my cancer journey and to help boost their Positive Mental Attitude.

    I must say I am so inspired by people like you and Gala Darling for sharing your passion and your positivity in the world.

    Thank you so much for helping spread happiness and being my #pmatoday.

    Best Wishes,
    Louise

  17. I loved reading this so much. I read a section just before I went asleep for the past week and had sweet dreams about the hopeful future success of my wedding photography business which while only in its second year I hope Itll be reaching milestones soon
    … Also while I’m here chatting away I though I should tell ye how much I love rock n roll bride! Hands down my favourite wedding photography blog and it gives me so much inspiration and enthusiasm daily 🙂 so thanks for that!! And for all the great words written in this article

  18. Wel… consider yourself added to my blogroll. I have like six other blogs I read on a weekly basis, guess that number just increased to seven! Keep writing!

  19. I am really happy to say it’s an interesting article to read. Very honest and practical, I feel much more motivated after reading this. Thanks Kat for all this positive advice.

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