Three Powerful Productivity Boosters for the Online Microbiz

Distractions are constant for the online solopreneur. Staying focused on goals might be a huge challenge for you because you are faced with an endless stream of internet input daily. Boost your productivity with methods proven to improve focus.

Multi-tasking is tempting, but in the end does more harm than good. Studies show that while we might feel a sense of accomplishment, that feeling is just the brain playing tricks. Multi-tasking has been proven to actually decrease productivity.

Actually the brain cannot multi-task at all. If you have ten browser windows open and listen to a webinar while sending an email, your brain cannot focus on all of that at one time. Multi-tasking creates something researchers call “spotlights” that split the brain. So rather than multi-tasking, your poor brain is frantically switching between these activities, like a spotlight searching around a large area.

One Step at a Time1) Train Your Brain to Focus.
If you multitask regularly, your brain will loses its ability to resist distractions. You’ve trained your brain to become unfocused by constantly switching gears from one task to the next. The good news is that you can get that brain clarity back into shape.

Practice your concentrating skills daily. Set a timer for five minutes and focus on just one task. If you are a chronic multi-tasker, you might be surprised by how often your brain wants to redirect to something new, even in just five minutes. If you force yourself to remain focused for periods of time daily, eventually you’ll be able to increase your focus time and keep your mind from wandering.

Since this focus is a workout for the brain, give it a rest afterward rather than jumping right into the next task. Just like other body parts, the brain needs downtime.

The Pomodoro Technique is a widely popular method for time management that improves focus by working in short time blocks with rests between.

Can You Relate?

Can You Relate?

2) Batch Processing
This term was originally used in reference to incoming computer data that was saved as it arrived. Rather than processing each small job as it arrived, data was saved and processed more efficiently as a batch.

Examples of using this batch processing method for online solopreneurs include dealing with incoming email and social media data feeds. This can be a major challenge of information overload since the incoming feeds are a relentless avalanche. To stop and ‘process’ this data individually would be suicide for business productivity.

Further, why not ‘batch’ blog posts and focus on only that for a day, producing several posts which can be released at a later time.

Darren Rowse at Problogger discusses how for him, batch processing has increased productivity tenfold.

Don't wait.  Collaborate!

Don’t wait. Collaborate!

3) Accountability Partner
Do you make to do lists and/or set goals that end up being ignored? Accountability partners keep each other on track. They check in with each other regularly to set goals, report steps toward achieving them, and even maybe just as a sounding board to share ideas as well as support. A good partner will not only be accountable but also hold you accountable.

Consider is finding a good accountability partner, then setting up a schedule and strategy. This is often easier said than done. You might check in daily or at the very least weekly, yet both must respect each other’s time and allow structure to be in place for each check-in.

I had one accountability partner who wanted to discuss gossip more than goals. Another began calling me at random times that were convenient for her (like while driving), regardless of our agreed upon schedule. This won’t work long-term, yet even still that added element of being held accountable to goals did increase productivity. So choose an accountability partner with care.

One site called Gentle Nudge Me provides an impressive accountability group online. I have not participated yet, but am seriously considering it. It’s not free, however cheaper than private coaching and a wise business investment. There’s no long-term requirement nor hidden fees, so you can just try it for one month if you like. It’s well organized and I like that it is similar to a forum. This allows you to do your accountability check-in at any time and get feedback from a variety of people – people who are serious about accountability.

“There’s nothing else like [Gentle Nudge Me] online today. It’s a simple, yet powerful program that encourages collaboration, builds confidence and helps people achieve their goals.” Dr. Hiatt is a PhD who originally created this program to help grad students complete dissertations and theses. She expanded that original program to support online business owners.

Another simple technique I just found is called Personal Kanban. This method has only two real rules: 1) Visualize your work and 2) Limit your work in progress. Small tasks are written on post-it notes and placed in one of three categories: back log, doing and DONE! One of the best advantages I’ve experienced from this method is to FOCUS on a few priority tasks each day and visualize their completion, simple yet powerful!

What about you?Can You Relate?

Do you use any of these methods to boost productivity? What works best for you to stay focused and productive with time management?

Carolan

Carolan Ross

CFO(Chief Fun Officer) at SoloSpark
Freelance writer, creative soul, solopreneur and former teacher who networks with rebels, visionaries, artists and other square pegs in round holes. I support solopreneurs with copywriting and juggling life and business to SHINE ONLINE!

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Comments

  1. says

    I LOVE this post! I am a serial multi-tasker and I know that it’s far more productive to work on one thing at a time. My father always used to say to me, “Do one job at a time and do it properly” – wise words it seems! I must start listening to them again.

    • says

      Thanks Dawn. Multitasking is a tough habit to break. I was just reading another post about it that suggests that exceptions to the rule (that multitasking will in the end have negative results) might include mindless activities like exercizing or doing housework. So maybe the body can multi-task, but not the brain.

  2. Jocelyn Kelly says

    Multi-tasking can actually be really great in areas of creativity and idea generation. The trick is not allowing mutli-tasking to takeover how you do everything because it’ll affect your ability to finish projects or daily tasks.

    • says

      Good point, Jocelyn. Idea generation requires that we let the brain wander in order to brainstorm freely. I never thought of this as multi-tasking, but it is similar. Sometimes the most creative ideas piggyback from others.

  3. says

    I batch things and have an accountability partner. I need to work on focus, though. I used to be really focused, but I’ve gone down the multitasking road and now my brain is a perfect example of always wanting to redirect to something new.

    • says

      Yes, Leanne, sometimes I think of that tendency to always want to redirect as internet imposed ADHD, a common issue for those of us who work online. Taming that relentless monster of information overload is one huge ongoing challenge.

  4. says

    Great post. I know I need to retrain my brain to focus more. I never used to multi-task but have got into the habit over the last few years. That’s my weakness and I’m glad of your reminder to take action on changing that!

    • says

      I don’t remember having this problem years ago either, Tabitha. I think many of us who never used to multi-task have found ourselves doing so, and I’m thinking the internet and info overload is causing it. We must tame the beast!

  5. MantraWild says

    This is a fabulous post. Love the links you have posted. I suffer from multi tasking and staying focussed, one reason being my corporate job back in the day was fighting fires, reactionary and it’s been a struggle to switch to focussing on one thing! I will definitely use your tips.

    • says

      Thanks. Yes those reactionary roles that require putting out fires all day can be maddening! Corporate jobs tend to be full of that. You feel you have no control and in many cases you don’t.

  6. Jenny Ravikumar says

    Love this! I get into a routine where I do blog batches and then I forget and get lazy….no more! I need to be more focused on creating when I’m able and then releasing at a later date.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • says

      Batching tasks really helps a lot, and I think this particularly pertains to writing. Blogging is one task I usually enjoy. If only I could just blog batch every day… hmmm.
      Truly I think writers are more inspired and tend to be more productive when they can focus on just that – writing – whether it is for a blog post or ebook, article or whatever – even ideas for a video or podcast, it’s all content. Switching gears all the time causes confusion. We lose that train of thought and with it goes the quality.

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