Audrey Hepburn by Florian Nicolle.
So I got an email yesterday from Laura Roeder, part of her Social Media Marketer program where I help answer questions in the program’s forums. It was all about how Laura looked at a big project (or even small projects) and felt overwhelmed, so she would get all stressed and just think, “well I’ll do that later”. And of course it never got done.
This is pretty common. I’m this way 85% of the time. And I bet some of you are too. You just can’t seem to go from “this needs to get done” to actually doing it. And the culprit is really overwhelm. You see the big picture project (a new piece, working on your website, getting a few interviews this Quarter), but that blocks you from seeing the actual steps involved in getting there.
My friend, the answer is breaking it down into itty bitty pieces.
There are tons of ways to do this, from hiring help to just pulling a couple tasks from a master task list each day. My favorite method is using technology to automate as much of the work as possible. And that’s why I use Asana. It’s a free, online tool made for companies with a few employees who are trying to manage projects and clients. But I use it for my one-woman show of a business for everything from clients to projects to housework, marketing, and websites I want to look into.
Read on to find out what Asana can do, get great tips on working efficiently with Asana, and an Action Step!
Asana lets you create “projects” (for me, that’s a client, an actual project, or a category like housework) and add tasks to those projects. Each task can be assigned to a person (so you can let your VA in on the goodness!), tagged for better searchability, scheduled to a specific day, and the best part… you can keep notes.
So I might have a task to write a blog post for you. I’ll put it in my “blog” project, assign it to myself, tag it with “blog, marketing”, schedule it for Wednesday, and then write a couple notes. One of the notes might say “un-productivity!!!”, another “LKR’s email on 10/5 for SMM Founder Fridays”, and another “tell them about Asana!”. I could even write out part of the blog post right there.
What’s more, Asana sends me a reminder early each morning with the day’s tasks. I can see anything I didn’t accomplish yesterday and all the stuff on the list for today. And it shows what’s coming up ahead so you can move forward if you finish everything or just take a look at what will be on the list in the coming days. Brilliant!
When something wild happens and I get behind, instead of feeling overwhelmed at the huge list of tasks I didn’t finish, I just head to Asana and move things around. I reschedule that blog post I didn’t write and the phone call I had hoped to make. And since I can see when everything is at a glance, I’m able to ensure I don’t have too many tasks on any one day. Brilliant again!
Tip #1 – I limit myself to three tasks a day, unless one of them is super duper teeny tiny like notifying an artist that their image is up on my blog, which takes about 2 minutes. Everything else, I keep it to three tasks. This ensures my productivity because I’m not overwhelmed.
Tip #2 – I break everything down so it’s super tiny (but not super duper teeny tiny). Instead of trying fruitlessly to get myself to write an entire month’s worth of blog posts at once, I split it into the task of coming up with the blog topics for the whole month (which usually takes 30 minutes to an hour) and then each actual post gets it’s own task. So instead of one, scary large task, it’s like five little tasks. And because I’ve already done the work of choosing the blog topic, actually writing the post doesn’t seem so daunting.
Tip #3 – I let the emails do the work. If I keep all that information swimming around in my head, I’m bound to get stressed and not do anything. And some days, that’s what happens. I’ll tell you: they are undoubtedly my least productive days. But when I let Asana email me the day’s tasks and I stop worrying about what’s got to be done, I finish all three of the day’s tasks and often get to move onto more tasks… or better – take time for fun!
Tip #4 – Use Asana anywhere. While the mobile version (it’s in-browser, not an app) isn’t as robust as I would like, you can use Asana anywhere with an internet connection. So I frequently check things off or remind myself of my next task while I’m out in the dog park with Tift, waiting in line at the grocery, or otherwise out and about.
This Action Step should take you 20 minutes.
Go to Asana and set up an account. Poke around and add some projects and tasks to see if this tool will work for you too.
Let me know how it goes!
PS – Nope, I’m not an affiliate for Asana. I just really like this program and I think you’ll really like it too.