I was struggling recently with trying to get a grasp on, or overview of, the work I do.
You’d think I know it pretty well, eh? After all: it is MY work. But, like many things, the “work” itself isn’t a simple event or task to be done day after day. Oh, there’s some of that, to be sure.
But there are layers of work.
- Work that needs to be done daily, over and over again.
- Projects that have a beginning and an end, but that might span a few days or a few months. Or more.
- Work for the future (a.k.a. career capital) and work for the present (profit-making work).
- Work for myself and work for clients.
- Preliminary work and finishing-up work.
- And there is learning, building skills, deliberate practice.
- Okay, fine, there’s procrastination work, too.
I keep trying to categorize this work, and separate it, and put it into contexts that make sense, and I’ve banged my head against the wall on this.
The work never seems to fit into the limits and schedules I create.
I always feel like I’m missing something important. I spend more time organizing the work than actually working.
Know that feeling?
Last week, though, I went back to my ever-dependable method of thinking in order to work it out. When I can’t work something out, or click to an answer, or when my efforts keep ending in frustration, I free write about it.
Somehow, I usually end up hitting on the elusive thing I’ve been missing.
In this case, I hit on the broad understanding I needed by realizing, suddenly and clearly, the major areas into which my work can be categorized.
And now, with those areas set before me, I can sit down and plan for the day or week what needs to be done in each area. At the end of the day, I can see what hasn’t been done – in each area – and what needs to be carried to the next day.
I actually feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what I’m doing, what I should be doing, what I want to be doing, what I can improve on doing…
Here’s the Tip
To sum up, then, here’s the productivity tip:
To better understand, organize, and accomplish your work, spend some time thinking about the major areas into which you can divide your work.
Then, once you have those areas defined, plan out your day’s, week’s, or month’s work within those areas.
My Major Work Areas
Your areas will be different than mine, I’m sure, but for the sake of giving an example I’ll share mine below, with my comments from my little free writing session. [Why was I talking about myself in third person? I have no idea. You don’t question when you’re free writing; you just write.]
Book: these are the longer projects that belong to me, author, not to any particular blog or site that I contributes to, or to any persona or expertise that I am cultivating. These are just the books I want to, need to, have to, hope to write in my lifetime. This needs to be ongoing, steady work.
Project: this is the current not-a-book-but-not-a-blog-post long form project that most likely belongs to a particular site or niche blog or expertise that I am cultivating as an income stream and/or part of our business.
Blog: these are the niche blogs/sites that I am working on as part of our business. These should be rather analyzed and approached not so much “with passion” as “with pragmatism.”
Client: this is all work that is done for/with a client rather than for a book, project, or blog under my own ownership…This also includes client work that doesn’t necessarily involve writing: business consulting, workshops, social media, copywriting consultation, editorial, etc.
Reading: reading is something that fuels & inspires & teaches me, and I need to make sure it happens, daily, really. Fiction, nonfiction. Blogs, books, magazines, poetry, all sorts of reading. The kind of reading where I take notes and the kind of reading where I get so lost in it I forget that notes can be taken.
Marketing: social media and all that entails. This is activity, not creation: reading & commenting on blogs, being active on social media, sending out emails/newsletters, etc. Plus other means of marketing, such as emails, guest post pitches, etc.
Future: the ideas, articles, posts, notes, etc that don’t fit into any current book, project, blog, or client work but that are there in my head asking to be let out.
Those are my major work areas; what are yours? Comment below or shout it at me on Twitter.