In my Asana task list, I have anywhere from 10-30 projects in various stages of development. There are tasks like optimizing my site images and filling out more descriptive text in the alt tags. One task is to finish my concepts for my witch board product line for Etsy, a substantial task by itself. Another task I have is to send out several invoices for work by Friday. And then there are the learning tasks.
Currently I am doing a front-end development project with another developer and data architect to utilize Share Point as a CMS and team site that connects to a CRM. Needless to say, as I am WordPress guy, I need to bone up on Share Point, so I have about 6 hours and 25 minutes of Lynda.com training I need to complete this weekend. Most likely, I’ll bump that up to 8 hours of training because I will inevitably get stuck at points, wrapping my head around the how and why of Microsoft services. On top of all that, I am maintaining my social life and still posting once a week on this site.
As you can see, I am a bit busy.
I know I straddle a fine line. Too much in any one direction can throw the balance off kilter and pure chaos can erupt. If I don’t schedule and put in the time that is needed to complete these tasks, then things go by the wayside, get put off for a week, two weeks, a month, and so on. In short, if I want to get stuff done and share it with others, I need to hustle.
It’s important to know what kind of hustle I am talking about. It’s the kind of hustle that allows you to take on a multitude of projects, or juggle various moving parts in a project. It requires clear thought, definable goals, and passion for the process.
I had to come up with a way for my client Peerless Credit, Inc. to take online payments without going through a payment processor like PayPal, Stripe, or WePay. The very nature of their work wouldn’t allow them to use their service anyway. I had the task at hand and it was one that I hadn’t work on before. I did my research on what their competitors did, talked with a few developer friends of mine on possible solutions and eventually came up with a system of collecting payment information in the manner they sought, using tried and true security services and best practices. When I went to showcase the update to their site, there was true, legitimate payment already present in the buffer. The proof of concept turned into the working model just like that.
Now, my expertise doesn’t like with e-commerce solutions, but I wanted to try my hand at this for my client. I setup my task management program and kept realistic goals on my progress. I ended up learning a lot of different ways on how not too setup a payment service, but I looked at those routes as lessons learned and even saved a few of the options I found in other projects. The whole time, I kept moving, keeping myself honest and focusing on the end result of successful payments. This kind of issue isn’t exactly stimulating off the cuff, but because I had never done it before, I made it interesting to me by viewing it as a learning experience.
Because I worked pretty closely with this client and our rapport built up over time, he referred me a friend who owns a home renovation company, of which I began updating his brand and website. The hustle and my attitude lead to have customer referrals. Now, I am just about to finish up his site and that will go live this weekend.
Keeping that momentum with projects can be difficult when you’re first starting out, but it’s vitally important if you have goals of personal and professional success. If you are working on client projects, some people think it’s easier to keep the momentum going because it’s more than just you. I tend to agree with this outlook because I want to provide the best quality experience for my clients who are working with me. Others might think that working just for yourself, on self-generated projects, is easier because you have no one else holding you accountable except yourself. Sometimes, I think you can be your own worst enemy. It’s pretty easy to want to get down to work, then take a break, see up on a little Netflix, then a bit more, then a bit…oh God, you’ve watched all of the first season of Orange is the New Black.
For a lot of people, not just creatives, keeping that hustle is difficult because it’s not always going to be in the forefront of your mind. You need to create systems and tailor your environment to get you to keep that enthusiasm going. I’ve got a list of things that I do that helps me.
Physical Activity – Get in some time to get the blood pumping and not focus on your goal. That mental break and physical workout will make you feel better and give you a positive break away from your hustle. No need to get a gym membership, just go for a walk outside for 30 minutes, or ride a bike, hit a punching bag, or starts a one-man mosh pit. Whatever it is, do it to clear your mind.
Write down your Goals – This is extremely critical if you want success. Writing down your goals and task either physically or with a task manager like Asana, Basecamp or Trello. Your goals mean nothing if they just exist in your head, so writing them down makes them real enough to have them help you progress. I tend to use both methods, a task manager and a big desk calendar that I write on. Whatever method works for you, stay accountable to update it and check it often. Nothing is more satisfying than checking off a task and moving on.
Avoid Distractions – Make a real effort to minimize distraction when you get down to work. This can tough to do depending on your physical environment or time of day, but simple things like setting up a schedule and window of time to always work on your projects, use a productivity app like StayFocused to keep you off of distracting website (ahem, Netflix). If you can close a door to avoid distractions from others, do so.
Get Comfortable – Tailor your physical space in which you do your work to best suit your needs. This means having a comfortable chair and dimming the lights to a level where it’s not too dark to fall asleep, but also not to bright to cause eyestrain. If you happen to move around a lot for your work, wear strong comfortable shoes. Clothing actually plays a big part too. If you work at a desk, wear something that is comfortable as well as presentable. I work from my home a lot and the temptation to wear sweatpants and Slayer t-shirt is always high, but that is sending my brain the signal to go to sleep, not be productive. If you work in an office, you probably know what is acceptable. If not, don’t worry, you will. If you work by yourself and on your feet a good bit, wear something that allows you to get down to work while the off chance of meeting someone is still acceptable.
Take Breaks – A good break gets you up and away from your work for a period of time. Too short of a break (or not enough distance away from your work) and you can get burnt out. Too long of a break you can lose focus. I usually take a ten minute break to get up, move around and stretch and go outside to see what the neighborhood squirrels are doing. It’s nothing strenuous, but also nothing too distracting. Go back after a bit and refocus.
Be Joyful – This may sound a little crystal waver, touchy feely a bit, but honestly feeling good about your work and keeping that emotion on high does wonders for your attitude. No matter what task you are working on, something as measly as going through code and replacing all instances of one hex value with another, do so with a joyous outlook. Smile when you’re working. Simply by smiling your outlook is improving, your brain is working better and your work is moving along.
Be Patient – It’s pretty easy to become overzealous and start taking on more and more. Just relax. Don’t take another project until you’ve completed one. Also, don’t try to rush projects. Give yourself the time to be able to commit and guarantee a good job well done when you give yourself enough. I know I am guilty of rushing quickly in my exuberance to finish a project. Slow your roll and do a good job.
So these are just some of the things I do when I am in my working mode. These have helped me so far. This is not a complete list, and I am always learning new ways to go about optimizing my time to work and maintaining my workflow and feeling good about everything. I’d love to hear what you think or if you have a success story of how your hustle has worked for you, please leave it in the comments.