As entrepreneurs, we often struggle to manage a stream of fresh ideas, not to mention all of our duties as CEO of our business. Post-its, notebooks, and smartphone calendar reminders are nice, but they often become clutter, or worse, they spill over into our personal time and space. Luckily, our guest post this week comes from Natasha Vorompiova who has brought us a guide to optimizing productivity apps so that you can free up your headspace for life!

Running a business is easy.  What’s difficult is running a business while remaining a reliable friend, thoughtful daughter, cheerful hostess, amazing mom, and possibly also an exemplary employee or straight-A student.

Constantly feeling torn between our roles and responsibilities is a big struggle for many of us.  Our insistence on doing everything without outside help only makes things worse.

Is there a way out of the trap we’ve set up for ourselves?

You hear so many people talking about creating a balanced life? Life doesn’t do that.

But,

We can achieve a state where we can gracefully shift among priorities, from one spinning plate to the next.  Even better, all of this can look completely effortless.

Here’s how to keep your superwoman cape:

  • Commit to getting all your to-dos out of your head and keep them that way.
  • Use a tool to collect your to-dos and easily see them all at a glance.
  • Let others help you, in fact, enlist others to help you and delegate.

Deal?

My favorite trick for doing ALL of this is using a productivity/project management app. I use Asana (psst, so does Racheal and team right here at TheYogipreneur!).

As I guide you through the process of getting all your plates to spin, I’ll share examples of how you can implement my recommendations in Asana.  But if you use and love something else, by all means, continue using it.

You can design how to use your time, and optimize it so there’s room for everything that matters most to you (and all the goodies you want to implement in your business!). What’s important is building a foundation for productivity & project management in your life, and following through on the practices that get your time back.

Four Foundational Actions

#1. Create Your Initial Structure

Think about areas of your life that need your regular attention.

Business, Family, Volunteer work for a local organization, Full-time job, Studies, etc…

Pick areas that apply to you and add any that aren’t on this list.

Do This in Asana

Head over to http://asana.com/ and create a free Asana account (if you don’t already have one).  For each of the areas as per above, create a new project in Asana by hitting the “+” sign next to PROJECTS in the left pane and giving it a name.

#2. Download Your To-Dos From Your Head

Keeping all (or even some) of your to-dos in your head greatly adds to your overwhelm and anxiety.

I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where you were working on something and then suddenly remembered something else that needed to be handled.  You dropped what you were doing and attended to it.  Maybe it was something that just popped up, but I bet it was a task that you’d already hit “snooze” on.

Ultimately, that’s what makes you feel that you are constantly in a reactive mode.

Stop running around with a fire extinguisher. Move your to-dos out of your head and into Asana!

Here’s an example…

In your Family Project, you might have:

  • Take Sam to soccer practice
  • Take Becca to piano
  • Take Becca to slumber party
  • Organize Sam’s birthday party
  • Find a solution for Sam and Becca’s Easter break
  • Decide what to cook for dinner

In your Business Project, you might have:

  • Write a blog post
  • Follow up with Erica
  • Finish the write up for Jessica
  • Draft e-book
  • Record videos for the new Resource Guide

Imagine how great it’s going to be to get all of these things out of your head and in one easy-to-access place.

You’re going to feel more in control and things are going to be easier!

Do This in Asana

Go into each of the projects for your areas (click on the name of the project on the left hand side list) and start typing your to-dos in the middle task pane. Type a task, hit enter on your keyboard, type another task, hit enter, and so on

#3. Create Your Categories

Now that you have your lists of tasks put them into logical categories. Your to-do list will look more appealing and feel less overwhelming.

There are no rules here as long as the categories make sense to you.  For example, in your Family Project, you might have categories like Kids Extracurricular Activities, Friend Invites, Birthdays, School Vacations, and Grocery Lists.  Categories in your Business Project might be: Editorial, Prospects, Products, and Resources.

Do This in Asana

Create a category by typing its name in the same space you’d normally use for creating a task.  Follow it with a colon.  Hitting enter makes that phrase a header under which you can group tasks.  Removing the colon will turn the item back into a regular task.  You can easily drag the categories (as well as the tasks!) around within the project.

#4. Schedule and Assign Your To-Dos

Go through your list and add due dates.  Identify items that happen on a regular basis and set those tasks to repeat so you don’t have to enter the same to-dos over and over again.

Assign your tasks, even if it’s just to yourself.  Don’t skip this step!  It’s much easier to track everything when it’s assigned.

Do this in Asana

  • Assign the task by clicking on the little silhouette on the left side of the task name (middle pane) or in the top left corner of the task details pane (right pane).
  • Assign multiple items by entering tasks in the middle pane, selecting items you want to assign, clicking on the little avatar silhouette to the left of the title of the task, typing the person’s name, and hitting enter.  All selected tasks will be assigned to that person.
  • Assign the due date for the task in the task details pane (right side) and click the little calendar icon.  You’ll have an option to set an item to repeat if you click the respective link to the right from the calendar that pops up.

Six Power Practices

Now that your foundation is in place, I want to show you how you can transform your day-to-day life.

#1. Add New Tasks

Train yourself to add to-dos when you remember them even if it feels as though you could spend that moment more productively.  Keeping your to-dos out of your mind frees up your creative time and energy.

#2. Start Your Day With Daily Task List Reviews

All to-dos that you’ve assigned to yourself will appear on your My Tasks list (see the link to My Tasks to the right from your avatar picture).  At the beginning of each day, examine your tasks, identify the ones you’ll be working on that day, and mark them as “Today” by clicking on the blue dot next to the title of the task or dragging the task into the Today category.

#3. End Your Week With Weekly Task List Reviews

Examine what was accomplished, reassign due dates for items that didn’t get completed, and record items that never made it to the list.  At the end of your weekly review, look at the upcoming tasks for the project, evaluate the rest of your workload, and, if necessary, make adjustments.  Strategic meetings like this help you feel grounded and in control.

#4. Use the Calendar View

Use the Calendar View to evaluate your workload and availability.   Color-code the projects and your calendar view will become even more telling.  If you notice days with “large clusters” of tasks move less time- sensitive tasks to a another day by dragging them into another cell.  If anyone will be affected by the changed due date, make sure to notify them.

#5. Practice Delegating

Delegate tasks that don’t have to be done by you.  You don’t have to share your entire Asana account.  Just attach tasks you want to delegate to a separate project and share that project with an assistant.  Add task instructions in the right pane and use Comments area to communicate.

#6. Take charge

Every time you get asked to do something consult your task calendar and realistically evaluate the situation.  It’s your business. You get to say how things go!

Now, Enjoy a Sigh of Relief!

These foundational pieces and power practices can help you build a pretty perfect life. And once the system is made, repeating it becomes easy. Soon enough, you should be following along with a new rhythm driving you out of the to-dos and into your life!

Remember, there are other tools and apps out there that can help declutter your tasks. Asana is simply my fav.

What pieces do you feel your foundation is missing? What power practices are you looking forward to implementing? Let us know below and share on social! 


NatashaVorompiova 300x223Natasha Vorompiova founded SystemsRock in 2011 to help owners of small online businesses start or streamline the processes they already have in place. She excels at breaking large projects into small steps, planning them out and optimizing. Her guides have been featured all over the web for their strength in helping users get more time back from their biz. Discover even more Asana success with Natasha’s Asana Guide.

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