I was really hoping that Summer 2022 would be a welcome respite after spending 2021 dealing with covid-19, racial justice, political posturing, and financial uncertainty. However our challenges are not over. According to the American Institute of Stress, current sources of stress are:
- The rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation (e.g., gas prices, energy bills, grocery costs, etc.) cited by 87 percent of respondents.
- Supply chain issues (cited by 81 percent of respondents).
- Global uncertainty (cited by 81 percent of respondents),
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and potential retaliation from Russia (e.g., in the form of cyberattacks or nuclear threats (cited by 80%). (Source)
Add in distressing Supreme Court rulings, droughts, toxic air, uncontained fires, and unprecedented heat … let’s just say that stress is rampant.
Challenges Faced by Solopreneurs
According to the article Stress and Productivity: What the Numbers Say by Sean Peek, stress can have a huge negative impact on productivity. Stress contributes to lack of energy, lack of focus, constant worry, reduced creativity, and has a negative impact on personality.
Summer, in my experience, brings additional challenges. It’s a time when much of the world — including our kids and teacher friends — are on vacation. I’m a big proponent of time off but also recognize that we need to earn a living. So how can we stay productive over the Summer?
Strategies to Improve Productivity
Here are eleven strategies that can help solo business owners be more productive over the summer.
1. Regroup for the rest of 2022. The year is half over so we have lots of remaining time to achieve our 2022 goals. Don’t wait until September or January 1, 2023 to get motivated. Do what you can to make progress toward your business or personal goals, even if you’re only taking small steps.
2. Plan your day. If you’re struggling to be productive, accept that you’re not going to wake up and be excited about work. Before I go to sleep at night, I write down at least three reasonable goals for the next day. This gives me a starting point when I get to my desk. Checking off the items on my “To Do” list also feels good and helps me to continue in a positive direction.
3. Rely on routines to minimize decision making. If you’ve had to put children to bed, you know that sending them to their room at 8:00 PM doesn’t guarantee they will go to sleep. Most of us use bedtime routines that start with quiet time, a bath, a bedtime story, and goodnight kisses. These routines signal your child’s brain that it is time to rest. You can use routines to your advantage too. My morning routine includes drinking a cup of coffee, eating breakfast, and walking my dog. My brain knows that these daily actions are a preface to working and the next step is to sit down at my desk.
4. Set deadlines. My favorite way to create accountability is with deadlines. Send regular newsletters. Post daily on social media. Create expectations or buzz for your business by announcing that you’ll be sending out an email or a newsletter … and then do it! Need to clean your house? Invite your mother-in-law over for dinner! Time to update your accounting records? Set an appointment with your CPA. Feeling like you’re slacking and can’t figure out what to do next? Hire a coach to help you stay accountable.
5. Plug the productivity holes. When covid was at its worse, I spent far too much time watching TV news because New York City and Long Island were the epicenter and I wanted to know what was going on. At one point, my husband and I were watching at least three hours a day of MSNBC. Not only did this keep me from working, I also found the practice very depressing and demotivating. I finally compromised by watching ABC World News at 6:30 PM and then shutting off the TV. Determine where are you wasting time and make different choices. Figure out if there’s another way to spend your time that is motivating or uplifting.
6. Watch your self-talk. Over the past year, I found myself getting caught up in thoughts such as “our planet is dying, our government is not reflecting the wishes of most Americans, and everything feels hopeless.” This type of negative self-talk is not helpful on any level. Instead, choose more empowering thoughts. Tell yourself, “Even though circumstances are challenging, I’ve always managed to make it through hard times.” Or, “Just for today, I am okay. I will deal with tomorrow when it gets here.”
7. Take care of your health. Last summer, I fell down the stairs and badly sprained my ankle. It took months of rest for the tendons and ligaments to (mostly) heal. I missed my daily walks and it had a huge negative impact on my mental health. Taking care of yourself is essential to staying productive. Make time for exercise. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Participate in meditation or another spiritual practice to give your brain a break from anxiety.
8. Monitor your people time. Both introverts and extroverts have been challenged by covid-related changes. My husband started working from our kitchen table in March 2020 and has recently returned to the office three days a week. As an introvert, I was overwhelmed by the chaos and noise created by an extra person in the house. Extroverts felt stifled and depressed by the lack of interaction with humans beyond their house mates. Find ways to balance your social interactions with your personality – whether that’s a “time out” in your bedroom or a date with your buddies.
9. Create a comfortable workspace. In addition to my husband working from home, my daughter recently adopted two beagles. Both are rescues from different hoarding situations. As soon as my daughter disappears from view, I can hear howling that sounds like a donkey is being dismembered in our family room. As a result, I’ve added noise canceling headphones and sound-dampening privacy curtains to my office. Take a look your workspace. What can you do to make it more inviting? Can you purchase a standing desk? Improve the lighting? Or somehow make the area more private?
10. Find help and hacks. Have a look at the App store and see if there’s an app that will help you. You might also want to remove distracting apps and notifications from your phone, turn your phone to silent during work hours, or set specific scrolling times.
11. Take guilt-free time off. Make time for people, hobbies, and interests that help you feel joy. Play with your kids and/or pets. Learn to play a musical instrument or how to cook healthy meals. Structure your home-based business so that you can take a vacation.