A guest post by Sonja Overhiser
There’s a mile-long to-do list and a packed inbox to deal with right now. And we have to make deadlines too. These looming responsibilities can strike fear in my heart.
Like you, I have lots to get done! With my husband Alex, I run the A Couple Cooks blog and social media, host a podcast and do recipe development for brands. Now I have a new cookbook to promote, and I co-run a networking group for food entrepreneurs in my city. On top of that, I’m mama to a active 11-month-old.
It sounds overwhelming, but over the years, Alex and I have streamlined our workflow. Now we hit our writing deadlines and publish our blog posts and podcasts on time.
Here are six organizational tactics Alex and I use to increase productivity and make deadlines:
1. Google Drive helps us with writing tasks and planning. I use Google’s shareable, cloud-based docs and spreadsheets for writing my editorial calendar and podcast calendar, and drafting blog recipes. When writing our cookbook, we managed the entire project there. A spreadsheet listed each recipe and its status (such as whether it had been developed and tested), and had a link to each written recipe in a Google doc. I also used Google forms and spreadsheets to collect recipe testing feedback.
The trick is to organize your drive in folders and subfolders and not let them get unwieldy. In my “A Couple Cooks” folder, for example, I labeled live additional folders with names such as Recipe Drafts, Business, Blog Photos and Cookbook.
2. We schedule deadlines and meetings in an electronic calendar. I use my Google calendar religiously for tracking big deadlines and managing my schedule. For appointments or calls involving others, I create events and send invites to make sure all attendees are confirmed. During the free spaces in the calendar, I work on the to-do list items for the day (see below about how I track these).
I don’t go granular and script every task. However, I add calendar events for large commitments like photo and video shoots. I use the Description field to add notes about what we’ll be shooting.
3. I use the Inbox app to de-clutter my email. To manage the massive amount of daily business email, I use Gmail’s free Inbox app. You can archive each email if it requires no further action, or “snooze” it to have it pop back into your inbox at a later date.
When I have a to-do item, I send myself an email and snooze it for the appropriate date, which helps me cross items off my list more efficiently (Asana is another great free app we use to help manage To Do items.)
And I don’t always respond to emails right away. If it’s not urgent and I have limited inbox time that day, I snooze some emails. When I send an important email, I snooze it so I don’t forget to follow up.
Alex’s and my goal is to achieve an empty inbox, where all emails are either archived or snoozed for the future (even if it’s just the next day). We don’t hit our goal every day, but working towards it is good way to stay organized.
4. I set time goals when writing. When it’s time to write a blog post or an article, I often give myself a time goal. For example, I might challenge myself to finish the writing portion of an 800- to 1000-word blog post in one hour. Then I minimize distractions and start writing, staying as focused as possible for that time period.
Alex and I also set time goals when recording our podcasts, such as the goal of recording our portion of the episode in 30 minutes or less.
5. We focus on my strengths and delegate our weaknesses. My business partner—my husband—takes care of the things I’m not good at: backend tech management, photography, invoicing, and contract reading. I do the client relationship management, business development, writing, content planning, social media, and emailing as the voice of the brand.
In the past we didn’t have the bandwidth to maintain an active presence on Pinterest or Facebook. So we decided that being highly engaged on one channel, Instagram, was best for our brand in terms of return on time invested.
Now that Alex’s schedule has changed, however, we can pick up Pinterest and Facebook again. Some of our friends have had a lot of success delegating these tasks to virtual assistants.
6. We set realistic daily priorities. Each day, Alex and I start with a list of a few major items to complete. After years of experience in the business world, we know what is realistic for any given day. We try to maintain laser focus on these priorities. Once they’re completed or reprioritized for the next day, we allow ourselves time for projects in the R&D phase, brainstorming, or procrastinating.
And when time runs out, we pour a glass of wine and call it a day. (Or we put in a little extra time after the kiddo goes to bed.) It’s not always perfect, but adhering to these powerful methods is what keeps productive and moving forward each day.
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Sonja Overhiser is a writer, recipe developer, podcast host, and healthy and sustainable food advocate. With her husband, Alex, she created the website A Couple Cooks, a collection of whole-foods recipes and inspiration for healthy and sustainable eating. She is cohost of the A Couple Cooks podcast, which features conversations with the freshest voices in food from authors to celebrity chefs. Her new cookbook, A Couple Cooks – Pretty Simple Cooking, is out this month from Da Capo Press.
(Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.)