Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

8 Ways to Achieve Your Goals This Year

Never enough hours in the day? Learn how to make more time for the important things—and make your goals a reality.

By Ashley Heyburn Mar 7, 2017
Yosemite clipboard by Lemoneeonthehills on Etsy
Photo by Lemonee on the Hills

Setting your shop goals at the start of a new year can be an exciting and energizing activity, but as the year gets underway, finding time to start working on these aspirations can become overwhelming. If you’re like many Etsy shop owners, you are probably juggling a lot in addition to running your business, but by tapping into a few trusted time-management methods, it’s possible to keep dreaming big for your shop.

Here are eight simple and effective productivity tips for creative entrepreneurs that can help you manage your time and reach your goals this year.

1. Do a brain dump

Having a clear head is an important step in reaching your goals. It’s hard to be productive when you have so much you're trying to remember. Do a brain dump and get all your to-dos out of your mind and onto paper. Allow yourself some time alone where you won’t be interrupted for at least 15 minutes and write out all the to-dos and tasks you can think of that are currently on your mind. No task is too small: from mailing a birthday card to your sister to ordering more shipping supplies for your shop. Let your mind flow and get everything out without judgment.

For the best results, do a brain dump at the start of each day (or the start of each week or each month, if that serves you best). Commit to doing it regularly so you have the mental space to tackle your tasks.

2. Prioritize

Once you’ve gotten all your to-dos on paper, it can be challenging to know where to start. Not all tasks are created equal and some of your activities have a greater impact on moving your goals forward.

A really simple and effective strategy to help you get real about what is most important is the ABC method. With this method, you take your to-do list and prioritize the tasks from A to Z in the order of priority. The most important task gets an A, next most important a B, and so on. Once each task has a letter assigned to it, you can then break them down into sub-tasks. Then rank the sub-tasks by numbers (1, 2, 3, and so on). For example:

  • A. Work on shop branding
  • A1. Update About section
  • A2. Upload new cover photo

Now, you know where to start.

3. Schedule your time

When you work for yourself—and don’t have someone telling you what you need to do and when—it can be harder to stay on schedule or dedicate time to the important work that you don't enjoy as much. One solution is to schedule all your tasks, even the seemingly simple ones, as if they were actual meetings. Then, keep yourself accountable to completing them. A schedule frees you from worrying if everything will get done and allows you to be creative and focused.

If you use a digital planner, such as Google Calendar, you can even set up reminders to alert you when it’s time to move onto a new task. This can be helpful if you often get too wrapped up in one task and end up spending a whole morning on one project when you had hoped to accomplish many things.

For tasks that might not have to get done immediately but you anticipate will take a lot of work to complete, create your own deadlines. Then, work back from the deadlines and create action steps and mini deadlines so you can complete the project over time, instead of scrambling at the last minute.

4. Do a time audit

Understanding how you currently spend your precious time is one of the best ways to identify how you can make more time to be productive and meet your goals. Try a one-week time tracking exercise. Pick a week and commit to jotting down where all of your time goes each day, both personal activities (sleeping, preparing meals, walking the dog) and those for your shop (marketing, responding to buyer’s conversations, fulfilling orders). There are a number of apps you can use to help you track your activities, such as Toggl and Hours, or you can use a notebook or calendar.

After you’ve tracked your time for a full week, the fun part is uncovering where the hours in your day actually went. Add up how much time you spent on the various areas you tracked. When you look over the week, are there any hours in your days when you could be working toward one of your personal goals, but are currently filling it with something less productive, like watching TV? Or does your chart show you that you aren’t spending enough time on something that is really important to you like creating new products or sharing dinner with family?

5. Say no

One of the quickest ways to get overwhelmed and lose sight of your goals is to commit to more activities than you truly have time for. It’s a beautiful thing to want to help others and participate in all the opportunities that come your way, but there are only 24 hours in a day. It is okay to say “no.” To reach your goals, it's important to create room in your life for what’s most important to you.

6. Remove distractions

Your time is precious, and if you want to achieve your goals, you can’t afford to let hours go to waste. When you have to get things done, do whatever it takes to remove anything that distracts you from the work at hand.

A few helpful tricks:

  • Hide your phone or disable notifications so you aren’t tempted to check your phone needlessly. You can also install apps that block certain time-sucking websites, like Facebook. (Check out StayFocusd, a free extension for the Google Chrome browser.)
  • Use headphones or earplugs to block out sounds and conversations.
  • Create an “I’m busy” signal for your family or those you work with so they know when you are in the zone and shouldn’t be bothered.

7. Take breaks

It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can make you more productive. When you run your own business, it's easy for the workweek to never end. To perform your best, you need time to recharge.

One of the simplest things you can do is give yourself a chance to step away and go on a midday walk or take a dance break. Or, if possible, set aside one evening a week for relaxing activities. You can also try the Pomodoro method: Use a timer (even a simple kitchen timer works) to break down the time you spend working on a particular project into 25-minute intervals, separated by short three-to-five-minute breaks. After you’ve done four intervals of working for 25 minutes, you stop and take a longer break. This method is based on the idea that focus, flow, and frequent breaks improve your mental agility.

8. Optimize your workflow

Make sure you have systems in place to help you work as efficiently as possible. It’s easy to get stuck in old habits, even if there might be a simpler way to get the same work done in less time. For example, do you have any processes for managing your business that are clunky? Are there things (such as paying bills) that you could automate so you don’t have to think about them so often?

One good technique for optimizing your workflow is the Pareto principle. This economic rule, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for any situation, roughly 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the input. The goal is to figure out how you spend the most productive 20 percent of your work time and dedicate more of your time to these activities. For example, do you spend a lot of time trying to market your shop across a number of social media channels, but when looking at your Shop Stats you realize most of your traffic is coming from Instagram? If so, you should focus more of your time on Instagram, since that has the biggest impact.

What’s your best tip for managing your time? Share in the comments below.


Ashley Heyburn from ItsMeAshB

Ashley Heyburn is a senior account manager and small business specialist at Etsy. She's also founder and coach at Makers Megaphone, a company she started to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses with the things they make.


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