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Routines are not straitjackets.  Strangely enough, contrary to popular opinion, routines actually free you up to be more creative and productive.

Think of a messy house, where everything is just laying around, the floor is covered in toys and books, the washing up hasn’t been done for a week, clothes haven’t been washed, the vacuum is buried in a cupboard somewhere.  How easy would it be to live in that house and do good work?

Now think of an ordered house, where everything has its place and everything – or at least most things – are in their place.  It’s tidy, calm and relaxed.  Which one of these two would enable you to be most creative?

Now I know for most work at home moms (WAHM) a tidy ordered house is a distant memory.  It’s something we had before kids.  It’s something we don’t expect to see again until they leave home.  That’s not what I’m getting at.  The point I’m making actually has nothing to do with cleaning a house, it has to do with an organised mindset and know what needs to be done and being able to do it.

If you have a routine, or system, or process, for your business tasks it makes them so much easier to do.  If you know that when you’ve dropped the kids off at day care you have two hours to work on your business and you know exactly what needs to be done, then you can use your time effectively.

However, if you know you have the same two hours, but your inbox is crammed full, your in-tray is overflowing, you have four to-do lists blu-tacked to the wall and a list a mile long in your head still – how do you use your time best?

Routines.

Know what you have to do and when.  Start with a list of the minimum you need to do to keep your business running.  Not growing, not marketing, just running.

Receive orders.  Package and ship orders.  Send invoices.  Pay suppliers and employees.  Answer emails.  Bookkeeping.  Order stock.  Whatever it takes to keep your business ticking over, write it down on your list.  Work out when each of these needs to be done and how long it will take.  Block this time off in your calendar.

Once you know what absolutely has to be done to keep going you can add in the tasks that grow your business.  Marketing.  Tweaking the website.  New retailers and wholesalers.  Developing new products.  Writing blog posts and articles.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Squidoo etc.

Look at each of these tasks and work out how often and what you are going to do.  Write them down in a daily, weekly and monthly list.  Block the time out on your calendar.  (yes, I’m a big believer in calendars – especially electronic ones with reminders).  Put the lists where you can see them clearly every day.

You now have two lists – the basic essentials and the growth tasks.  When you sit down to your business you need to work on the basics first.  Then you work on the growth tasks.  These lists are your routines.  They guide you in keeping your business running and growing.  They make best use of your available time.  Just like the clean and tidy house, these routines enable you to relax and do your best work.  To be creative and efficient.

Go write your lists.  Get your house in order, metaphorically speaking.  Know what you need to do and how much time you have to do it in.  Then do it.