It’s Friday morning and I’m sitting at the computer, fingers poised over the keyboard… I’ve been here for about three hours. It’s like I’m an installation for very boring performance art! Why am I unable to pick a task and get on with it? Because I’m sitting in the eye of a task tornado.

What’s a Task Tornado, you ask?

You know you’re in the midst of a task tornado when everywhere you turn there’s stuff swirling around, stuff you need to do. In my case, the stuff is: creating new images for my party supply business; writing proposals for the new business I’m developing; household tasks; family obligations; gardening; research; orders; email… it’s overwhelming and paralysing. Knowing I’m not the only one who faces this challenge on a daily basis is no comfort. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start, is Task A more important than Task B? Or, have I been putting off Task C for so long that it’s becoming a critical issue? Will the world come to an end if I don’t do Task D, ever?

Have I taken on too much or am I just completely and totally disorganised?

In my case, I think it’s a little of both. My party supply business can be very labour intensive. I’m the sole everything for the business so there’s always something to do, even if it’s just checking stock levels. When I first started this business I was sure it would be a set and forget deal – except for picking and posting orders. How wrong I was! It takes a lot of work to remain visible in the ecommerce world, even if you use a platform like Etsy or eBay.

As many of you know, I’m looking to transition away from the party supply business and into writing full-time so I’m researching how best to go about that shift. My writing experience is mostly in the technical field so the questions I’m exploring are: should I freelance and/or consult in that area or; should I freelance writing web content or; maybe just offer freelance editing and proofreading services? Lots of options to research! And, they all take time to research thoroughly.

Plus, in order to keep my expenses as low as possible, I make most of our meals from scratch, including bread. That takes time, too. For me, it’s time well spent as it ensures the best possible quality food for the lowest price. Its value aside, it’s still adding to the cluttered swirl in that task tornado.

And, yes, I have to admit it, I am totally disorganised hence the existence of the task tornado in the first place. Not only do I have a natural propensity to distract easily but I also have a number of outside distractions that are, or at least feel like, they are beyond my control. Anyone who works from home can guess at a few of them, they range from people thinking you’re on permanent holiday to those who think you’re unemployed as apposed to self employed.

I often wondered how freelancers could possibly benefit from working from a cafe rather than at home, now I know… They can’t interrupt you if they can’t find you!

Taming the Task Tornado

The challenge now is to tame that task tornado. How can I remove the clutter and unimportant debris from that swirl in order to find the one or two tasks that require my full attention? I’ve used Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time approach and it definitely works for getting the less appealing tasks done but what I need is something that will not just get the job done but help narrow the focus to the tasks with the most impact on making my living. What I need is laser-like focus on building my income, today and in the future.

Given I’m easily distracted, I’m opting for allocating one day per week to working on my new freelance writing and editing business and only that business. The only tasks undertaken that day will be to do with research, writing proposals and pitches and generally planning and promoting the business.

I have the feeling that once I can begin to feed the new business some dedicated time and energy, everything will begin to fall into place. The loss of one day in the middle of the week wont impact my other business substantially and it will probably enable me to tighten my focus on it on all other days. Knowing that I have dedicated days for each business means I wont be skipping between the two objectives constantly and never feeling like I achieve anything.

Taming the task tornado will definitely require a new way of looking at my work and how I plan my day. This approach might not be the final solution or even a lasting one but I’m confident it will remove the bulk of spinning debris in the short term and sometimes, getting the short term stuff right is all that matters.

Do you have multiple jobs or businesses? How do you manage your time so you don’t feel like you’re sitting in eye of a task tornado?