One of the best parts about being a solopreneur is not having to answer to anyone. You can do what you want, when you want, and the only person you're accountable to is yourself. It's a dream that many people share but only few get the opportunity to realize.

But, with great freedom comes great responsibility. Because you're the beginning, middle, and end of everything, you're on the hook whether things are going right or things are going wrong. Where a lot of of solopreneurs struggle is in "keeping it together" day to day.

You're really good at what you do and love to do it, but there's a lot of "other stuff" that falls by the wayside. It's in this column that you find the reason for a lot of unnecessary blunders in business. Lack of preparedness, lack of consistency, and lack of awareness all add up, taking their toll. Eventually, this can lead to serious problems in your business, or even worse: cause it to fail.

While there's no perfect solution for everyone, there are some things that you can do to make your life easier and your business run smoother.

1. Keep a short-term and a long-term todo list

One of the reasons a lot of folks become solopreneurs is because they have a lot of ideas. They're highly creative and not afraid to get their hands dirty and so tend to get a lot more done on their own. Where this process can get tripped up is in disorganization. Not knowing what's next, not keeping track of what you need to do, and leaving most days up to chance.

If this sounds like you, it's likely that you're missing an essential tool for success: a todo list. Wait, what?! A todo list?! Yep. It's staggering to see how many folks don't keep a regular todo list and instead rely on scraps of paper, their email inbox, or a myriad of apps filled with junk.

While you can follow a detailed system, what helps best is to keep it simple. Because there will always be more and more stuff, it helps to keep two types of lists: short-term lists and long-term lists. Short-term lists are "today and this week" and long-terms lists are everything beyond.

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My short-term todo list in the app Things. I have this on all of my computers and my phone.

A short-term list should only contain things that you can realistically (or must) do in the next few days. It helps to take some time each day—I like to do this in the morning or in the evening—to "edit" your list. Ask yourself "am I really going to do this today?" If not, look at your schedule coming up and pick a good day to do it. Schedule it and forget it. Your short-term list should contain stuff like "Add X feature to the app" or "fix bug with X feature."

Pro-tip: schedule the everyday stuff to repeat. These are like "freebies" that you can check off everyday and help to get the ball rolling. For example, I have recurring todos for taking my vitamins and clearing out my inbox. Dumb little stuff that, if ignored, can cause a lot of trouble later.

Long-term lists are more abstract. These should contain ideas for things you'd like to or need to do but aren't urgent (e.g., don't forget to pay a tax bill). This could be a feature idea you have over lunch, or a reminder to get a gift for someone's birthday.

The point isn't so much the list as getting things out of your head. As a solopreneur, unless you're lying, it's a guarantee that you're overwhelmed at least some of the time. By utilizing todo lists, you reduce the amount of stuff bouncing around your head which means more space to think about your product and the tasks at hand.

2. Use a password manager

One of the more alarming things to watch as someone who mentor's solopreneurs is what I like to call "the password scramble." While mentoring folks, if we're building a feature or fixing a bug, often we'll have to access a third-party service that we rely on for some functionality.

This is when all hell breaks loose. There's usually an audible "uhh" followed by going through email, looking for pieces of paper, scratching their head, or giving up and going through a reset password process. This is silly! The easiest trick to avoid this is to religiously use a password manager for every account that you have.

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I like to use the 1Password password manager. I use the desktop app and the Chrome browser extension to generate new passwords and help me login to existing accounts.

Especially when it comes to the product you're building, having all of your passwords in one place is essential. While it can seem like a waste of time or a nuisance when you set it up, having everything organized means one less thing to panic about when stuff goes wrong. And yes, something always goes wrong unexpectedly.

By having a password manager, you're not only improving your security, you're also making it easier to run your business. Having to scramble about to find a password or remember a login should be looked at as a security hole in your app. While it does take time to set up, you'll be grateful that you took the time when your app crashes in the middle of the night and you have to get up to fix it.

3. Leverage consistency and patterns

Related to the above is putting an emphasis on consistency and patterns. For example, a big mistake I see a lot of people make related to the above is using different email accounts, almost at random, for each service they rely on. Similar to the "password shuffle," there's the "which one is it" shuffle.

This can be easily solved by making a point to set up and use the same account for everything. This doesn't mean using the same password, just the same email address or username. For example, on nearly every account I use for Clever Beagle, I either use business@cleverbeagle.com or, if a username is required, cleverbeagle. By doing this, I remove all thinking about which email or username I used.

This can apply to nearly everything

In addition to accounts, you can also leverage consistency with arguably the biggest culprit for frustration: your code. People are often surprised to learn that nearly all of my code is written in the exact same way. This is intentional. I follow the same patterns in all of my own projects and encourage it with client projects, too.

The end result is less thinking about how to do things. I rarely ask "is this the best way to do this" because I've already spent time figuring that out. Especially when you're working with JavaScript, it can feel like there's always a new and improved way to do things. Maybe. In reality, most stuff isn't improved or better: it's just different.

Realizing this, you can invest your energy instead into finding the techniques and patterns that make you productive. For example, I use a pattern I came up with for organizing code for nearly all of my server-side business logic. I use this religiously because I understand it. I don't worry about what other people are doing. This behavior means I can implement things quickly and with very little confusion.

4. Document your processes

Whether you're following the above or not, if you're managing to get anything done during the day, it's because you're following some process. You do your work a certain way or at a certain time. You complete similar steps every time you complete a task. Tons of repetition.

Where a lot of solopreneurs have issues is with producing a consistent result. They can do the thing extremely well, but doing that again and again is a challenge. This is because while they know what to do, they forget to do it.

Forgetting stuff is human. And if you're missing any of the pieces above and find yourself overwhelmed, it's almost guaranteed. The solution is to forgetting is to remind yourself! Make a point to actually document how you do what you do (and if necessary, why). Take the time to think through each of the repetitive processes you do on a regular basis.

What steps do you need to take? In what order? Is anything dependent on anything else? This doesn't need to be fancy or require some complex software! For example, the publishing process for Clever Beagle content is a checklist written on a piece of paper. I wrap it with a sheet protector and use a dry-erase marker to check stuff off as I go!

5. Sleep

This one may come as a shocker, but as someone who used to put off sleep in order to get more done, this is hands down my favorite productivity trick. As a solopreneur, there's never enough time to do everything you need to do. Add in a dash of overwhelm and some bills that need to be paid and not sleeping sounds like the soup du jour.

This is wrong. While you may fool yourself into thinking this helps you, it's actually a great predictor of shoddy work. While you technically do end up putting in more hours, the quality of those hours diminishes over time. Even if you started your day off completely refreshed, after several hours of deep thinking on your product, you'll inevitably hit a wall.

Instead of hitting that wall and then going beyond it, respect it. When your mind and body feel tired, they're telling you "that's it, stop." If you listen, you may not put in as much time, but you'll put in a lot more quality. Think of it like this: how many times have you pulled an all nighter, only to spend the next few days fixing mistakes you made that night?

Getting sleep does require discipline. You have to spend some time training your body into a circadian rhythm and ensure that you get 7-8 hours of sleep. For example, during the week I make a point to be in bed with a book by 9:30p and asleep by 10:30p. What this means is that I get roughly 7-8 hours of sleep every night (I get up around 5:30a-6:00a). On the days where I wake up tired? I force myself to go back to sleep.

The payoff of this is long-term, but worth it. Once you're into a groove, you'll realize that you're less stressed and your ability to problem solve improves significantly.

Make these things a priority

Where a lot of folks stumble is in thinking the above things are optional. As someone who has spent years oscillating between doing and not doing these things, I'd attribute a lot of my success to doing them. They're not easy and they do require a bit of effort, but doing so means your life runs a lot smoother. In turn, your business runs smoother because you're not in it causing constant chaos.

Take heed! If you're struggling to keep your ship afloat as a soloist, audit how you solve the above problems and make some changes ASAP. You won't regret it.