You’re smart and creative and you know that you aren’t cut out for the corporate ladder, slowly working your way to the top. You are the top. You are the brains. You are the CEO. You are the manager. You’re probably the accountant and the shipping department. Customer service. And the janitor too.
You are an Entrepreneur!
The modern entrepreneur needs to have discipline and focus. That’s super easy to say, but not nearly as easy to accomplish. When working for yourself, especially at home, it’s easy to get sidetracked and suddenly need a grilled cheese sandwich – it’s nearly lunchtime! – or to clean that bathroom that you’ve been thinking about for the past week. When working in the office, you find reasons to refill your coffee or check social media at inopportune times, because the IG factor can be a dangerous mix of both work and play these days. It’s personal, gives us joy and also lets us know how our business is doing. But who is managing your need to scroll instagram again, the 5th time this hour?
How do we encourage ourselves to stay on task and get the most out of each and every work day? Only you can tell yourself what matters. And let’s face it – there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.
Read on for a few tested and true productivity hacks to help you make the most of your precious time:
Feed Your Brain. Give yourself mental inertia by regularly consuming positive information. The news is not always that, so find something that inspires you and gets the cogs turning. Whether that be meditation, music, your favorite podcast or John Oliver or a TED Talk, absorb that information and let it help set the tone for your day. Saturating your brain in the morning and allowing it to choose and reject information is important to its overall function.
Just Do It. Do the task you dread the most first and foremost and get it out of the way of your day. We all know how easy it is to just put it off, put it off, put it off. Schedule whatever in your calendar, put your inbox on pause (another favorite productivity hack!), ditch the distractions and get it done. Make that call, write that post, fill that order. That task is your livelihood and if you don't do it, it will haunt your mind only further slowing you down for longer than it should. If you need a little incentive, calendar a special rewards for yourself when the task is accomplished. Just do it.
A Multi-Faceted Approach. Email isn’t everything. Social media isn’t everything. Making isn’t everything. Finding a happy blend of these elements of your business – and your life – is everything. Balance out your days by scheduling time for each of these activities and holding yourself to those deadlines. When you say you’re going to switch tasks at 11am, switch! That includes your scheduled real life time. More about that one below. You can pick it back up next time around.
“Finding a happy blend of these elements of your business – and your life – is everything.”
Speaking of Scheduling. Now you know how important it is to schedule those critical must-do tasks it’s all too easy to shuffle from today’s to-do list to tomorrow’s. But what about scheduling your free time? Time management expert Laura Vanderkam employs some interesting techniques to help you find more time for what matters, so we can "build the lives we want in the time we've got." Her 2016 TED talk, "How to Gain Control of Your Free Time," has been viewed more than 5 million times and for good reason. Plus, her method will help you make good use of those notebooks we all collect and never seem to know what to do with too! Add this one to your morning brain food routine.
The Pomodoro Method. This is a secret heard around the freelance work block and we’ve talked about it before. Sometimes you stare at a task for hours “working” but in the end you’ve gotten nothing done showing that distractions have gotten the best of you. The Pomodoro Method was developed in the late 1890’s for better time management. The theory is to work in intervals – 25 minutes of strictly focusing on a task, then a 5 minute break. On this break, don’t move to another task! Take a walk, get lost in the bathroom, or have a real coffee break. It’s best to move away from your work space. After 5 mins, hop right into another 25 minute work sesh. Rinse and repeat. There are apps to hold you to your tasks and timing, or you can simply use a timer. We like the apps because it blocks out your distraction zone phone and holds you to time. See a video full of info here!
About Those Meetings. As any of you who’ve come from the 9-5 world know, meetings can be the biggest time sucks of all. If you have a shared task that you are actively working on with someone, meet and spend time working on it. Just make sure you’re focused on the task at hand while you do. The fact is that talking and not doing is often a waste of time. Just ask Elon Musk about his ideas on productivity. Long meetings about nothing and indirect communication are a waste of time. Stick to direct communication and solid reasons for meeting or make that meeting a quick touch base call instead.
Shawna likes to say “If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. And if you’re not learning, you’re not growing – not in your business and not as a person.”
Failure is Knowledge. Try, try, try again. We’ve all heard it a dozen times. Shawna likes to say “If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. And if you’re not learning, you’re not growing – not in your business and not as a person.” Sometimes failure is the only path to expansion and growth. When we find that something doesn’t work, it brings us an inch closer to discovering what does. Failure is data and data is the backbone to success. Now data may not always be the fun part of the job, but it certainly brightens our insights. Winston Churchill knew that – “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” It’s true!
Feeling inspired and want more? Read up on The Pareto Principal aka The 80/20 Rule, then check out Inc’s “14 Things Successful People Do First Thing in the Morning.”