As a business coach and consultant who focuses on helping people start and grow businesses fast, I’ve realized that one of the biggest obstacles that new business owners face is finding the time in their schedule to start and build their businesses.
Many still have day jobs and finding that extra time needed to do everything required to start a business is pretty difficult.
So… I decided to write this blog post to help new and emerging business owners find pockets of time to really get their businesses going. In this article, you’re going to find small and big ways to add more time to your schedule, prioritize what’s important, and find the focus to get stuff done. Some of them you will have seen before, others will be new.
The following are what I have found to be most useful in my own business and those of my clients. So let’s get started.
Combine a modified Pomodoro with the only way to multi-task. This is where the rubber meets the road.
Often, I’ll combine something physical with something mental during my 15 minute break.
Listening to a business audiobook while cleaning or exercising. If I do this a couple of times per day, I can finish the book in a week or so.
A side benefit is that the business audiobook gives me ideas to implement for my business and my clients’ businesses.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Isn’t listening to a business audiobook still working?” My answer is “Not really.” As long as the book is really good and my mind is buzzing with ideas, it doesn’t feel like work and it’s enough of a change from my 40 minute focus time that it feels like a solid break.
Business books or other non-fiction books may not be your thing. That’s okay. Try listening to a novel. You’ll be in another world for 15-minutes and it will feel like a mini-vacation. It will actually feel a bit decadent at first. Like you’re cheating. In a good way.
One caveat when listening to novels during your 15 minute break…
If you’re like me (someone without an ounce of willpower when it comes to good novels and chocolate), you’ll say “I’ll just listen for one more minute” several times over the course of several minutes. Not exactly productive.
Chunk stuff. The idea here is to chunk your tasks and activities into groups — phone calls, errands, internet research, tasks in specific apps, and a bunch more. Almost everything can be chunked in this way.
For example, let’s say you have four calls to make today. Make them all at once while you’ve got the phone to your ear. You can knock them out quickly and get back to your other tasks.
Map it out. Do you have errands you need to run on a regular basis? Think about all the errands you ran in the last month. Write them all down. Think about all the items you need to purchase in the next month — cat food, toilet paper, shampoo, etc.
Are there any errands and shopping that you can get done all at once this week to free up the rest of your month? Add the addresses to Google Maps and rearrange them until it looks like you’ve got the shortest route.
Yes, it takes a little time to plan out your route in this way, but you can save so much time driving if you map it out first.
Don’t forget to listen to a business podcast or audiobook while you’re out and about. See what I did there? Created synergy for ya. Check out tip #1 if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Streamline your morning routine. This one is more for the ladies most likely, although I have known a few men who take twice as long to get ready in the morning than I do.
What can you do to shorten your morning routine and still look gorgeous? Do that.
I’m not saying you have to stop wearing make-up or stop shaving your legs. I’m just suggesting you look at your morning routine and see where you can save a few minutes.
Remember, the whole point of this list is to save you enough time throughout the day so you have a good chunk of time to work on your own business. A business that allows for more freedom and fun in your life.
Stop having a fussy hairstyle.
This one is also probably for the ladies. And will be a bit weird for some of you. Get a hair style that looks great up or down and doesn’t require you to get it cut every 6 weeks. I get my hair cut every 6 months. I get it cut to a little above shoulder length. In six months it’s past the shoulders but still looks good. It also looks good in a ponytail or clip, if needed, or if I’m just being lazy.
Double bonus: if you make sure the hairstyle is easy to style so it doesn’t take a ton of time in the morning. You’ll save time and money.
Tidy Up. Clean out everything in your home and get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy or isn’t useful right now. Saving it for “I might need it someday?” Guess what, you probably won’t. If you do, you can buy another one.
The best book on decluttering your space I’ve ever read: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It WAS weirdly life-changing when I read it a couple of years ago and my home is still tidy to this day. I get a strange joy out of rolling my clothes (one of her suggestions) and putting things back in their place.
The reason I have this tip in this list is because I now know where everything is in my place. I never waste time looking for things. I have so much less stuff than before that it’s easy for my scattered brain to remember where things are because there is just much less stuff to remember.
Have you ever spent many, many minutes (and perhaps more) looking for something. It’s a bit frustrating isn’t it? Get the book and try it for yourself. Life-changing.
Take the concept of tidying up to the next level. The tidying up book just may be the best thing that has happened to my business. The author asks her readers to hold up each item in specific categories and ask ourselves if it gives us joy. While she keeps this guideline to the physical space, I have pretty much translated it to EVERYTHING.
Everything from tasks and digital files to people, activities, organizations, etc.
Does this digital file, physical item, person, activity, etc. in my life bring me joy? If not, can I remove it somehow, change the dynamics, etc?
Just imagine for a moment that there was not a person, activity, or material possession in your life that didn’t bring you joy. How amazing would that be?
Just say no to all but the top 3. Just say no. We all know this one. It’s easier said than done, though. But seriously. Put yourself first. Be selfish (in a good way). Focus on your top 3 priorities and say no to the rest. There is magic in the number 3. Use it to help you focus on your top priorities.
These can be business priorities and/or life priorities. I have three life priorities that include my business, my health, and my relationships. Within each, I have my top three priorities that I focus on every quarter.
Limit what you buy. Once you tidy up and realize you don’t need as much, this will naturally happen. You’ll be careful about what you buy because you won’t want to mess up your tidy space. You’ll think twice about making every purchase because you’ll be asking yourself if it will bring you joy to own it.
You will tend to shop less often because material things mean less, which will ultimately save you time and lots of it.
Limit your choices. Don’t give yourself so many options. Identify what you really want and have a set list of criteria for it. Once something matches your criteria. Go with that. You’re done. No more thinking about it.
Limit what comes your way. This tip is different than the one above. That was about purchases. This tip can include anything — gifts, emails, subscriptions, mail, etc. Things in here might include unsubscribing from email lists, canceling magazine subscriptions, getting your email address removed from mailing lists, etc.
Imagine if what came your way was only stuff that brought you joy. Heaven!
Use a timer.
Do you spend too much time on the internet or doing some other non-productive activity that doesn’t bring you true joy? I’m talking about the UNPLANNED activities that you find yourself doing during the day.
The trick is to actually plan those activities. Give yourself permission to browse the internet, go on Facebook, etc., but do it consciously and for a limited time.
Use a timer and give yourself a set number of minutes. Enjoy those minutes immensely guilt free but stop when the time is up.
Rule of thumb: estimate how much time you spend on these activities on average and set the time for half that. Experiment until you find a nice balance. You’ll find that you’ve enjoyed yourself a bit AND you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time.
Write a list of the people you love to spend time with. People who are good for you and/or your business. Look at your schedule for the next couple of months. How much of your time is going to be spent with people you love, who inspire you, and who encourage you? If it’s less time than you’d like, then get those lovelies on your schedule. Make some plans. Yes, it takes time away from other things you could be doing, but this article is about creating space and time to build a business and life you love. Being around people you love is really what it’s all about anyway.
Plus, because these people inspire you and believe in you, you’ll end up saving time in the long run because you’ll have more energy to build your business. And they may even help!
Write a list of the people you DON’T love to spend time with. Are you spending time with anyone not on the list above? If so, is there any way you can decrease the time spent with them?
Let’s face it. There are people in the world who are energy-sucking vampires. Being with them for too long drains our energy and makes us want to go home, drink a bottle of wine, and go to bed. If you have any of these in your life, think about what you can do to lessen the time spent with them.
Now, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t lovable and deserve your love, respect, and attention, it just means that you need to take care of yourself as well.
Make bookmarks your friend. My productivity skyrocketed when I bookmarked the Facebook Ads Manager. Instead of going directly to the Facebook newsfeed, and thus getting sucked into the Facebook Vortex, I now go directly to the ads manager, do what I need to do, and get the hell out of there. This saves me hours of time.
I save looking through my newsfeed for the times I’m brain dead and can’t do anything else and just want to catch up with what my friends and family are up to (using a timer, of course).
What sites do you need to visit for your business? Bookmark the exact web page you need to go to and sidestep the rest.
Look at your schedule for the next two months. Anything on there you’re not thrilled about? If you put yourself and your business first and cancelled that activity, would the world fall apart? Would anyone you care about be upset? Would it damage any important relationships? If the answer is no, seriously think about cancelling.
Use the 5 sentence email rule. Keep every email you write to 5 sentences or less. In the short-term, this might take longer as you get used to doing this, but long-term it’s going to save you a ton of time.
As you do this more and more, it will become automatic. And fast. You’ll learn to get all the important stuff in the email right away so there is less emails going back and forth between you and the person you’re communicating with.
A side benefit is that they’ll begin to start writing shorter emails back. A win win for both of you.
Become an email ninja. This goes along with the tip above. When writing an email that requires instructions or planning, put everything that person needs to do in the email.
Setting up a meeting? Give them 3 dates/times and one location and ask them to choose one. Let them know in that first email that their response will be confirmation of the meeting.
Assigning a task to a virtual assistant? First, that should never be done via email, but that’s for another time. Give him or her all the information needed to do the task in the email, including due date, who to talk to, etc.
Use a tool like Acuity Scheduler to schedule ALL your appointments. I use Acuity Scheduler, an online scheduling app, for my business. It hooks into my Google Calendar and my clients can easily go on my website and schedule appointments with me.
What’s really cool is you can send a link to friends, business associates, and even family members to have them schedule meetings, lunches, dinner dates, phone calls, etc. with you.
This is even faster than the tip above if you end up using that, or if not, no more 10-email long threads going back and forth figuring out the date, time, and location of the appointment.
Drink your water. Your brain needs it. Your body needs it. You’ll be happier, healthier, and smarter.
There is so much research showing that our bodies need water. One tip I learned is to sip water throughout the day instead of drinking a full glass in one sitting. Our bodies can only process so much water at once.
I use my modified pomodoro technique to remember to drink water. When I was creating the habit of drinking more water, I hooked it to the end of each of the pomodoro sections. I would take 5-6 sips of water after my deep work session, after my 5 minute email session, and after my 15 minute break. Every hour.
It works great and by the end of the day I was getting all of my water requirements in. The biggest benefit I have gained from doing this is that drinking water throughout the day helps keep my energy up and thus makes me more productive.
Create Your NOT To Do List. Identify those things that you just don’t care about and remove them from your life. This can be anything from removing yourself from boards, associations, etc. to not cooking dinner every night. If there is anything you do on a regular basis that does not thrill you, figure out a way to stop or decrease it. There’s nothing wrong with having sandwiches for dinner tonight.
Use a “Speed Cleaning” system. Start with the book “Speed Cleaning” by Jeff Campbell. I’ve been using this system for years. He teaches how to clean your home in less than two hours. The idea is that you move around the room in a clockwise manner with everything you need to do a thorough job. No going back and forth between rooms to grab cleaning supplies and other things needed.
I combine this with my modified Pomodoro technique. I can usually clean an entire room top-to-bottom in less than 15 minutes using his system.
Shorten your grocery shopping time. This one takes a bit of time to get set up, but worth the time investment up front. Put together a list of groceries you use most often and the aisles you find them in. You’ll whip through the grocery store like the Tasmanian Devil and be out the door in no-time.
My weekly grocery shopping takes no more than 15 minutes per week from when I walk in the door to when I walk out. Yes, you read that right. 15 minutes.
Build a simplified wardrobe. This one may freak out the women a bit. However, if you’ve read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” that I mentioned above, you may have done this already.
I originally heard about this idea years ago from Elaine St. James in her book, Simplify Your Life.
First, pick your neutral base color –> black, gray, brown, or blue. Now, every piece of clothing you own should be that color or something that goes with that color.
For example, my base color is black. Everything I own is black or a color that goes with it. That includes my shoes. I don’t own blue or brown shoes because they don’t really go with black. I have a couple of slacks in the black, dark gray range. Black skirt. Black boots. A bunch of tank tops, sweaters, and cardigans that can be intermixed to go with. So simple, yet still professional and nice. All can be washed at home. Most can be machine washed.
My dream wardrobe is to have all my clothing fit the color scheme, be machine washable, and not need to be ironed. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there.
Get rid of your TV. Now that you think I’m crazy, let me explain. I did this. And it has been AMAZING. Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t completely removed movies and TV programs from my life. I still have Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts. I get sucked into binge watching shows as much as the next person. The difference is that I don’t have cable or network television. No TV commercials.
While I did, in fact, get rid of my TV, you really don’t have to. Just get rid of your network/cable. You’ll save a ton of time AND money. Plus, no more commercials which means less temptation to buy stuff to fill up your now tidy home.
For those of you who love sports, I know what you’re thinking…
My answer: Sports Bars. Have fun. Hang out with your friends. You know it’s much more fun to watch the game with your buddies anyway.
Prioritize Your Tasks. I’ve tried a ridiculous number of to-do apps in my life. I’ve finally settled on one I love and I keep all of my tasks in there. It’s like my outside brain. It’s a way for me to have what author David Allen calls “a mind like water.” Ideas, immediate tasks, and someday/maybes all go there.
However, if I try to look at it on any given day to figure out what I should do next, I get overwhelmed, shut down, and want to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb. It just doesn’t work for me.
I’ve also tried to group things in projects and add dates and do all that stuff you’re supposed to do when you use an app like that. That doesn’t work for me either.
What has worked for me is going old school. The analog way. I use a simple Moleskine notebook to keep track of my weekly and daily tasks. There is something about pen and paper that just can’t be replaced.
On Friday afternoon, I spend 30-minutes going through my big list and deciding what I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming week. Since I work on a quarterly schedule, it’s pretty easy. I write those tasks down on one page and then I pick the 3 top tasks I want to tackle on Monday. If I should happen to finish all three tasks on Monday, then I’ve got a list to choose from for my next task. On Monday night, I choose the top 3 tasks for Tuesday. And so on. If any ideas or tasks come up during the day, I add them to the weekly page if I want to tackle them during the week or in my digital to-do app if they can wait. Simple.
Estimate the time tasks will take. In the digital app I use, there is a place to keep track of time estimates for each task. When adding the task, I give it my best guess as to how long I think it will take me.
When I transfer it to my Moleskine, I add the time at the end. This gives me a sense of what I can accomplish in any given day. Because I work in blocks of 40 minutes, I put blocks in instead of actual time (1b, 2b, etc). This gives me a solid picture of how many blocks my 3 tasks will take and whether I can actually accomplish them all during the day. I try to make sure the 3 tasks equal about 6 blocks for the day. This gives me extra blocks for email and admin tasks, if needed.
Schedule your tasks. Get your tasks in your calendar. Each day. I mentioned above that I put my tasks in pomodoro blocks to estimate how much time they will take. I then will put that task on my calendar so I know that’s what I want to work on in that time slot. It helps keep me focused.
Time your tasks. Because I put my tasks in blocks, this ones pretty easy for me. I just see if I was able to get the tasks done in the blocks of time I estimated. If you don’t use the block system, just time your tasks. This has a couple of benefits. First, it helps you focus. If you know that you’ve allotted 60 minutes to write a report, you’ll be able to start writing away without procrastinating.
Second, you’ll start getting a better handle on how long tasks actually take. You may learn that writing a report doesn’t take 60 minutes on average, it takes 90. This will help you estimate more accurately in the future.
Try music made for getting you focused. Having trouble focusing? Try some music specifically created to help you focus. My favorites are by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson and Steve Halpern. When I’m struggling to get focused, I put my headphones on and start listening. About 3 minutes in, I’m focused and getting stuff done. It’s a great tool for procrastination, too.
Turn off alerts and notifications. No one needs you so much that you can’t get 40 minutes of work done. Check your email, etc. every hour and you’re still reachable and responsive throughout the day.
Ignore the news. I took a broadcast journalism course in college. Guess what I learned? They have to fill the 30-minute news slot with something, whether it’s real news or not. Most of it is trivial and depressing. Sensational stuff that feeds the masses.
If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, find a website that gives you a brief glimpse in 5 minutes. Schedule a time to catch up with the news when your brain is at it’s least productive.
Go for a Bliss Walk. I go on what I call “Bliss Walks” every morning. I originally heard of something similar from one of Tony Robbins programs. He calls it the “Hour of Power.”
For me, it basically looks something like this:
- Listen to 2-3 songs to get moving.
- Run through what I’m grateful for starting with myself. This includes running through a list of things that I love about myself. I then give myself a blessing and intention for the day. It might be something like having a day full of joyful work and responsible play.
- I then move on to family members that I love and what I love about them. I end with a blessing for them. It’s usually something I wish for them that day like peace, joy, fun, etc.
- Friends are next. I do the same for my friends.
- I extend all those blessings and intentions to everyone on the planet.
- I end with an extension of gratitude for what’s coming into my life — my goals, dreams, etc.
As you can imagine, by the time I get done with all of this, I’m in a pretty good state of mind and heart. Life is GOOD! I feel amazing and I go back home with this energy and passion for my day.
Love up your pet. Pets are great at reminding you to stop and relax for a moment. My cat will actually nip at my ankles when she wants attention. That’s my cue to stop, take a break, and pet her for a sec. And since she’s an ornery cat, I get exactly two pets before she tries to bite my hand off, so the break doesn’t need to be long.
Give your inner perfectionist a break. Tell her to go on vacation. Tell him to take a hike. Get over yourself. No one is perfect. Not even you. Stop pretending you have a chance of creating something perfect. Go for mastery. Go for really good. Give the rest up. Most importantly, get it done.
Use tools that work for you. As I’ve admitted, I am a productivity app junkie. I have spent many hours searching for great tools to help me and my clients be more efficient and productive.
The important thing is to remember that you have to find the tool(s) that work for your way of being in the world.
- Are you visual? Try Trello or Meistertask.
- Do you like to brainstorm and write down your tasks at the speed of light? Then Trello probably won’t work, but “The Hit List” might.
- Do you like hierarchies that go down ten levels in a project? Or would you rather see everything in one big list all at once?
- Do you like drag and drop options, or to have things sorted by due date?
These are all things to consider when finding the right tool.
Break down your tasks to small action items. The next best action on your to do list needs to have everything you need to get the job done. Need to make a call? Have the number right there in the task. That way you don’t have to search for it. Having to search for something can often lead to procrastination.
Eat consistently throughout the day, including breakfast. Eat clean, healthy, balanced meals. Time management is about 95% energy management. Keep your energy high and you’ll get more done.
Manage your energy. While eating steadily throughout the day will help you keep up your stamina, it can only take you so far. It’s natural for our energy to fluctuate throughout the day. Work on the tasks that require thought when your energy is high and leave the mind-numbing tasks for when your brain is can’t really do anything else. Filing, cleaning your desk, or organizing your tasks for the next day are all great tasks to do when your energy is low.
Follow the two-minute rule. This one is from David Allen, the creator of the GTD (Getting Things Done) system. The idea behind this one is if a task can be done in less than 2 minutes, then do it right away. Anything else can be put on your to do list or delegated.
Sweat the small stuff. Chunk your admin tasks into one modified pomodoro and try to wipe out as many as you can. Things like filing, organizing digital files, calling the insurance company for a quote, etc. can be done in a group. Waiting on hold for an insurance rep is the perfect time to file those papers that have been sitting on your desk for days. Make sure to do them when your energy is lower.
Have a regular place to keep your tasks. Related to the last post. Make sure that your priorities and notes for those priorities are put in a regular place – calendar, to do app, Onenote, Evernote, whatever. The last thing you want to do Monday morning is look for that list. You want to have it ready to go.
Take the weekends off. I mean it. Friday afternoon write up your top priorities for the following week and the top 3 priorities for Monday. Make sure you’ve got your next action items for each so you can start your Monday ready to go. Put them in your calendar so you have a plan for tackling them. Then let it go knowing that you have a game plan already set for the week.
You need time to relax, rejuvenate, and revive your energy for the following week. Plus, it’s great for ideas and inspiration. You’ll be much more productive next week if you take this weekend off. Go hang out with your family and/or friends. Get out in nature. Party it up. Do whatever you love doing and do it guilt free knowing that you’ll actually be ready for Monday morning with a peaceful mind, more inspiration, and more insight.
Decrease your bad habits. Watch too much TV? Get rid of it like I mentioned earlier. Ok. I know that most people won’t do that, but you can put the remote in a really inconvenient place so you have to take a solid action to go get it. It’s not available right away.
What other bad habits are getting in the way of you being more productive? One of the big ones for many people is going to bed late. I go to bed pretty early so that I can be super productive in the morning. I’ve read that many successful, happy people get up and start working by 5am. I do that and love it. For me, there is nothing better than having that quiet productive time in the mornings.
Instead of binge-watching on Netflix for three hours every evening, I go to bed early and get three hours of inspired work done in the morning. (I leave my binge-watching for the weekends).
Increase good habits. Many of the tips in this list can be turned into good habits. The easiest way to add a good habit to your life is to attach it to something you’re already doing on a daily basis – like brushing your teeth, or feeding your pet — stuff that you’re doing daily that you no longer have to remind yourself to do.
The trick is to remember to keep it small. Dr. BJ Fogg at Stanford University calls these tiny habits. The last thing you want to do is try to add habits that take up half your day. Break these down into tasks that you can do that take just a few minutes or less and you’ll be well on your way to creating positive habits in your life.
Create a ritual builder. I’ve created a spreadsheet in Apple Numbers that helps me keep track of the good habits I want to develop. It looks something like this:
The idea is to get as close to your goal as you can EVERY DAY. Eventually it becomes a habit and no-brainer.
Invest in things that improve your productivity. Things like apps, classes, a little research, etc. A long time ago, I decided that I would learn keyboard shortcuts for almost any app I use consistently.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen use their mouse to highlight a group of text, go up to the top of the screen, pull down the dialog box, click the copy command, click where they want it to paste, go back up to the top of the screen, pull down the dialog box, and click paste. It takes them like a full minute to copy and paste text! Excruciating.
CTRL (or command) C and CTRL (or command) V keyboard shortcuts takes about two seconds.
Stop banging your head. What I mean by this is if you find yourself not getting the task done because you’re just not feeling it, do something else.
For example, when I was working on my doctorate, I would try to work on a paper, or study, in an afternoon when I’d been working pretty hard all morning. I expected to be able to work that hard all afternoon as well. Often, it just didn’t happen. My brain wasn’t up for it. I just hit the wall.
When you find that you’ve hit the wall and just can’t do your important, mind-intensive task, do something a little more menial. Put some music on and file some papers, organize your desk or office space. Find something on your to do list that you can check off, but doesn’t require a lot of brain power.
Never ever ever go on a social media site without setting a timer. I talked about timers in a previous tip, but this one is specific to social media. Sometimes we have to go on these sites to market our business, but they can be time sucking nightmares if we’re not careful. A timer can be your best productivity friend. Use it.
Plan your ideal week. Get a blank weekly calendar. Most digital calendar programs have a way for you to print out a blank one. Sketch out your ideal week. Start with what’s most important to you — projects, people, recreation, etc. Think about what and who you’d like to have in your life on a regular basis. Sketch out blocks of time for these things. What time would you like to get up? Have breakfast? Start your work day? Have lunch? Finish work? Have dinner?
When would you like to have fun? Work on hobbies? Get some exercise?
What would you mainly like to be doing during your work time? What tasks, etc. do you enjoy that you’d like to do consistently?
Put all of that in the calendar and start to schedule your real calendar to match. You most likely won’t be able to match perfectly on a daily and weekly basis, but the closer you get, the happier you’ll be.
Learn to speed read. I took a course not too long ago that doubled my reading speed. Now, I spend time practicing and getting faster and faster. The number of business books, personal development books, and online blogs and articles I read has gone up considerably.
Get the app, MySpeed, or something similar for online video watching speedy-ness. As a business coach, I do my best to keep up w/ business books, business programs and courses, and anything that is going to help my clients grow their business. Often, this requires me to watch online training videos. Since our brains can comprehend things at speeds much faster than most people speak, this program can speed things up considerably. It actually helps me comprehend the material better because my mind doesn’t wander as much. Try it. It’s worth the money.
Invest in a monthly subscription to Audible, the online audiobook website. For one monthly fee, you can download an audiobook or two. I listen to business and personal development books (and the occasional novel) while I’m on my walk every morning.
I love that it hooks to Amazon’s Kindle books w/ the Whispersync technology so that I can go back and forth between reading and listening to a book. Similar to MySpeed for videos, the Audible app on my phone allows me to speed up the playback so I can get through the book even faster.
Get your file system in order. This includes digital files. After working with one of my clients for a couple of months, I came back to him and let him know that he’d paid me hundreds of dollars to look for files because his systems were atrocious. Put together a file system and naming convention that is useful and intuitive for your business. Your bottom line and productivity will thank you for it.
Calm your sh*t. Have you ever been so stressed, upset, irritated with someone, or downright b*tchy that you couldn’t concentrate? I know I have. When I find myself pacing my home office, grumbling to myself, I know that that’s my cue to stop, breathe, put some music on and take a dance break. A few minutes dancing usually allows me to get centered and back on track. While dancing may not be your thing, find something that works the same for you. Whatever that is. Nothing kills productivity more than negative emotions running amuck.
Keep two lists. The first list is your top 3 tasks/priorities for the day. Those are the things you absolutely want to get done that day. The second list is for possibilities. What happens if you get your top 3 tasks done during the day? That’s when you go to your possibilities list. I know some people have one big list that they prioritize. That feels overwhelming to me.
Make time for focused work. While I love the modified Pomodoro for most tasks, sometimes I need to do a deep dive into something to make real progress. Focused work is that work that allows you to get in the flow. Where you lose track of time. Writing, studying, research, are all work activities that require focus. I tend to do this work in the early morning when my ability to focus is at it’s highest.
Keep your mouth shut.
Don’t talk, just do. There’s nothing as demotivating to your goals than talking about them. Have you ever noticed yourself losing motivation to accomplish something once you start telling people about it? Next time, just do it. Don’t tell a soul. See what happens. Keeping it a secret can be exhilarating. I bet your motivation continues and even gets stronger.
Change the scene. When you find yourself struggling to stay on track, a change of scenery can do wonders. Anything from propping your feet up on the desk to taking your laptop to a café for a while can make a world of difference.
Know your why. Why do you want to own your own business? Get in touch with what truly motivates you about starting and owning your own business. That why will motivate you when things get tough.
Start every day with that why and you’ll be more inspired to get things done throughout the day.
Use the ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ feature on your phone. Already use it? I dare you to inch up the time spent in “DO NOT DISTURB” by 15 minutes a day for two weeks. Eek! How does that feel? A bit nerve-wracking, I bet. Did your heart go into palpitations? Did you break a bit of a sweat?
Didn’t know there was such a thing? You can set it up so that only certain numbers go through during the “DO NOT DISTURB” timeframe (like kids and parents, etc.). On the iPhone, you can also set it up so that if they call back right away, it goes through.
Try it. I dare you.
Put the phone in the nether regions of your purse or bag when you are having a real life conversation. With a real person. At a real place. You’ll be able to focus on them, build that relationship, which will help your business and productivity in the long run. You’ll see. Try it.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s inattention due to their phone being more important than you? Didn’t feel good, did it? There’s nothing worse for productivity than someone else’s resentment. Plus, it’s terrible for building a network of awesome people that can help you grow your business.
Limit the time-sucking Internet. Use the awesomely named app, StayFocused, to regulate how much time you spend online. You can tell it how much time you want to spend on any particular site. Want to spend 10 minutes on Facebook checking your newsfeed? You can set it up so that it gives you those ten minutes and then you are done. Done.
Memorize this question and get in the habit of asking yourself it consistently, whenever you start a new activity:
Does this add to my business or life?
Be careful of justifying your answer. I know I can find 10 reasons why looking through my Facebook feed can somehow enhance my life. Try not to do that. I know the difference and I’m sure you do too.
Buy and use a standing desk solution. Standing desk solutions allow you to stand up and work, or bring them down and sit. This is amazing for productivity, as well as great for your health and well-being. There have studies out recently showing that sitting at a desk all day is as bad for your health as smoking. That’s not good.
I own a Varidesk, but there are several other companies that sell similar products.
Set yourself up for success during your morning routine. Three of my daily goals were to drink 96 ounces of water, do 40 minutes of strength training, and do 20 minutes of yoga stretches per day. So, In the morning, I would set myself up to do these things easily. I would fill up a 32 ounce cup of water and put it on my desk within arms reach. I would then take out my yoga mat and put it behind my desk so it was ready to go whenever I wanted to stretch. I would also take out my hand weights and queue up a strength training video to have ready to go.
Have a system to capture stuff. Use a system to capture tasks, ideas, projects, and bits of information that pop into your head. You can use a small notebook, index cards, or smartphone. I use the voice recorder on my iPhone to capture ideas. It pretty much works everywhere except the shower and I can record a note with just one hand.
Then when I’m back at my desk, I just listen and add the idea to my task list. Easy peasy.
Don’t let stuff pile up. Set aside time every day to process your inbox (email, physical, voicemail, note-taking system). Go through each system and make sure all the tasks and ideas are captured in your task list.
Only touch stuff once. This one is also from David Allen. As you go through your inbox, decide whether you need to do it right away, add it to your task list, file it for later use, delegate it to someone else, or delete it.
And remember, when I say inbox, I don’t just mean email. I mean your physical inbox, voicemail messages, and the note-taking system you use to capture ideas.
Create a review ritual. Every evening review your most important tasks for the day. Did you get them done? If so, great. Give yourself a high five. If not, take a moment to think why not. Did other tasks get in the way? Did stuff come up that you weren’t expecting? Did you find yourself procrastinating on something?
If that’s the case, look at why. Sometimes it’s as simple as not having the simplest action items listed. You just need to drill down further so you can easily start the task. Remember, something as simple as not having a phone number can make you procrastinate on making a call. Sometimes procrastination is based in fear because the task seems overwhelming or scary. Take a good look at the reasons for your procrastination so you can solve them the next day.
Create inspiring goals for your business (and life). I know this may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many of my clients didn’t do this before starting to work with me. Listen. Starting and running a business is hard work. I’m not going to lie. There is a lot to learn and it requires a whole new skill set.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s incredibly rewarding and fun, but it requires a lot of work and focused energy. I spent way too much time in the beginning floundering around and feeling overwhelmed.
Create and prioritize your wildest dreams list. This one is listed last, but it really is the most important. You’re creating a freedom-filled business because you want to have a life as well.
If you don’t already have a wildest dreams list, I highly recommend you get one started. A wildest dreams list is a list of experiences you want to enjoy before you die. I suggest you take it a step further and prioritize the list and put the top 2-3 experiences in your calendar.
Always wanted to go to Switzerland? Put it at the top of your list and put it on your calendar. Make the time frame feasible based on your budget and other commitments. You’ll be more inspired to work on your business knowing that a long-time dream is coming true.