I was busy and I needed a productivity hack that would help me progress.
Do you put you needs last?
Me? I used to say “I’ll do that when I’ve finished XYZ” or “I’ll do all my calls first thing that way they’re done and dusted”.
This method held me back and didn’t work.
The problem is that when I’ve spent a huge chunk of the day focusing on other peoples businesses I get swamped by their details, their progress and by the time it comes to doing it for me, I have no energy and it’s always last minute. What did I do?
Altering my productivity strategy had a really positive effect.
Work starts at 10am. I don’t take any calls until at least 11am and I don’t do any client work until after lunch.
I’m better in my business when I get to spend time with it first thing in the day. Concerned it would be detrimental to my client work it’s actually the opposite. Not worrying about mine means I’m great at theirs.
Why was this damaging?
Making elaborate time blocked plans but filled my day with my client work, none of mine.
Treated them as if they were more important than me and when it comes to mindset that creates a whole other mess!
Great clients but little consistency for my business. 100% focused on existing clients and hadn’t expanded my audience.
Spending the day ‘over delivering’ for my clients but reactive in my own and mentally drained.
Not anymore though.
My current schedule
5-6:00: Get up, have a cup of tea and do 20-30 minutes of exercises which vary from day to day
7:00: Have breakfast and just mentally plan my day and allow my mind to wander – give myself space to think and be creative
7:30: Housework and social media engagement with others
9:00: When possible I take the dog for a walk then shower and get myself ready for the day ahead
10:00: Emails, diary check and prepare social media. Make sure Josh is organised for his ‘school work’
11:00: Client call (Tues/Weds/Thurs). If no call booked I work on research, proposals and pitching.
13:00: Client work
15:00: Coffee and quick housework (get washing off line etc)
16:00: Complete works, follow ups and client related project work. Also, this is the time I start getting harassed by my son and dog about what’s for dinner and wanting my time
17:30: Finish up for the night and go make dinner, finish chores and read or watch TV with Ryan and Josh.
Rarely do I do any client work on a Monday or Friday either. These days are solely for content creation and driving my own business forward. It works for me.
Perhaps you feel you can’t do it. I’m not perfect at it either. Maybe you think you just can’t ‘productivity hack’ your way to a different schedule or you already use some productivity hacks and find them helpful, I still ‘time block’ but it’s different.
If things aren’t working for you right now then I encourage you to take a look at your schedule. Map out what you do every day for a week and make a note of what you’re not getting done that is ESSENTIAL.
Finding time to prioritise your own businesses is the best thing you can do, that’s not a productivity hack but a better use of your time.
In lock-down it is harder to maintain but I urge you to try anyway. Working in a way that prioritises your business, whether it’s a ‘productivity hack’ or not, the quality you provide your clients will increase because you’ve got the mental space to allow it to. It’s your schedule.
Remind yourself of this. Doing exceptional work for your clients means nothing if you have to hustle for business because you haven’t nurtured your potentials.
What do you think?
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I wanted to share with you 5 things that can easily help improve your business right now because it’s important to still do the things you can right?
It’s been a minute since all this pandemic stuff really started to hit home and there’s still so much noise about what to expect in these ‘unprecedented times’. Lots of should, clouds and woulds and it can be overwhelming.
I got you!
That’s right, the most important thing you can be doing for your business right now is actually the most important thing you could be doing for yourself on a personal level too. This is a great time to look after your physical and mental health in ways that you feel are too difficult when you’re running around all over the place. So make sure you are getting good sleep, good nutrition (with some treats in there too of course) and staying well hydrated.
If you can get away with not setting an alarm don’t
Linger in the bath or shower longer than normal
Switch off your electronics a good 30 minutes to an hour before bed to give your brain a chance to rest
Make sure you breathe. We actually only use a small amount of lung capacity when we breath and deep breathing (even just in for 4 out for 4, 4 or 5 times) will really make a difference. It’s good for anxiety, headaches, tension and energy
If your business is still functioning and you’ve not been furloughed then you will need this more than ever. Put YOU first and this will have a ripple effect and improve your business. It WILL thank you for it.
#2 Get Creative!
This is a great way to support yourself and your business right now. We all know consistency and visibility rely on content so change up your routine a bit and batch create a shed load of content in your preferred format. Today this blog post is one of at least 8-10 that I intend to write. I will also then check through for snippets I can use on instagram posts and my intention is to also record a version of this too so that I have an audio I can send to my email list. Not on the list? Then Subscribe!
When you do this you can take some of the pressure off you by not being on the content creation wheel every week, it enables you to find more time and it also means that the people who are interested in what you do can see you consistently showing up for free for them. Staying in the forefront of peoples minds will serve you well.
#3 Fill your mind with things for pleasure and it will Improve Your Business
Yes I advocate learning, training etc (see point 4!), but I also think it’s important to spend time taking in other interesting things. It’s so easy to unintentionally repeat the message of your mentors, peers and ‘competition’ when you’re creating your own content because all of us spend so much time watching what they’re doing. It’s great to learn and be inspired but sometimes it hampers our vision and that then gets spread in the messages we are sharing in our content.
So read fiction or books written that don’t delve into your business or business at all. Watch movies that make you laugh or think but aren’t about building a business and follow some people on social media that have zero to do with your business but have inspiring accounts.
You’ll find this awakens your imagination and helps boost your own business creativity.
#4 Get better at what you do
Hone your expertise, learn that little extra that will help you and your business out and really use it in your business. Build on your existing skills, learn that new one that will take something in your business to the next level and really double down on becoming an expert in it.
None of us know everything there is to know, so learn and improve your business!
#5 Improve Your Business by spending time with the people that have invested in you.
I wholeheartedly believe that if people give you their email address, their follow and their comments then they are having a transactional experience with you. These guys and your paying clients are already miles ahead in the ‘know, like and trust’ mentality and that deserves your time. So,
Talk to your email list, answer their questions, share tools and information that they will find useful
Like, comment and share posts of your followers that resonate with you – engage, engage, engage – get to know them!
Offer thoughtful insights to your existing clients and make sure you’re supporting them to the best of your ability. Make sure they feel valued.
This last point is one of my favourites, if you’ve been here for any length of time you’ll know that I encourage exceptional customer service and how it will improve your business. Exceptional service can take many forms. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it that you may find useful.
I loved starting my business and I still love running it. But I won’t lie – it took a lot of time and a lot of effort to set it all up. It’s what gives me insight that allows me to be a small business mentor. If you want to find out more about me head to my about page.
What’s worse was that as I learned I discovered easier ways, less time consuming ways to do a lot of the work and often I wished I had invested in a coach or mentor sooner.
Coaches and Mentors aren’t all created equal and that means you should investigate them thoroughly before parting with your hard earned cash.
Why get a Small Business Mentor
I’m a great believer in free at point of entry services. Finding extra money when you’re in start-up phase can be particularly difficult. And because of that, getting a mentor at such an early stage can seem like a luxury you just can’t afford.
Even though you might have a great idea, setting up a business can be really hard.
You’re in good company if you’ve never run your own business. Most people haven’t and in all other areas of life we would seek help when we don’t know something. Why not this?
The good news is you can be a brilliant business owner as well as successful. You don’t even need the help but, like with anything, support from someone who has done it before can reduce the time it takes for you.
When you are starting out, having a plan is key to progress. It’s not enough just to have an idea you need to find a way to give it context. I still love to plan on paper, writing everything out under different categories and using sticky notes as and when other ideas strike!
Mentors can support you to create a viable business plan. There are a lot of factors they can help you get clear on from income, competitor analysis, processes and start up costs. All of these will help you structure your time and energy to get the most out of the actions you will be taking.
Small Business Identity
Helping you find your own business identity/brand is key to success. This can relate to your ideal client, methods of marketing and everything in between. One of the most common issues when starting out is to focus too much on what competitors are doing. This can mean it’s hard to differentiate your brand and business from everyone elses. A small business mentor support and guides you. Not only on the planning and practical steps you need to take in your business. But also, to make sure that the identity of your business is true to your vision.
The time and knowledge your mentor learned in their own business will benefit you greatly. It will reduce the time you spend back filling things that support your business. It’s like having a guide to getting the basics right, first time. Of course there is no guarantee of success, there are a lot of outside factors. But, a mentor will help guide you and keep you accountable when you need it the most.
What do I offer?
My mentoring package is just £65 per month. Providing guidance, support and practical advice. If you want to find out more, fill in your details below.
I love that there is so much less stigma than there was around this subject than even just 10 years ago.
Of course there’s a long way to go but we are getting better and there are so many more resources out there.
One of the reasons I became self employed was because I genuinely believed it would be mentally healthier for me than my high pressure job. I wasn’t wrong, it has been one of the single best decisions I have ever made but it’s not without it’s own pitfalls.
Starting your own business, going freelance or simply branching out can come with a plethora of triggers that you *could* feel blindsided by.
The great news is that these are all things you can overcome. The bad news is that you should be prepared to do the work. These examples are my own and the improvements have been based on my own experience. I’m not a medical professional – I just know what works for me and wanted to share that with you.
This one is a right bastard. It creeps up on you when everything is going swimmingly and often I find it’s at it’s worst when I spend too much time coveting other peoples business success or lifestyles.
So first things first. Remember who you are. You are an expert in your own experience, in your own point of view and your own business dreams – ONLY YOU are an expert in this area!
It’s this self awareness of your own skill-set, knowledge and experience that has people coming to you. If you walk into a room with someone who is doing something different or someone who is much more experienced in your chosen arena that does not negate your own individual experience, you’re the right fit for people too, this is when you should consider it an incredible opportunity for you to learn, not for you to shrink.
I know, easier said than done. There are a few things I do to make this less of a thing (and we all get it from time to time)
Reduce my mindless scrolling – yep I uninstall IG or take a couple days away from the socials. I always take little breaks during the day or week anyway – I don’t have notifications on because it pulls me in and whilst I’m working or with the family/friends I don’t even pick up my phone. It really does help.
I keep a file with all of the positive feedback I get and look through it from time to time. Reminding myself of the good I’ve done really makes a difference (I actually have a thank you card on my desk from a client who sent me the most beautiful flowers. It really helps)
Dedicate a bit of extra time to do the thing I’m really good at in my business – it always makes me feel good when I have been productive and creative.
Even in my old school reports my teachers would say ‘Amy is her own worst enemy’. I have been known to put things off or cancel things because they aren’t exactly how I think I should have made them. My standards of myself are higher than any anyone else has ever placed on me and less than I would ever place on someone else. It’s a crippling belief and behaviour pattern that can really negatively affect my mental health.
I believe it’s linked to low self esteem and I think that the key to overcoming this is accepting that you wish to be perfect but that there really is no such thing.
Things I do to help:
I give myself realistic deadlines and commit to them
I have a phrase I live by when I am in this mental space and that is ‘done is better than none’
I ask myself outloud in the mirror whether this is just my perfectionism talking. This makes me feel a bit silly and in effect creates a diversion
I wasn’t actually sure what to call this stage. It relates to other peoples opinions and how they affect us. I still remember to this day the boy that told me my teeth were orange and even now I hate smiling and showing teeth. For him it was a throwaway comment (I had just eaten a bag of wotsits) to me it was the gospel truth because it was someone elses belief and I therefore have orange teeth.
When I went self employed I was thrilled and then people started saying things like ‘I must be mad’ or ‘That’s a brave step since you’re probably not going to earn much for a while at least’ and I felt my fear kick in and motivation dwindle. This is so so hard. With the advent of social media and the onslaught of opening ourselves up to other peoples critisism it is really tough not to be brought down by it.
There was a client (a small tech start up) who I had been so excited to work with but ended up having to ‘fire’. As we progressed they wouldn’t share relevant information and made it clear that they thought I should be selling their business to my family (who are very successful in their own fields in silicon valley) when I said no – any pitches would have to go through the normal channels – they told me I wasn’t committed to their business. It hurt because I 100% was committed in the Virtual Assistant role I had but they were asking me to cross my own ethical and moral boundaries by leveraging a familial relationship for their business (they also consistently paid 60 days late!)
I ended our working relationship but I felt bad because they said I wasn’t committed enough. This plays on my mind even now at times because it’s how I’m built.
I certainly don’t have any real tricks to make this easier and I definitely still struggle with wearing the weight of other peoples opinions but I think the best way to overcome is to try to work on your self confidence everyday. That will partly mean taking action and being more decisive, staying authentic and living a life of integrity and to strive to continually grow and build our qualities and strengths. Here are a few things I try to remember when it feels too heavy a burden.
In the words of the great Rachel Hollis, ‘Other peoples opinions of me are none of my business’
The way people talk to or about you is a reflection of them not you.
As long as I am doing right by myself, my son and my family then I am ok regardless of what they think.
This leads on nicely from the last one because self doubt is part of all of us however can be easily combatted if you work on it. My top advice for working on yourself doubt are:
Take action and be decisive (it doesn’t give you the time to slip into the ‘what if’, train of thought)
Accept compliments and actually respond. When someone tells you you did something well say ‘thank you for noticing, I’m glad it was a positive experience for you’ or something along those lines reflective of their compliment WITHOUT justifying what you did or being self deprecating (it’s harder than you think if you’re like me!)
Help other people. This is my go to, firstly it takes me out of my own head but mainly because helping other people is bloody awesome and that makes everyone feel great.
This is going to happen whether you live in meditation on the beach in fiji or whether you’re starting a business from scratch, have screaming triplets and need to milk your own cow.
It is a part of life.
Stress is our body and brains response to an external influencing factor for example, I have to get 50 orders packed tonight and I’m running out of time and the kids need me.
This one sees me ask myself some questions – if the answers don’t help I will call a friend and talk it through.
Am I being honest with myself?
What can I get away with not doing to better support what I MUST do?
Is there anyone I can ask for help
This is much like stress however, it is generally triggered by internal feelings and doesn’t need an outside stresser to trigger it. This one I find hardest to manage of the two because it creeps up on me. But here are a few things I find help reduce my anxiety
Changing my space. If I’m on the sofa watching TV or at my desk writing content and I begin to feel anxious I stop what I’m doing and go to make myself a cup of tea or walk the dog or hang the laundry. Sometimes that is enough of a disruption.
Accept that I am feeling anxious and ask myself why this may be. Sometimes it’s trigger is a real thing and that may need addressing. Sometimes the trigger is just in my head and that may mean I need to change my internal talk and work extra hard on positive affirmations and my internal talk for a little while.
Ask myself – Have I slept enough? Have I drank enough water? Have I spoken with my best friends lately? Normally if I make sure I do one or all of those things I can reduce the level of anxiety dramatically.
Don’t forget I am just at the end of an email email@example.com and if you need more support then you can click NHS MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTand you’ll find a list of all sorts of UK based support services that can help.
The thing I’m learning about business and more importantly about being in business is that we all believe to some extent that we can only be successful if we are 100% confident in ourselves and in our businesses.
As a woman with a lot of personal ‘baggage’ in the hold I can’t help but get caught up in this mentality from time to time and whatever you coin it, it’s when the sneaky old imposter syndrome creeps in.
It’s no secret that confidence is a phenomenal selling tool.
You just have to look at the Kardashians to know that confidence has been a cornerstone of their success, this is the evidence we are seeing all around us and so our brains tells us ‘see, confidence is key’.
The difficulty is that we also have that deep desire to just wake up one day with a gut full of self confidence. We think ‘tomorrow it will be different, I’ll feel different and when I do, I’m going to…’
I believe that’s exactly why confidence is such a phenomenal selling tool. Because it’s something we all want more of.
It’s a commodity that often feels a little out of our reach, and what is business if it’s not based on the supply and demand principle somewhere along the line?
Confidence has been a bit of a buzzword for the last few years and in particular as social media has boomed. There are a shit tonne of books, podcasts, courses and trainings all designed to help you boost your confidence.
It’s brilliant, I want EVERYONE to feel more confident so anything that supports that – I’m down for it!
My experience is that confidence is a side effect.
It’s the same as losing weight and feeling healthier after changing your diet and exercise regime. Confidence comes from doing what we weren’t sure we could actually do.
A great example I have is back in September when I was on holiday in Turkey. It was a lovely holiday and we took a boat trip with friends and family (as you do). As is pretty normal the boat stopped in a gorgeous bay and everyone started jumping into the water from the various decks into the crystal clear blue waters below.
My then 14 year old desperately wanted to jump form the top deck. I was swimming in the sea below watching as he came to the edge (mama bear wanted to be at the bottom to do the proverbial catch) and it never occurred to me he wouldn’t be able to do it.
You see Josh climbs jumps and throws himself into and off of anything he can find on a regular basis, he’s THAT fearless kid but…
He just froze.
It was a horrible moment. There were other boats in the bay and their passengers were shouting at him to just get on with it, everyone on our boat was trying to egg him on and encourage him and I could see him just convincing himself that he couldn’t do it.
The more people pushed, the more he froze.
I was beside myself. I understood 100% because I absolutely knew I couldn’t have done it either, I’d never be able to, it’s not in me and to have that feeling made even worse by everyone else around him, to have that watched by so many people. Well it really hurt my heart and I could see his face burning with his unnecessary embarrassment.
I swam back to the boat, climbed to the top deck and shoo’d everyone away, grabbing Joshs hands I asked what he needed from me and he said. “Mum, I think I’ll be OK if you do it first”
As I walked towards the edge I felt like crying. I couldn’t do it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it, after all it just wasn’t in me. I wasn’t confident enough and then…
Apart from being absolutely petrified as I flailed uncontrollably through the air only to hit the water and have my swimming costume wedge itself so far up my bum I could floss my teeth with it, I realised, I could do it. I had in fact I had done it and I was fine.
I didn’t need to be confident to do it. I just needed to take a leap of faith (literally), the confidence came AFTERWARDS as a side effect.
For those of you wondering Josh didn’t jump.
He said a few choice words to the people on the other boatsand went and had a good cry on his sun lounger with his sunglasses on.
When everyone was having lunch I took him to the middle deck and we jumped off together and he realised jumping off the top deck wasn’t the challenge – simply jumping off the boat into the lush water was what he wanted to do.
He then did it about 100 times because as a side effect of doing it the first time he created the confidence to do it again (and again and again, getting more flamboyant with each jump).
When we feel ‘stuck’ or frozen we often wrap this up with lacking confidence and not being good enough. There’s also a natural aversion to ’embarrassment’ or shame in there too which I think is one of the reasons we aren’t all ‘more confident’ – we want everyone to think their highest of us at all times and the thought that we might be laughed at or liked less makes many of us very uncomfortable.
But, if confidence is a ‘by product’ what do you need to do to get it?
The truth is that we create confidence by having the courage to have a bias toward action.
Doing something we weren’t certain we could do is exactly how we build our confidence. The more we do it the more confidence we build up.
When someone else, your child, a friend, a loved one wants to do something that they are finding hard, you don’t encourage confidence, you encourage being brave, having faith in themselves and the very definition of that is not knowing the outcome but doing it anyway.
It’s why so many people say things like ‘start before you’re ready’ or ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’
Because confidence is not a commodity you can buy. It’s a trait you can learn and you can only learn it through doing.
Of course, it also helps when your reason for having to ‘do the thing’ is bigger than your worry. Just like me jumping off the boat, I did it because in that moment it’s what my son needed. In my business the reasons are multi faceted but they’re all bigger than my fear of the thing.
Helping women just like me build their own businesses
Creating financial security
Being healthy and happy
Showing my son you can build your dreams in your chosen image
Setting women who feel like ‘this is all’ free to reach their greatest potential
Building my own dream rather than someone elses
never having to request annual leave
Being the captain of my own ship and showing other single mums with no money they can too
Fear is normal. In fact it’s hardwired into us as an evolutionary safety net to prevent us from dying. It’s important to remember that fear is designed to stop us from literal death but the way we react to certain things will mimic that – for instance speaking in public or going live on Facebook.
We all know we aren’t actually going to die from doing these things but the chemical and emotive reactions are the same and that’s why we freeze or struggle or put it off.
There is no difference between logical and illogical fear so our response is perhaps disproportionate.
How can we change it?
For us as adults it’s exactly what I mentioned before, having the faith and courage to have a bias towards action and that is easier with a strong reason.
But it’s also important to show our children, peers and audience this so that we encourage them to be more courageous too and thereby helping them evidence that they have confidence to show up for themselves too.
I’m super lucky, I was raised by a ‘doer’ but my innate personality means I struggle with this every single day. Even in so much as writing and sharing this blog post.
But I practice (and I mean practice) having an action towards bias and can honestly say the more I do this the easier it gets, the more confident I become. I have to do it over and over and over and over.
It’s like learning anything. You watch, learn, practice, rinse and repeat until eventually it’s second nature. Then you keep on doing it.
Catch you later, Amy x
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