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 want to keep revisiting brainstorming and goal setting in the lead up to my FREE WORKSHOP partly because I gave myself the challenge of writing a new blog post every day and partly because I think it’s so freakin’ important to build in these foundations for your business.
My assumption here is that you have done your brain dump of every idea in your busy mind. Business ideas, new start up ideas, ideas to move your existing business forward – all those ideas should be on a page somewhere.
If you haven’t gotten around to prioritising or don’t really know how to then here’s a great tip I learned somewhere along the way.
So you’ve brain dumped every idea goal and hope you have onto the page. Now you need to cut.it.back…
That’s right you need to sift through and filter those ideas until you’re left with fewer but more significant ones. These are your priorities, but how do you filter it?
You need to ask and confirm 3 things for each and every idea – this is how you will filter the non priorities from the essentials.
What would the reward for making this idea happen be? How would it impact you when you achieve it? For example what would happen to/for you financially/mentally/for your family/for your business/your life
How will this idea coming to fruition help other people? Your family, your team, your clients, your community
What do you have to be/who do you have to become in order to turn this from a goal into real life ‘completed it mate’? Do you have to develop any skills or build in any new habits?
Filtering in this way doesn’t mean you wont pick up the other ideas at some point, it means that you can focus on the ideas that will reap the biggest rewards and stretch you to growth the most now. So be brutal, don’t feel guilty just put away the ones that are for another year or when you have nailed one of the ones you’ve chosen to focus on.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with 20 long term goals, remember where you’re currently at you may be able to focus on 3 (this is what I do – 1 business, 1 personal and 1 learning – and they often link up if I’m honest) but your circumstances are different to mine. When I was a single mum it was harder to find time, now I’m in an equal partnership and my son is older I can do more, so don’t beat yourself up if you have 1 goal and don’t put pressure on yourself to have 6, listen to yourself and trust that you know how far you can split your dedication.
I would love to hear from you, get in touch and share whether you’ve set any goals and what they are.
If you missed the FREE workshop why not sign up for access to all my FREE workshops, masterclasses, webinars and tutorials? Click SIGN UP TODAY below.
Inspiration strikes at strange times, take now for example. I was given a book of 365 puzzles for Christmas, the design shows that the intention behind it is to do 1 puzzle per day. It’s brain training but in bite-size chunks which, if you’ve ever read any of my posts, is exactly how I like to do just about everything.
Whilst I was working on a puzzle I started to think about the day before – a visit to the hospital and what I should take from it and I hit myself smack bang in the face with some home truths that I’d been pushing to the back of my mind for months.
It all started with Friday when I went to my weekly physio appointment in Cambridge, the hospital is about 45 minutes away from where I live and leaving my front door and sitting in the waiting room takes around an hour ‘door – to – bum on seat’.
Yep, thinking about it threw up some uncomfortable truths about my personality type, my behaviour patterns and my general ‘I want instant gratification’ trait that I am not always happy with.
Friday was a process from start to finish and it reminded me of a few very basic things that I’m going to make a supreme effort to bear in mind over the next few months.
I hope it makes you think about your personal goals, habits and lessons learned in such a way that you actually make some changes this year. Not for 2020 but for you, forever.
Lesson 1 – counter balance is a real thing:
First issue I have is that when I feel particularly stressed or anxious on a personal level I search for excuses and not solutions for my own problems.
So yeah, I almost cancelled the appointment because I found a hell of a lot of excuses.
You see, Ryan had eye surgery 4 days before and was still required to posture which basically meant that for 55 minutes of every hour he had to lay on his right hand side.
I was worried about leaving him for what was likely to be a 2.5 hour round trip. I was also worried about driving for more than 30 minutes in case I wasn’t ready for it, after all it had barely been 4 weeks since I had hand surgery.
My head was swimming with excuses to cancel
I should be here because someone might knock at the door and he would have to stop posturing and try to corral the dog who would go nuts.
What if I overran and it spanned the time I needed to make sure he had taken his medication and eye drops?
What if I couldn’t manage a whole hour behind the wheel?
What if…what if…what if.
I was certain I was going to cancel it. I had worried about it all Thursday night and really struggled in the morning too; girlfriend guilt was strong because I felt like I was putting myself first. I’m sure I’m not the only one that struggles with this kind of guilt?
I tried to take a step back and I asked myself how could I allay some of my worries? Was there a way that I could make any adjustments or contingencies?
I was reminded of that phrase that someone once so eloquently said ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.
So instead of cancelling I…
Wrote a note for our front door that asked people not to knock unless it was an emergency as someone was recovering from surgery and it wasn’t currently safe for them to move.
I made sure Ryan had taken his medication in the moments just before I left which would give me 4 hours grace. I also made sure that I’d left it for him to easily use in case I wasn’t back in time.
I left 20 minutes earlier than I normally would and planned a rest break for 15 minutes in the middle of the journey in case I needed it.
Of course it all went fine, I was there and back in 3 hours on the nose. Ryan was fine when I got back (still asleep on the sofa in fact) and I remembered and I’m here to remind you:
I addressed some of my concerns, I put things in place to counter balance them and made some contingency plans for the ‘what if’s’
Lesson 2 – do the bloody work:
During my physio session I was reminded of how improved my hand is. For 2 years I had 0 movement in my finger tip. Not that much of an issue? It was for me. It had meant that my tendons on both sides of my hand were tightening because they couldn’t move freely.
Think of the tendons like a pulley (see image), both sides work synergistically to make the whole process work. Now imagine that the very top of the pulley has been glued so that it can’t move. As you can imagine that means that the other elements of the pulley can’t do their job either.
That was my right hand and as it worked less, more of it was becoming ‘glued’ / stuck which meant I was getting more and more reduced movements and lots more daily pain.
The physio I see has seen me through since day one and is fantastic. We were talking and I was gushing about how happy I was with the outcome of the surgery and how the surgeon was so great – even though I only have 10% movement it has moved the needle enough to enable me to use my hand in my day to day life (like typing, washing my hair, pushing myself out of the bath safely, using a knife and fork properly and supporting myself using banisters etc.)
Jemma paused and looked at me whilst I basically just threw up all the words I knew (I was insanely chatty) and said to me “don’t forget you’re doing the work, surgery wouldn’t have worked without you tirelessly doing your physio when there’s no-one there to cheer you on.”
And I do. Every hour I do around 35 exercises. I wear a splint 3-5 times a day which is super uncomfortable to help lengthen my tendons (which have shortened with multiple repairs) and I wear a thing at night that supports my hand, reduces swelling and reduces the production of collagen. I still have to take mild painkillers every 4 hours or it hurts too much to manage the physio. I also go to my appointments, get ultrasound therapy, put through my paces with additional exercises and do what I’m told.
The surgery gave me the tools but it was my job to use them.
The needle wouldn’t have moved if I had not committed to the work. Even though I hate it, even though it’s painful and frustrating and there doesn’t always seem to be an end in sight.
This isn’t just a life lesson, it’s a key business strategy for any entrepreneur. In business as in life It’s normal to be struggling with where to start with it all. There is help out there if you find yourself unsure.
If you are interested in doing a 1 hour workshop with me to get some clarity then I would love to hear from you – click this link to sign up to my FREE email breakdown on‘DOING THE WORK’and find out more about the workshop.
Lesson 3 – taking care of yourself is NON NEGOTIABLE:
Ok so I touched on this already.
I gave every excuse as to why Ryans health was more important than mine. But by finding a way to go to that appointment I reminded myself that without my taking care of myself there wouldn’t be a me capable of doing the things we all needed me to do.
He needed me to be able to drive and help support his recovery, as a small business owner my business needed me to be able to function and create and do my work, my son needs me for the school run, homework help, study support and love and I need me to be able to live my life well.
I so often think of other people as being more important than me and it’s a bad habit to be in simply that the other person is currently in need of more of my help than usual and that absolutely means I needed to look after myself as a priority.
Reminding myself that taking care of my health is a personal goal for me and not at all selfish but in fact allows me to be generous in physical and emotional support to my loves is important.
Your health should be the very top of your daily non negotiables list. I’m trying to do that more myself.
I know it’s all human behaviour but genuinely sometimes I wonder at the psychology of everyday living and how we often struggle with our own mental health (as well as physical) because we are simply not taking better care of ourselves in the situations where we have the ability if only we could bring ourselves to.
Want to use those lessons AND reframe what it means to set yourself up for success in your business? Sign up for your FREE guide to set up for success below.
You want to level up but you’re swamped with the day to day of your business and haven’t got the time to invest in it. You also (and this is the crucial part) aren’t ready to outsource.
I was in the same boat a while ago. I still don’t want to outsource yet. Mostly because I really enjoy all that I do. I also got really fed up of people telling me to outsource and what was worse? I was a virtual assistant at the time, someone who relied heavily on other people wanting to outsource. How hypocritical did I feel?!
Often we overload and over complicate our small businesses because as they evolve (particularly when they are starting to make a little money) we carry on doing everything that we were doing and simply add in more.
Imagine that in your home. Everytime you changed your sofa you kept the old one. It wouldn’t take long for the volume to creep up and the space to reduce. It’s the same with your business.
You should make it a habit of re-evaluating your essential task lists on a regular basis. You should also consider your whole life tasks, family/social/personal as well as business.
Feeling overwhelmed like I was? Grab a cuppa and lets do an exercise to see what you’re actually doing with your time.
List everything and I mean everything that you currently do on a day to day, week to week basis both personally and professionally. Make 3 copies.
Label copy 1 – ONLY I AM ABLE TO DO THESE THINGS. Label copy 2 – I HATE DOING THESE THINGS/THINGS THAT I LOVE TO DO. Label copy 3 -.THINGS THAT ARE NOT EXACTLY NECESSARY
Grab a highlighter (you’ll need 2 for copy 2) and on each copy look at every item and then ask yourself the title in the form of a question. I.e. housework – am I the only one able to do these things? If the answer is yes, then highlight it.
Now you take each copy 1 by one.
Copy 1. You have highlighted everything that only you can do. So these are the absolute essentials of your time requirements. This means that everything else can be altered/negotiated/stopped or shared. A good example for me was hosting dinner once a month for friends. We now take it in turns which means I only have to prep and do it once every 4 months! Alternatively I also had researching tech and updating, renewing, or upgrading my hardware for the business. I have a very competent IT guy in my pocket so why do those things myself?
Copy 2. The things you love to do are highlighted in one colour, the things you hate in another. It’s clear to see where your energy lies, which tasks revitalise it and which drain it. It’s time to compare to list 1 to figure out which ones are essential for you to do. Out of those how many do you love/hate accordingly. This will help no end with your diary/work load schedule. (Bonus tip – if possible simply stop doing the things that drain you – if you can’t stop or share the load with these then I would consider eating the frog and schedule the completion of these as the first jobs of the day so that your energy is boosted simply because they’re not on your list anymore!)
Copy 3. This one is key. If you can drop these tasks, drop them – no shame, no judgement. Some things we do because we feel we *should* or because they’ve become a habit. Things change though. When I started out as a VA I was going to multiple in person networking events per month and there were very few that actually felt beneficial – they weren’t my ideal clients and so I dropped most of the events completely – the freedom was fantastic.
Time Management is definitely something a masterclass could help with – especially when it’s FREE. Sign up below for access.
September is rolling in thick and fast and my brain is in shock with how quickly this last quarter of 2019 has come around!
In my experience it can make you feel one of two things. Excited and energised by the change in seasons and the last leg of the year or, stuck and overwhelmed and feeling like time is just sand running through your fingers.
For the most part it’s a wonderful energy inducing time for me, even as a child it was always one of my favourite times of year (it probably had a little something to do with new stationery). I always get the same September feeling that I got back then, especially now that I’m a mum and running my own small business.
It’s not always roses though, the hazard of sensory overload while everyone shares their highlight reels can begin to highlight just how stuck you feel. You know what I mean, that sense you have that you’re eons away from your end goals.
It’s summer fatigue mixed in with an autumn fall. You feel the pressure of having just three months left in the year and it can actually feel a little overwhelming. Like you’re not where you want to be, in turn this makes you feel like you must be failing, stopping your momentum and motivation in its tracks.
Knowing this is actually a weapon in your arsenal to fight back allowing you to make change. We decided to change things up a bit here so we’re being a little controversial by going away for the first two weeks of term (Don’t worry, my house insurance isn’t invalid as we have a house sitter who will be living here while we are getting quality time).
You need to make progress but you feel like you’re dragging yourself through tar and now it’s back to school, the last quarter and you almost feel like why bother…
The thing to remember right now is that your business also peaks and troughs just like the seasons (and with it your emotions and energy levels) and when you find yourself in the low there’s no need to drown in it.
A really useful way to help yourself in these instances is to make a ‘progress not perfection plan’. I make it a habit of doing this in my business pretty frequently too, especially when I’m starting to feel aimless.
It’s a super simple way to breakdown the end goal into bite size chunks and the smallest associated tasks. We choose the mini milestones on your plan and it really helps to bring it back to the now. To the action you can take now to see progress.
It’s less about being perfect and more about just seeing the needle move.
Using ‘progress not perfection plans’ can help you to take back control and re energise yourself and your small business for the next month or even the last quarter. It will help you to stop the ‘times running out’ overwhelm. I share FREE trainings and masterclasses which talk about the best ways to do this. If you want in then click SIGN UP TODAY below.
In your business, there’s no such thing as why bother!