Being busy has become a badge of honour. Being sleep deprived, the norm.
Back in early 2009, this was me, often leaving the house before it was light and not returning until after any normal person's bedtime.
It was also the year that I decided things had to change. My daughter was 3 and I barely saw her, my husband – same problem and I could see life slipping by too quickly.
A big motivation for me to move from employee to business owner was the ability to set my own hours, manage my work load and hopefully be a lot less “busy” while still making an income.
What I found out right away, and you may have experienced this with your blog as well, is that you end up working twice as much because there's always one more thing to do. One more post, one more social media account to check, one more post to read. It never ends and it's all right at your finger tips.
The myth of breezy entrepreneurship and blogging, working from a beach chair was definitely not my reality, nor did it seem to be for the vast majority of women I was speaking with.
Then, 2 years ago, my family and I experienced one of those massive, jarring, life experiences that changed everything. One of those moments when you have to evaluate everything and figure out what the hell you're going to do now. How will you move forward?
You see, our main family income, my husband's, was all of a sudden in question. I know many of you have experienced this over the last number of years and although our situation wasn't recession related, it's terrifying nonetheless.
Up until that point, my business and blog had been a great supplementary income and a wonderful creative outlet. But all of a sudden, it needed to be something more. The thought of returning to a 9 to 5 job made me feel physically ill so I was pretty sure my gut was telling me to make this business thing work – and work on a bigger scale so I could support the family if things didn't turn out well.
Feel free to ask any of my friends, but one of my most annoying qualities is looking on the bright side of life, always. There isn't a doom and gloom bone in my body.
So I jumped in with both feet and really started to focus on creating the best possible client experience I could, took on more work and started working full time. What became incredibly obvious right away was that me earning a full time income meant working more than full time hours. And that meant there was a little girl and a husband who would only get to see a closed office door instead of a mom and a wife.
Not cool. Especially since this was the issue that I was trying to fix in the first place!
So what's a girl to do? For me, it meant figuring out how to be productive and build my business without constantly having to add more work time to my day. It meant attending every hockey game, gymnastics class and date night without a thought to “what else do I have to do right now” because there would be nothing else I needed to do.
These last 2 years have brought us a lot of hard moments and they aren't over yet, but it's also helped me learn these 4 productivity strategies that are responsible for taking me from being just busy to actually productive and maybe more importantly – to a full time income on my part time hours.
4 productivity hacks that transformed my business, my blog… and my life
1. Start with your why.
Introducing new habits into your life usually sucks and doesn't last too long. Every time I tried to lose weight, workout more or create a house cleaning routine can speak to that.
If you know the why, you can endure almost any how (I can't remember who's quote this is, but it's so true!)
For me, it's the family. With a busy husband, an 11 year old girl and a 1 year old little man, we're always on the go – but also always prioritizing time with each other.
They are the most powerful and profound, yet simple WHY I've ever had. Being more productive means that I'm around more physically and mentally for them.
What's your why? Why do you want to become more productive? What's the big payoff to actually improving this area of your life?
2. If it takes 2 minutes, do it now.
This wonderful little nugget is from Getting Things Done (great book btw) and the book does say this one tip can transform your life. And you know, they weren't kidding.
It turns out that most of the things I needed to get done in a day were these tiny 2 minute tasks. Shooting off any email, throwing in a load of laundry, filing those papers, making that phone call.
When examining how often I would put off these tiny tasks until another time, it's no wonder I felt overwhelmed and didn't accomplish a lot. My to do list was a mile long!
In one hour, there are 30 opportunities to cross off 2 minute tasks! Just think what crossing off 30 to do list items would feel like? Frickin' brilliant, I assure you ðŸ˜‰
How do you start doing this yourself? It's simple. You make the choice.
Next time to encounter a chore, task, email, to do item, ask yourself, “Will this take 2 minutes?” If the answer is yes, do it right then. If it's longer than 2 minutes, schedule a time to do it later (but actually write it down on your calendar.)
3. Reduce demands on your attention (aka do one thing at a time).
When you look at how we live nowadays, it's like our lives have been set up to encounter as many possible distractions and interruptions possible. And don't get me started on multi-tasking, geez, it's not pretty when I try to do 2 things at once.
One of my biggest multi-tasking issues was open browser overload. How many tabs do you have open right now? I used to average about 30 over 2 monitors, ya, cuz that's rational, I guess I thought I would absorb more information that way!
If you're one of those people, like I was, that had pop up notifications on their phone, computer, etc. or try to do multiple things as once, I challenge you to shut them down to the bare minimum and see how much you can accomplish in 1 hour of solid, focused, on task work.
A secondary benefit to this one change also means that time away from technology is more peaceful and refreshing since you aren't always getting pulled back into it. Then when you do return, you have more to give and are totally recharged.
4. Schedule work time, not just due dates.
Most of our calendars are filled with due dates, appointments and projects. What we usually fail at is scheduling time to complete all the projects and items we've filled our calendar with.
Here's a real like example for you, and one the Blog School student's know well.
Say you wanted to publish a post on your blog 3 times a week. You may have this formally scheduled in your calendar or maybe it's just an informal goal that's not written down. Knowing you want to publish Monday, Wednesday, Friday is great but when will you actually write those posts? Or are you going to be scrambling every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night to get something written before you go to bed?
Is your best work coming from these frantic posts?
Instead, figure out how long it takes you to write a post – 1, 2 maybe even 3 hours and schedule writing time each day or weekly – whatever fits your schedule. The trick is to actually schedule the time in your calendar as an appointment and stick to it (remember to your WHY to keep motivated.)
I've created a morning routine where I write from 6:15-7:15 every morning but I also know some people who like to bang out 3 posts on a Sunday and spend the rest of the week on other things. The idea is to find your sweet spot and stick with it.
You may realize through this exercise that you need 10 hours of writing time to publish 5 posts a week but you only have 5 spare hours in which to schedule writing time. That happens to a lot of us but at least you can see that your goals don't fit reality right now and you can adjust by changing your publishing goal, writing shorter posts or removing another commitment somewhere.
This really simply idea can be summed up as this: you can't make a commitment to yourself or anyone else that requires your time if you don't actually having that time to do it.
Reading that, I know you may be thinking, duh! you can't do something if you don't have time! But if you feel the least bit over scheduled in your own life, I bet this is an issue.
So how do you fix over-scheduing? Well, the first step is to always add working time to your calendar whenever you add a task that requires it.
- Have a blog post to publish on Friday, schedule the amount of time you need in the days or weeks prior to write it.
- Have a flyer to design for your kids Christmas play? Before saying yes, make sure there's a chunk of time available in your calendar to design it – rather than just saying yes and jamming it into your stuffed schedule (and resenting the task!)
(This strategy also helped my issue of saying “yes” to other people when I really didn't have the time!)
In this ultra busy time of the year, what could increased productivity do for you? Maybe actually help you enjoy those family and friends? Cross off a few blogging to do's that might take you to the next level?
You'd be amazed at how much you can accomplish with some simple, old fashioned focus.
I'd love to hear:
What one technique has really helped you move to a more focused and productive person? (I'll be taking notes, I love learning from you guys!)