I have a million things that I need to get done in a day. But, only one that I really WANT to work on. My heart screams at me every day to drop everything and work on tasks that grow my business.
But, I have deadlines, client work, kids, homeschooling, etc. etc.
So, I have to really organize my work hours to make sure that I am getting done all of the things that I NEED to do plus, the things that I LOVE to do.
You can work full-time and still have “grow my business” hours
Running a business means having a million tasks that need to get done each day. The intention is always to give 110% to your audience and clients so that they get the help that they need.
And, that means you can’t do anything halfway. You have to show up with all of your focus, dedication, and effort to every. single. task.
But, if you are working full-time outside of growing your business, and you have responsibilities to your job, it can make it very difficult to reserve enough focus and effort for everything.
The first step is to organize the day into three parts:
This sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you approach it with a plan, your morning can be the single most productive part of your entire day.
This is a time for reflection and planning. Most people don’t think about their evening today as being important to their morning tomorrow … but, it SO is!
Everything that happens between the morning hours and the evening hours is the middle. This is probably the most difficult part of the day and is filled with the most distractions. The middle part of your day can take off like a rocket with you holding on by a fingernail screaming for mercy. But, if you are mindful of your day … you could be hanging on by a fingernail screaming from sheer excitement and exhilaration.
Evening. Specifically, the night before.
It seems a little strange to start the plan with “last night” but, that is the tipping point. That is the point where you can choose to take 15-minutes to do the MOST important thing for your productivity or, skip it and, fail productivity miserably.
Take the 15-minutes. Trust me. It’s totally worth it.
Before you go to bed each night, take out your journal or notebook, and spend 15-minutes doing these few things:
Write down your daily action plan.
This is your list of things-to-do that tie directly to furthering the goals that you have set for your business that month. These are specific tasks that can be done within 15 to 20 minutes.
Block the hours of the day that you have available for work time.
Look at your calendar and decide which hours of the next day you will be able to work. Highlight those hours and commit to being focused and productive during those times. Do not include the hours that you have reserved for fixed appointments like meetings or taking your children to and from school, being at your day job, etc.
Assign your daily action items to your time blocks.
Add all of those items that you dread and will probably procrastinate doing to the first spot of the first time block and get those done and out of the way. Whenever possible (or, where it makes sense), batch tasks together into the same time block and even on the same day of the week each week. This helps your brain to focus during that time because it is familiar with the task. Look at your action items list and think about those tasks. Decide if there is one task that would make the others go much quicker or easier if it was done first. Be thoughtful of which time block you put your tasks into.
Use the Pomodoro Technique to work in 25-minute increments and then break for five minutes to stretch, clear your mind, or grab some coffee since you’re probably working on growing your business when it’s dark outside.
Track your time.
Use Toggl.com to keep track of projects and tasks and how long each task takes. Pretend your time is worth $20 per minute – make sure you are investing it wisely and getting the best return.
Conquer procrastination and bad habits.
Use Mel Robbins’s 5-second rule to break through procrastination and bad habits
Maintain your mindset.
Write down a mantra, positive saying, or a task that you completed that was a major win. While it might seem unnecessary now, the moment that you need to read something positive – it will be there, and it will help you to push through the difficulties.
Get some sleep
Once you have your schedule for the next day all written down and finalized. Spend the next 15-minutes meditating and relaxing before you go to sleep.
Don’t turn on the television.
Don’t pull out your laptop.
Just sit quietly in bed and listen to your heartbeat. The only way for your productivity to be 100% fully maximized is if you are rested and mentally strong. And, getting enough restful sleep is essential to that. In fact, every hour of sleep that you get before midnight is equal to two hours of sleep after midnight.
The ‘night before’ activities are essential to setting your productivity off in the right direction. While most of us think of a day as the 24-hour period from 12 A.M. to 12 A.M. the next day, from a productivity perspective a day starts with the night before.
The way that you choose to start your day sets the tone for your productivity and focus over the next several hours. It is such an important part of the day.
Your day is going to be stressful.
That is a given.
But, the way that you fortify your mind, body, and heart during the morning hours can mean the difference between using the stress to learn … or, just laying down beaten and bloody (figuratively, of course).
It is important to fuel your mind, body, and heart in the morning hours because it can give you the energy and strength to get through the entire day with elegance and calm.
Do something that awakens your mind and helps you to feel inspired and energized. Read a book, journaling, listening to a podcast that is inspirational, sit on the porch and watch the sunrise, etc. Any activity that helps to awaken your mind and fills you with inspiration.
This is also the perfect time of the day to get some exercise in. Bringing oxygen to your bloodstream and muscles is a wonderful way to wake up your motivation and focus.
I am absolutely NOT a morning exercise person.
I much rather exercise on my lunch break. But, I do like doing some stretching and yoga poses in the morning just to get my body awake and ready for the day.
It is essential to start your morning with a good breakfast as well. I followed the 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss for a while and, I got into the habit of having 30 grams of protein within 30-minutes of waking up.
This one habit changed how I feel at 3:00 pm if you can believe it.
As soon as I started having 30 grams of protein within 30-minutes of waking up … I completely STOPPED having the 3:00 pm afternoon slump that I had dealt with for years. It was crazy.
Having a healthy breakfast – even if it’s only a couple of hardboiled eggs and some cold turkey bacon – can make a huge difference in how you feel hours after you have eaten.
Make it a priority to fuel your body BEFORE you have your coffee
I make sure to wake up two hours before my kiddos will be awake, and I get my quiet time, a bit of yoga or stretching, breakfast, coffee, and a little bit of work done.
That first time block sets my day up perfectly, and for several hours into the day, I feel less stress and more present because I know that I have already achieved so much in the day.
I’m able to easily switch gears from mompreneur to just mom, and make my kiddos breakfast, get my daughter ready for her school lessons, and set the boys up with an activity.
Open yourself up to all that is on your list to get done. There may be tasks that are intimidating or that you don’t want to do.
Walk yourself through doing these tasks and doing them well. Your brain will actually release endorphins just by visualizing yourself achieving.
This process will give you the confidence and motivation to tackle everything that is on your list and, bring you that all important “THIS is why I do this” feeling.
Once you have gotten through your awesome morning routine, and you are all ready to take this day by the horns, the hard part begins
This is the part of the day when you will be SOOOOOO happy that you took the 15-minutes before bed to write out your schedule.
Because this is the part of the day when things can get really hectic. This is the part of the day when you are most likely at your day job. And, you may not have any time to work on growing your business.
This can be really defeating and you can start to grow resentful and hateful of your day job. But, since you took the time the night before to write out the tasks that would get done that day – you can rest assured.
Even though you’re spending eight to nine hours at your day job, you are still going to make progress towards growing your business that day.
As you are writing your time blocks, you definitely want to take into consideration whether or not it is realistic to get tasks done during the ‘middle’ hours.
Your daily actions are derived from your goals and projects, so you know why you are working on those tasks and you know which ones will be easy to do and which ones won’t
It is important to be thinking about all of this as you are assigning your tasks to time blocks. And, if you need to, you can always switch two of your time blocks to get some tasks done before others.
Depending on your responsibilities during your ‘middle’ hours, it might not make sense to assign any “grow my business” tasks to your ‘middle’ hours.
Next, you want to think about the types of tasks that you need to get done. Multi-tasking is a myth. And in fact, some research suggests that it can cause brain damage.
But, you can batch tasks that are similar to one another and just do them one after the other. For instance, I have several clients that are in the same niche so; I do my work for them all in the same time block or in time blocks that are right next to each other.
This helps me to stay focused because I don’t have to switch gears from one industry to another. For instance, you could do all of your social media marketing in one block. This would actually be really good if you tend to get distracted by social media.
You just assign yourself specific tasks to do, and then set a timer to get those tasks done. Once the timer goes off. So does Facebook! I also make sure to only check my e-mail twice a day.
If you are working on writing a course or an e-book, you could batch your writing blocks into your morning hours and leave lighter tasks for your lunch hours.
Turn off your phone.
Any time that you are working in a time block … turn your phone off. I put mine to airplane mode and set a timer for my time block. I know how much time to set because I use Toggl.com, and I know exactly how much time it takes me to do certain tasks.
The push notifications, text messages from sisters, and Snapchats from best friends just have to wait while I am done working. I have a finite amount of time to get my action items done and I need to be focused and driven during those times.
Of course, I want to connect with all of my friends, family, and Facebook groups but, those tasks are not going to give me a return on my $20 minutes as much as getting my work done … so, I have to put off the fun stuff and dig-in.
Drown out the noise.
When I am working in my time blocks, I always listen to Pandora with the station set to “classical for studying” and, I put my earbuds in. I tune out everything (obviously, this is reserved for my time blocks that are scheduled when the kids are sleeping). This trick helps me TREMENDOUSLY to stay focused and working.
Classical music has been scientifically proven to improve focus and make repetitive tasks more enjoyable. I love it because my mind has learned that when the music goes on, so does the creativity, and I’m able to crank out my writing and work without any blocks or challenges.
Productivity is not about how much your work – it’s about how much you get done. You can send e-mails for 8 hours a day … and, never actually accomplish anything.
Be very mindful and present about what you are spending your time on and, stick to your action list.
What is your #1 obstacle to maximizing your productivity?