I've been doing the small business thing for a few years now- 5 to be exact! And in a few months, I will hit my one year anniversary of being a FULL TIME entrepreneur. It's kind of a big deal- for many reasons. The good reasons, like independence, self-reliance and the challenge of doing your own thing. But there's one super important reason- one really good reason. It's that thing that no one tells you: Running a business is hard freaking work. Sure there's a ton of freedom. You answer only to yourself. You can take 2 hour lunch breaks or work 5 hour days if you want. But you're also likely to be crazy hard on yourself if you let things slip, or if you're not checking items off the to-do list fast enough. Add to that the challenge of working from home with two young kids, and you've got the potential for disaster! Or at least potential for exhaustion. I've got two kids. Two wild and crazy boys, Jacob who is 5 and Benjamin who is 14 months. A typical day in my home consists of craziness. Borderline insanity. There are dishes, toys, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and the general stress of parenting... and then on the other hand, there's the work involved with my business. Client calls, endless emails, vendor meetings, venue walkthroughs- it's amazing I have time to shower or feed myself! But most days (notice I said most!) I do manage to get it all done. How, do you ask? With these three simple steps.
Step 1 - Be Present.
This one is hard, and it's one that I am constantly working on. However, the concept is simple. When you're at work, be at work. When you're with family, be with family. That means put down the phone and focus. Cut out distractions. If you're supposed to be writing copy or sending out emails, put your phone somewhere else, and close Facebook! Believe it or not, the world will not end if you miss a notification. This is one of those things that I need to give myself grace on often. It's so easy to let yourself get distracted and have your mind wander somewhere else while you're working or have your mind wander to work while you're supposed to be having family time. But the amount of time it takes to get back on track once you've lost focus isn't worth it. Trust me, I know- I've checked Facebook at least 4 times while writing this! At least it's not Candy Crush.
Step 2 - Get it Out.
Journal. Download. Brain dump. It's called by many names but it's all the same concept. Get all that crazy mess OUT of your head. If you leave it in there it will drive you bonkers. Unfinished thoughts have a tendency to bounce around in our minds, and will keep popping up to interfere with the task at hand. That can keep you from giving your all with step 1, and just intefere with priductiviyt in dgeneral. I use a few tools to download each day. One is Evernote. I hvave a notebook called Donwloads where I just type. Let all sorts of things pour out- frustrations, anxiety, anger, sadness- and then once I've processed those emotions, I start my list. Sometimes I list big things or small things, sometimes they are whole projects nad sometimes individual to-dos. Once it's out, my mind can settle. If i'm doing my download as a part of my day start or day end routine (it's not consistent because of the two sproutlets mentioned above!), then I'll grab the chance to organize my list into action items. Once a year, I make a big list- although I'm thinking of changing that to once a month. The big list is broken down into actual projects, and then it's time for step 3.
Step 3 - Baby Steps.
Lao Tzu said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Yes. Yes it does. And Dave Matthews said "To change the world, start with one step. And however small, first step is hardest of all." OMG YES! That's why I and so many others out there are advocates of taking baby steps. Taking the first step can seem downright impossible if the task itself seems insurmountable. Break down all of your tasks into microscopic little chunks. For example- you can't write on your to-do list "paint the house" and expect it to happen. Not if you're crazy busy like I am. You'll look at that item and go "UGH! That's too much-" and move on. Of course it's too much! There are tons of steps to painting the house. You have to pick colors. You have to set a date for when it's going to happen, You have to buy paint and painting tools. and finally you have to paint. Taken individually, these tasks are not overwhelming. When you look at the individual pieces, they are much more manageable. Do this with your to-do's- and be honest! Some things are doable in 15 minutes, some may need 15 days. Don't try to tackle everything at once. That is a sure fire recipe for burnout.
In my world, utilizing these steps is a work in progress, but I am seeing great improvement in my productivity by intentionally using them. If you can stay focused, keep your mind clear, and break your tasks down into smaller steps, you are on your way to a more productive day!
Do you have any ideas on how to get the most out of your day? Share them with me in the comments below!
And as always- Keep Celebrating!