Time is the most valuable resource you have as a business owner (in fact it’s the most important resource you have full stop). You can get more money, you can get more people, you can get more supplies but you can’t get more time. There’s a multi-million dollar industry built on helping people to make the most of their time. Being “productive” is one of the biggest things we chase. Here’s the thing: there is no one trick that fixes it for everyone. The key to YOUR productivity is as unique as you are. The big thing to being productive is to find what works for you. To help you find out what could work for you I’m going to share my top 5 productivity hacks.
Work to YOUR Strengths
You need to get brutally honest with yourself (and if you can’t do this you won’t be in business for very long) what are your strengths. If you can work out what they are then working out a plan of attack for making the most out of your day will be so much easier. Here’s how it works for me:
I’m a morning person. I never used to be, but I’ve trained myself to be because (and here’s the key) I wanted to make the change. When we had our son I needed to change from being a night owl to getting things done in the morning because his sleep routine and my work commitments no longer worked with me being up all night and sleeping the morning away. I needed to get stuff done in the mornings and so I retrained my sleep patterns to going to bed before 9pm and up at (on average) 5am. It didn’t happen overnight (pardon the pun) but within 2 months of forcing myself to get up I’d made a permanent change.
I know now that I am at my most productive between the hours of 5am to 7am. I then get a second wind between 9am to 2:30pm. Knowing this means I can schedule all the stuff that has to be done between these hours. It also means I don’t schedule anything (unless I absolutely have to) between these hours. These are my working hours. Sure, I work outside of these hours but it’s on the nice to do’s not the must do’s.
As much as you must work to your strengths you must also mitigate your weaknesses (more on that further down).
The 5 Minute Journal + Miracle Morning
I first started using the 5 Minute Journal in 2015 and within a week of using it I could already tell it was making a huge impact in my life. It’s a daily journal that asks you each day to list 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 things that would make your day great and what your daily affirmation is. (It also asks you to list at the end of the day the 3 amazing things that happened that day and to rephase an event that happened that you would have like to have handled differently.) I want to write so much about why this book is brilliant, but you should really grab a copy and read what they have to say at the beginning of the book as it explains how it works so much better than I can.
Here’s how it works for me: I find that starting my day by being actively grateful sets me up for seeing the positives in the rest of the day which is such a great place to be mentally. I also find that the daily affirmation helps remind me that I do have the power to achieve what I want which removes a layer of mental resistance. Listing the 3 things that would make today great means that they are at the front of my mind so I’m active in making them happen. I also find that knowing that at the end of the day I’m going to have to list the 3 amazing things that have happened makes me look for them during the day and appreciate them when they happen. This is my primer for my day and if I do nothing else in the morning but this one step I know that I’m going to have a good day.
I tag team the 5 Minute Journal with my version of the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The Miracle Morning is a system of actions done when you start the day that help you grow and focus on your goals and what you want to achieve. I took the Miracle Morning 30 Day Challenge a few years ago and it rocked my world. I was so happy with the results and would recommend the challenge to anyone looking to make a change to how they approach their days. I now do my version of this system and this involves allocating different amounts of time to each segment of the system. I read for 15 minutes (I read a book about something I want to learn more about), I meditate for 10 minutes (my version of meditation is sitting quietly for 10 minutes and visualising me achieving the things I want), I do my 5 minute journal (takes about 2 minutes), I do my vocal affirmation for 2 minutes and then I exercise for an hour while I watch youtube or listen to podcasts about things I’m interested in with regard to my business.
You can buy the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod by clicking here. (Don’t forget to check if your local library has a copy if you’d rather read before you buy!)
This set up works so well for me and makes me so excited to get on with my day where once I used to drag my feet.
Remove Wasted Decision Making
This was a technique that I heard successful people talk about time and time again when I listen to podcast and watch videos and it’s that we have limited decision making capacity in each day. If we blow this decision making ability on the small, inconsequential, stuff we don’t leave capacity for us to do the stuff that really matters. It sounded crazy to me when I first heard it but when so many people who I respected and who were killing it at what they were doing talked about it I decided to give it a go and see if it made a difference.
The principle is simple: take out the decision making on the small things. You know you have to eat breakfast every day and most of us waste a portion of our decision making capacity on what we’re going to eat for breakfast. If you set a meal plan you can remove all decision making capacity from something that really doesn’t impact your goals. Same goes for what we wear, our morning routines, our work day. Remove the decision making from the stuff you do every day to leave room to make the big decisions.
Here’s how it works for me: I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. On Sunday’s we meal prep for the week ahead and I measure out 7 portions of cereal and put them into their own reusable containers and then each morning at the same time I eat breakfast without having to think about what I’m having for breakfast. I used to think that eating the same thing each day would get boring, and it does sometimes (when it does I just change the cereal I’m eating when it comes to meal prep time), but on the whole I no longer think about it and I know that my body is getting the fuel it needs to get through the day.
I also eat the same thing for lunch and I meal prep dinners so I don’t have to think about that either. I’m eating so much better than I used to and I don’t snack nearly as much as I once did. There’s still room for “treats” and eating off plan, but I know that when I’m under pressure and need to get things done it’s all taken care of and I don’t have to waste brain capacity thinking about it. (I also make our son’s lunches ahead of time to cut down on time it takes for me to handle that side of things.)
I set a standard uniform. I wear the same thing every day – jeans, shirt, hoodie. I simply go to the pile and pick the next one off the top and wear that. I’m not a fashionista so it doesn’t bother me. I did the same when I worked in an office. No more wasted time standing in front of the cupboard going “what will I wear today”.
I have the same tasks that have to be done every day: check email, check social media, write blog post, sew. I know they have to be done so now I no longer think about when to do them (or if I’ll do them) they’re built into my day.
Scheduling + iPhone Alarm + Do Not Disturb
This magic trifecta is a godsend. I have a daily schedule. It looks like this:
5:30am – Wake Up
5:35am – Drink a Glass of Water & 5 Minute Journal
5:40am – 15 minute Triage (this is where I check emails and social media looking for anything URGENT that needs to be handled straight away. I also delete ALL the stuff from my inbox that doesn’t need my attention)
5:55am – Miracle Morning (read, meditate, exercise, affirmation)
7:30am – Make 2 Days worth of lunches for Son (that’s the lunch for today and tomorrow’s lunch) + Make sure Hubby is up
7:45am – Wake Son
7:50am – Shower
8:00am – Feed kid
8:20am – Wash + Dress Kid
8:45am – School Drop Off (5 days a fortnight)
9:10am – Daily Cleaning Routine
<- below this point is our every day routine (yep, even weekends) ->
9:30am – Work Day – Here I do a set schedule of email checking, internet chores, calls, etc.
10:00am – Breakfast
10:30am – Client Triage
11:00am – Major Task of the Day
2:00pm – 30 minute triage
2:30pm – Lunch
2:40pm – Pick up
3:00pm – Family Time
<- above this point is our every day routine (yep, even weekends) ->
6:00pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Bed time routine (kid)
7:30pm – Light’s Out (kid)
8:00pm – Daily Cleaning Routine + Prep for Tomorrow
9:00pm – Bed time + Light’s Out
Our son goes to school 2 days one week and 3 the next so this is the timetable for when he’s at school. On the days when he’s home I work as much as I can while maintaining the requirements that we have in our house for responsible parenting. Some days I get heaps done and other days it takes me all day to respond to one email. On these days I try to be as flexible as possible and sometimes that means that I stop all and any work to just spend the day chilling with him. This is the benefit of being able to work from home. (I should also mention that my work space (office and sewing studio) are in the middle of our house so I’m able to be in the space and still be with my family. It’s a total luxury and something I’m very thankful for.)
I have 3 copies of this schedule printed out and stuck up around our home – one on the fridge, one in my office and one in my bathroom. This means that if I’m ever in doubt about where I’m supposed to be I can easily work it out. It’s great for those moments when I’m ahead of the schedule and worried about messing something up by forgetting.
I bet you’re wondering where the iPhone Alarm (standard included no app required feature of your iPhone) comes in. Well for every time point on that schedule I have an alarm set that comes on and reminds me that I need to be doing that task at that point in time. This means that I can work like a mad woman and not waste brain power trying to remind myself that school pick up is coming up. I watch the clock less and I’m less distracted during the work day. It’s also great because I can use it to send myself little pep talks throughout the day. For exampled the alarm that wakes me up says “It’s a new day – you’re going to rock it!”.
Do Not Disturb is such a great feature on the iPhone (another standard inclusion on the iPhone) that is so under-utilised. You can set your phone to Do Not Disturb and it will mute all social media notifications and email notifications. Genius right! (It also mutes phones calls unless you’ve set up specific parameters for letting a call through so you don’t have to miss any emergency calls.) This means that you can work uninterrupted and without the distraction of social media. I love it. I use it during the day and then I have it set so that it automatically comes on between 8pm and 8am. This means that my phone can charge beside my bed and the light from the display isn’t impacting on my sleep when I get notifications, etc. My sleep has been greatly improved since discovering this handy little feature.
Fighting and Protecting Your Needs
Now, this is the hard one because life throws us curveballs and we have outside forces impacting on us but if you want to succeed you need to priories the things that are important to you. For me, this system is important and so my Husband and I have found a way to work together to support what I need while I also support what he needs. He’s a night owl and so it works well for us in a lot of ways because I get productive alone time during the morning while the boys sleep and then at the end of the day he gets the recharge time he needs to help him.
I’ve tried compromising on what I need to be productive and the only person it benefited was the other person. I now know what the minimum requirements are for me and it’s all the stuff that falls before and after the bold lines in my schedule. I need these to be able to function at the level I want to and I’m ok with that. If someone else isn’t ok with how I work my days, then that’s a them issue not a me issue. As a people pleaser that was a really hard thing for me to learn, but my desire to achieve trumps my desire to please 99% of the people in the world.
A Word on Flexibility
You need to work out a system that works for you and your family’s needs. This is my working approach, not my written in stone approach. This means that I’m constantly taking stock and seeing what’s working, what’s not, what needs to be tweaked and making adjustments to fit in one off events. This is a framework that allows me to be super productive. (Note there’s no “lay on the couch and binge watch 6 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy” on there!) This framework allows me to have the down time I need and I also multi-task when I can (like listening to a podcast on social media marketing while sewing) to try and get things done so I can spend time uninterrupted with my family. Will I still be working this way in 5 years time? Probably not exactly like this but I can guarantee there’ll be notes of this arrangement in whatever new structure I’m using.
I’d love to know what you do to help you get the most out of your day! Leave me a comment below or drop me an email and share so that we can all learn and grow together.
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