Want to be more productive?
We like that word: PRODUCTIVE. We like the idea of producing something. And part of that is totally cool. After all we are creators. We were born to create.
Part of it is not so cool. The part that places productivity, typically in corporate terms, above human welfare, for example (as in sweat shops), or above the health of the planet (as in off shore drilling). In these cases, productivity has gotten a bad rap.
For you as a small business owner, addressing productivity is key to your success. Because you are working with small resources, and largely relying on yourself to make your business fly or not (this is a big mindset shift if you are used to working for a company), knowing how to be productive can make the difference between making it – and not.
And too often we’re in the gray zone. (I love that term – I got it from Eben Pagan.)
The gray zone is when you are not fully either working and being productive, or relaxing and rejuvenating. You may still be working, but are daydreaming about what you’ll do later, or ruminating over what happened yesterday. Or you may be having dinner with your family, but you are thinking about the email you forgot to send, or how you are going to respond to a request a client had recently.
And habitually being in the gray zone is a red flag, a key indicator, that you’re spending a lot of time in a trance. Yep, a trance. And it’s oh so easy to do.
Everyday so many factors swirl around you, seducing you into a kind of waking sleep. The internet, television, junk food, working without breaks, alcohol, coffee, over the counter and illicit drugs, listening to free webinars and livestreams, chewing over the conversation you had with your partner last night, worrying about how your daughter is doing at school today, imagining sex or dinner, doing everything you can to ignore the deficit in your cash flow, multi-tasking.
The list goes on and on.
Freud said that we spend 50% of our time dreaming.
Daydreaming. In a trance. Gray zone.
In order to be more productive, you have to wake up. You have to have command of your mind and your attention. You have to pay attention to what you are thinking, and to be able to direct your mind to where you want it to go – not be subjected to endless thinking that feels like it is in charge.
I like to think of this as a spiritual challenge. A spiritual challenge the outcome of which will have an enormous impact on every area of your life, including your business.
Building your capacity for awareness – for being awake, alert, and in command – is perhaps the single most important factor in creating the life you want to be living, including creating the business you want to be working in.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about how we have the most clear, fresh energy – and the most will power – in the morning. We only each get so much will power every day, so it’s super beneficial to use the morning time to do that which is most difficult to do.
One way many of us cut our productivity is to fritter away this precious energy on doing things that are either not that important, or easier to do, and then later in the day try to do more challenging tasks. But by then we just don’t have the energy for them. So then we succumb to distraction.
Check that out for yourself – how do you plan your day? What do you do in the hours before noon? How could you rearrange your schedule so that you focus on the most important items first?
Here are a few tips on how to be the most productive in your working day:
- Create your own priorities. Know where you are at in your business (what stage you are in), and what are the most important things for you to be focusing on. Then make them a priority. Do not allow other people – including your clients and staff – to determine where you put your attention.
- Do the most important and most challenging things first in the day when you are the freshest and have the most will power at hand. Focus on your outreach, inviting people to work with you, and/or developing your service, programs or products to take them to the next level.
- Focus on one task at a time. Work on that one task until it’s complete if possible, or until you arrive at a stopping point organic to the project. Eliminate distractions (on phone, email, texting, messaging, chatting, etc.).
- Respond to email only at certain times of day. Let people know when you’ll be responding and do it then as consistently as you can.
- Give time and attention to what will help you to create the business you want a year from now, so you can lean into that future and be creating it with your intentions and actions now. This will give you the ability to create more and more from what you desire in ways that are truly productive towards that future, rather than just dreaming about what you want.