“It’s 5 o’clock already?”
As small business owners, we’re all too familiar with being ‘busy’. While we’re trying to tackle the day to day, and seek that ever elusive status of ‘inbox zero’, suddenly an entire week has flown by – leaving you with that nagging feeling that you didn’t accomplish as much as you should have.
But how do we go from being busy to being productive?
When we approach our days from a place of chaos, that’s inevitably the way they unfold. So how can we begin our mornings with the right frame of mind, so we spend our best hours on what’s important, rather than what’s next?
The three things
Every morning, before distraction strikes, I’ve made a habit of taking a quiet moment to write down the three most important tasks for the day, and review the accomplishments of the day before.
Firstly, if we harness the clarity of mind we possess long before all our notifications, calls, pings and emails start streaming in, we can gain insight on the select few things that are going to actually drive action towards our bigger goals. We don’t want to just be busy being busy, we want to know that, everyday, we’re accomplishing something to move the needle in the right direction.
Secondly, when you start your day going over the wins from the day before, you already have your first victory in the bag. Look back at what you’ve done, take a moment to do a little happy dance, and get stuck in to the day ahead with the motivation and momentum from the previous day’s triumphs.
Trust me, feeling like you’ve already had a win before the day has even begun is exactly the caffeine hit your mind, body and soul needs to kickstart your productivity.
Have you ever opened up Screen Time on your mobile, and seen how many times a day you reach for your phone, or how many hours are spent scrolling mindlessly through apps? Try it, and I guarantee you’ll never again utter the phrase, “there just aren’t enough hours in the day!”.
As soon as we wake up, that tiny screen is in our face dictating how other people have decided we need to spend our day. As the saying goes – technology is a great slave, but a terrible master.
As we grow more aware of the negative effects of checking our phones so often – like elevated cortisol levels and rapid burnout – we all need to be aware of how technology fits into our day, and how it should fit in order to be a help, rather than a hindrance.
My advice? Schedule your notifications, like you would a meeting. Decide that your phone sits on do not disturb and your emails are paused throughout the whole day, except the times you specifically put aside to check through them. Personally, I like to give myself an hour over lunch, so that I can concentrate on deep work in the morning without distraction, but still have time to react to new tasks, should the need arise, in the afternoon.
You’ll be amazed at the amount of clarity, concentration, and freedom that comes with using technology deliberately, rather than habitually.
Running a business is hard, and oftentimes lonely. When you’re running the show, there’s no-one there to give you a gold star at the end of the day, no random rounds of applause for achievements, and most of what you do will – in the majority – go unnoticed by those around you.
That means, when you’re spinning ten plates at once (standing on your head, jumping through a ring of fire) you’re not only responsible for parts of the business you don’t necessarily enjoy (ahem, taxes), but the hustle can get pretty demotivating, pretty quickly.
I decided to flip that on its head by offering myself incentives for important milestones. If I get that project done today, I’ll treat myself to watching that movie I’ve been meaning to watch. If I get great feedback from that client, I’ll take a morning to sleep in and visit my favorite tea house and settle in with a cup of my favorite drink. If I manage to land that huge account? Time for the spa!.
Whatever it is, big or small, set yourself little rewards for your efforts. You’d be amazed how quickly a task can turn from tedious to, dare I say, fun, when there’s a treat waiting for you on the other side.
We all have goals, hopes and dreams we want to accomplish. But without beginning each day with the intention to achieve them, mindless tasks take the place of mindful ones, and time increasingly passes without progress.
Define success for you, and structure your day around giving yourself all the support you can to hustle towards it in a way that’s positive, proactive and productive. Once you start to eliminate the things that don’t align with achieving your goals, you’ll be amazed just how much more time and energy you have on your side to make each and every day count.
Let’s stop being busy, being busy, and start living with intention.