How do you stay on top of all the things you have to do?
Productivity systems and books. To-do lists / apps, daily planners and date books. I have used and tried a good number of these over the years in a effort to get a better grip on “getting stuff done”, which is the goal of almost all of us these days. We read about the “5 Things the Most Successful People Do Everyday”. We try out yet another focus / productivity tool or app, attend workshops on time management / prioritization, and make lists of lists. So much of what we do feels like busy-work, even if it isn’t.
I’ve been thinking about this topic lately, especially in the context of “wasted time” or “wasted effort”, the definition of “productivity” and the holistic truth of our lives. One of the works that came to mind is the book Slack by Tom DeMarco. I read it a couple of times after I first got it 14 years ago, in the context of working for a large corporation, and now I return for consideration in the context of being an entrepreneur approaching, one hopes in the next several years, something that looks like retirement.
There are a lot of things to be said for getting the numerous things you need to get done for your business and you life “gotten down” someplace. The nature of our lives today is information-driven, and the resulting tsunami of stuff to get done and make headway upon is generally too much to try and hold in your head without dropping a bunch of them along the way. I know several people who have cascading lists…that is, lists of lists….YIKES!
The battle for productivity and getting stuff done is never-ending.
So many of us spend a LOT of time in front of computer monitors and accomplish a lot of things. However, the temptation to give yourself just a TEENSY break and take a quick glance at Facebook, or your favorite news site, or a live feed / video….or a quick game of Solitaire…that’s a constant thing.
I have this problem as much as anyone. My business revolves around the Internet, digital media and marketing, and a lot of my deliverables for clients require my heavy use of tools and sites that are Just One Click Away from making a comment on someone’s post on Facebook, starting a conversation on Twitter, following link after link from an interesting article, my Inbox, and so on. Suddenly, the day has evaporated…
Don’t tell me this never happens to you (unless, of course, your role is such that you rarely are in front of a screen….).
I have done a lot of study and research on focus (cognitive science and “discipline-building” science / studies), building habits, priority management, personal productivity and so on. There are a number of systems out there that can help you if you adhere to the discipline and utilize the tools and workflows However, many times they can seem cumbersome, or costly (in set-up time and, if there are tools involved, cash…and sometimes they just don’t feel natural, so they don’t get used…). I have launched a number of personal programs to better my use of time and attention over the years. Especially in the past few years, it has become even more critical to my success in getting things done that NEED to get done. My real-world success with these has been spotty.
I’ve mentioned in other articles about the affect that the book Deep Work by Cal Newport has had on my understanding of the problem and the options for creating a solution that works for me. I have incorporated a few things, and of those things a couple have worked for me. Nonetheless, my self-discipline has lagged in really making headway. I even tried working with a coach, which had some success, but, being human, generally made me annoyed at the coach.
Holidays make many entrepreneurs and small business owners nervous.
On one hand, HURRAH! A holiday!
Depending on your business, you may be looking at numerous merry-makers coming to your shop and celebrating by indulging in a bit of “retail therapy.” A different kind of business is looking at turning a “regular” weekend into a three-day weekend, and one where a LOT of people (their employees included…) take some time, gas up the motor vehicle of choice, and head out for a vacation of some length. Sometimes these two collide and the owner can have a staffing problem, but, hey, just put in a few more hours yourself and you’ve got it covered right? But what happens if, on this more dangerous holiday weekend, somebody gets hurt or something? In between all the travelers, the uncertainty of fireworks (as one of my colleagues said, “Normal people with a few drinks in them setting off explosive devices….what could go wrong?“…) and the randomness of other accidents…well, there’s plenty to get wound up about.
How do you arrive at the thing or things to focus on every day?
There are innumerable items that float through my brain every day, usually just at the time the alarm goes off (if I’m lucky and don’t wake up early…). Living in a particularly woodsy area of the Pacific Northwest, I liken them to looking out my window and seeing all of the trees and such swaying in the wind. I can’t count them all, but they all attract some bit of attention and, at the same time, join in a constantly moving vista that can leave me a bit awestruck and frozen first thing in the morning. They are pretty as trees, but when translated into the metaphor of all the items and actions vying for my attention and prioritization, it’s overwhelming.
Some things are easy. Morning routine (everything to the point where I’m ready to “go to work”, whatever that looks like today…), followed by checking my calendar AGAIN (I’ve already looked at it a couple of times to triple check when my first meeting is, if there is one…). Like you, some days have more than others. The days that have one or no meetings are more difficult, really. Relatively “open” days require me to inspect the pile of things to do and, minding my own best times for productivity and creative work, prioritize and dig in accordingly. Not always easy.
You are Very, Very Good at what you do!
That’s one of the reasons you started your business. You’re good at it and you love to do it. So, becoming your own boss seemed like the way to focus in on this passion and expertise, and deliver the benefits to others who are willing to pay you for it. Seems simple, right?
You read a few books, talked to some other friends and maybe even a few other business owners….even took a class or seminar. They shared their experiences and support for this move in your professional life and told you, “GO FOR IT!” You did some research and maybe even made your proof-of-concept available to some people, getting feedback and valuable input. None of this was easy, and you discovered a few things that set you back a bit and maybe even discouraged you, but you are determined….no turning back!
“Come on!! FOCUS!!!”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that in my life in different contexts….in musical groups who have been rehearsing a tough section, in a classroom that was a bit too warm during a lecture (or lab) that seemed to go….on….for….ever…., or that internal voice when I’ve been staring at the screen for awhile working on research or a project and notice that my eyes have blurred and so has my mind.
You’ve probably heard it too…
As an entrepreneur, you put a ton of time, attention and energy into your business, both the business pieces AND the product or service delivery (then there’s the ongoing customer service and support bit, too…..). Staying of top of everything can burn you out, leave you sleep and life deprived, and make it much harder to do the A+ job you normally do. Even making a bit of space becomes a challenge since your brain doesn’t necessarily “walk away” from your business (even if you do), so you could be “taking a moment” but you’re churning away inside. If that’s going on, you’re not in the moment of rest and relaxation, you’re distracted and those around you can tell, aside from the fact that the restorative nature of a break is severely diminished.
If you don’t take care of yourself, your life, your relationships and your business suffer.
January is nearly over!
You have already done all your planning, strategizing and begun implementation for 2016….right?!
Here are my top recommendations for articles that will absolutely impact your business this year and help you make the best use of your resources.
Needless to say, the social media landscape shifts and evolves frequently and keeping track of what will work, what won’t work and what always works (if there is such a thing…) can be time consuming and maddening. That said, this article provides some keen insight into what to focus on in your social media marketing for 2016. For keeping track of all the changes and mutations, well……you should probably ask for some expert help.