Which brings me on to my next question, from the lovely Nadine.
Nadine: “Hi Nadia. This is Nadine calling and I have a question for you. I was wondering if you have a formula that you follow for your productivity with our pushing to hard or burning out or getting to overwhelmed. Anything you can share about productivity would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!”
Hey Nadine. Thanks very much for you question. I totally get from where you are coming from. Many of us run the risk of pushing too hard and getting overwhelmed. We get ourselves into a situation where we feel like a deer in the headlights because there is so much to do in order to grow our business and we are not really sure of what to do first.
I don’t have a specific formula although maybe I will craft one and trade mark it! But I do have a number of tips that are going to help you.
Many of the entrepreneurs who join my Actionista Academy come to me in a similar situation. They feel overwhelmed, like they’re not getting enough done and they’re starting to panic slightly because their business isn’t growing in the way that they would like.
My first piece of overwhelm-busting-advice is to…. make a plan.
GET A PLAN
I know it sounds rather boring, but having a plan on how you are going to grow your business is really simple. And if you do it in a right brain way, can be a fun way to start thinking about where you want to take your business and how you are actually going to get there.
Obviously like everything I do I like to make it look nice. It may sound superficial but it does make the planning process more enjoyable.
Without a strategic plan you just send up making endless to do lists. I have fallen foul of this before. You just keep on adding things to the list and never get to the end. You just feel like you are never going to get where you want to go. What’s missing is a goal.
It’s tough. You’ve got limited time available and you’ve got so many things you could be doing.
A few years ago I had a job working for The Body Shop Global in Product Development. It was a great job – I got to create skin care products!
But, every day my diary was filled with all these meetings and conference calls I was supposed to have with all the different regions. My diary was completely filled. I freaked out! There was no time to actually do the work. The important stuff.
When you run your own business, there are so many things you could be doing. Doing everything is impossible. So it comes down to what’s most important. And to work that out, you need a plan.
HOW TO MAKE A PLAN
Start off with your one big hairy goal. For example, How much money do you want to bring in or how much profit do you want to make? Or how many clients do you want reach? Be specific and big and audacious.
Then you work out the key things that are going to get you to that point. What big things do you need to achieve your goal? Think of it like a family tree. At the top the big goal and then the 3 things underneath.
Not a list of 100 things but just 3-4 things that you need to help you achieve that goal. For example does that mean creating a new product? Building a new website? Growing your lists? Forming joint ventures? Getting your products distributed? A certain number of guest blogs?
Now underneath each of those 3 goals you’ll have a list. The tasks you need to do to get to that point.
This method ensures that everything on your to-do list is taking you towards your goal. Not a bunch of random stuff. It’s got focus and it is actually going to help your business and achieve things that are important to you.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
I don’t think running a business needs to be as complicated as we are often lead to believe. I think there’s a conspiracy going on! We’re told by business gurus to use all kinds of technology and tools before you can make it work.
And all this tech gets really overwhelming, particularly if it’s not your area of genius. Things don’t quite work. You need help, but you can’t find someone to help you. So you kind of grind to a halt.
But, do things need to be so complicated?
One of my clients is creating an online course. But she was stuck, because she couldn’t get the tech to work.
Instead of getting her idea out there and seeing if people were interested, she was in full on fiddling mode.
She could have just delivered the course in a series of emails. She could charge an introductory price just to get it off the ground and send a series of emails. Those emails don’t even need to be automated. If she started on a particular day she could run it say for 21 days and even if she sent an email herself on a list every morning that would be fine – to get the ball rolling.
I know there are platforms to run courses on and I know there is stuff to make them really wizzy. But, I would much rather you got something out there then did nothing at all.
If there is a way of simplifying things then I would suggest getting started and doing things rather than feeling overwhelmed.
Part of your big plan could involve a list of things that you can delegate to someone else.
If you are terrible at anything technical get someone to help you.
I have skills in some areas and zero skills in other areas so that is where I really try to bring people in to help me rather than doing a really crappy job and spending 5 times as long.
I bring people in to help me and I suggest that you do the same. You will have to pay them but there is not point in getting yourself into a hole and feeling unable to cope in say some tech or finance stuff or admin if you can get someone who is an expert someone to do it.
Think about how much your time is worth. If you are able to work on selling one product or getting new clients or serving your clients that will be bringing in a lot more than you will be spending,
I would like to also mention the 80/20 rule because I think this is really important. The theory says that only 20% of the work you do leads to 80% of the results. Lets just ponder on that for a moment.
Oh my goodness 20% of our work leads to 80% of the results! I think we all know in our heart of hearts this is true.
There are things which we do that will work like a charm and then there are others things which we do all the time which doesn’t really have to much impact but which we may feel we need to be doing because people tell us we should.
I think its fair to say that successful people focus their time and effort on the important stuff not the distractions and on the things which don’t really have an impact on our business even if they wish they did.
If Twitter is not working for your business and it takes up lots of time don’t do it.
Focus on the stuff that actually brings results.
I think there is a lot to be said for streamlining and how you approach each day. You’ve got your 90 day plan now and you’ve got this list of things that are going to drive your business forward but you are not going to attack everything all at once.
I use a highly scientific method called “Smart Stickies” which helps me focus.
I take a small sticky note and I write down the 3 or 4 things I am doing that day. I put them in my dairy and that is it. Don’t cheat by writing a really long list in tiny writing. Just keep it to the top 3 or 4.
At the end of day you’ll actually have got those things done rather than having this endless rolling list which you never complete – which is just a source of frustration.
NIGHT TIME REVIEW
Only try this next trick if you are a good sleeper!
I do a little review at night before I go to bed using my sticky note or a notebook and I write down the priorities for the next day. It really helps me to focus and let it go before I go to sleep.
However some people this may have them thinking about work all night. You may want to give that a miss is sleeping is a thing for you.
EAT THE FROG
Another technique I use is call eat the frog.
I think it must be called that because people don’t tend to want to eat frogs!
The frog is the thing that you really don’t want to do. It the thing you’re forever putting off. The thing the always gets pushed to next week’s list. Over and over again.
But these are the things that come around and bite us in the butt later. Things like taking care of your insurance, or accounts, or dealing with a complain. That kind of thing.
Eat the Frog encourages us to spend a few minutes each day doing that thing you really don’t want to do getting it done and then you can focus on the really important stuff.
I also use something called the pomodoro technique. Before you ask, yes it is named after the tomato shaped kitchen timer.
The idea is you set a timer, you blitz it and then you have a rest.
It really stops you from spending hours on one task. It is a great way to get things done.
I like a deadline because it helps me to get on with it. And then I get to have a nice rest and a cup of tea when I’m done.
OPTIMISE YOUR DAY
I like to think of my time as if I an athlete (!).
If I was training for the Olympics I would like at how I divide up my day and look at when I train best.
I am a really good morning person. Generally before lunch is my great productive and creative time. I save the admin for the end of the day when I am winding down.
When does your brain work best? When is your productivity at its peak?
Once you know that you can design your day around it.
TALK TO THE HAND
Are you a people pleaser? Lots of us are.
Being a people pleaser means you end up saying yes to things because you want to help people or you want them to like you.
When it comes to growing a business this is not necessarily the best way to be.
Our time is really valuable so why on earth would you agree to waste it on things you just don’t need to be doing.
When you’re an entrepreneur you can’t continue being everything to everyone. You will have to start saying no to some things.
I was talking about this in the Actionista Academy the other day because one of our members was really struggling to find time to get things done and it turned out she hadn’t had the conversation with her family about prioritizing her business and they weren’t even aware that she felt like this. It wasn’t until she actually told them, look, I need a bit more time to work on my business I don’t have time because I am constantly running around after everybody else, that things started to shift.
So, if that sounds familiar – have the discussion and tell people how you feel, so they can help and support you.
And finally, just another quick word about outsourcing. Being a solopreneur doesn’t mean doing absolutely everything yourself.
There may be things you cant do because you are rubbish at them but there are other things that would free up your time where you could run a much more effective business if you weren’t doing them.
If your time is worth $100 dollars an hour then it doesn’t make sense for you to be doing the cleaning. You don’t have to employee people full time. You can bring in freelancers or can outsource using agencies. There are tons of places you can go to find help.
I think one of the reasons we feel overwhelmed is because we try to do everything ourselves and we are maybe being slightly control freakish. Think back on the 80/20 rule and focus on the 20% things that are going to help you grow. And get help with the things other people are better at than you.