Trick yourself into productivity success with happy little baby steps

Part of the #60to15 series for entrepreneurs on shortening your work week.

via GIPHY

In order to get from a 60 sixty hour work week down to 15 hours, you need to get from 60 to 40 first.

Just like with becoming a millionaire, at some point you’ll have to make a hundred bucks first.

If you’re going to lose 20 pounds, you’ll have to lose 2 pounds on the way.

It’s a common mistake to try to make a huge life change by suddenly switching to a drastic new program.

Yeah, we’re not doing that.

via GIPHY

Eventually you may be able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. But until that day, let’s try to work with the systems you already have working for you.

You’re doomed to fall flat if you don’t ease into big changes – at least until you’re used to making big changes. It’s just not how we humans work.

Even if you’re extremely disciplined, you’re one unexpected life change from keeping the changes you made intact.

Another thing that will help- either:

  • tie the new habit to an existing habit, or
  • slightly alter an existing habit.

Quick Story – how I used existing habits to ease my insomnia

via GIPHY

For example, I realized that my evening medication makes me sleepy – but not early enough for me to get a full night. I had a habit of taking it once I settled down for bed at around midnight.

By the time I settled down and finished umpteen trips to the restroom, it would often be two a.m.

And on the occasions my mind was racing, it might be four am before I lay still long enough to drift off.

I finally realized that if I took the pills before my evening meal with the water I normally drank, that would eliminate the final two rest room trips and help me get to sleep earlier.

So I moved the pills to where I eat my evening meal and attached my meds habit to my water and meal habit.

I still get insomnia. (it’s usually painsomnia, though sometimes it is related to my emotional or anxiety.) But it’s not as often and over faster due to the chemicals in my system.

That sidebar will become even more relevant soon, I promise.

Right now, think about your typical work day.

skeeze / Pixabay

If you are anything like I was, your day:

  • Rarely feels like you accomplished what you hoped,
  • Lacked uninterrupted breaks
  • Was full of distractions
  • Contained too many administrative duties related to “the business of being in business”
  • Felt rushed at some point, and,
  • was at least half full of tasks you hate doing

That’s not even including meetings, Netflix lunch breaks or not being sure what to do first or next.

This is the place where we venture into the unknown, the shortening of your work day: creating a day you love.

My mantra for my version of small business productivity is Do Less, Accomplish More.

via GIPHY

Doesn’t that sound magical, like it’s out of some toddler entrepreneur’s bedtime story?

I assure you this can be reality.

When it comes to time management and productivity, in my experience it focused on the wrong things.

We go through all these ways to save time.

Then we fill the saved time with the same crap that was on todo lists, some of which should have been on a “somebody else do” or “don’t ever do” list.

What’s the point of saving an extra 20 hours a week if I’m going to waste that entire time on more mundane tasks that don’t grow my company or directly impact profits?

If I’m a writer, I need to spend a much bigger chunk of my day writing at my top capacity than I do processing email.

It’s unfortunate that any of us thought that the solution to not being able to get to all our emails and paperwork is, find more time in our schedule to do email and paperwork.

It ought to be “find a way to do much less email and paperwork, leverage extra time for writing and breaks.”

This mentality is part of being an entrepreneur.

via GIPHY

Other people run from trouble, we double-down and put our shoulders against the rock. This is no good if it works against us though.

The other thing I hated about productivity is that it involves an awful lot of doing.

I produce at my peak capacity on the days when I do the least work.

  1. I’m well rested
  2. I’m focused on a few goals instead of 20 tasks on a todo list,
  3. My work quality is much higher,
  4. Most importantly, I have taken a lot of time to think things out and notice potential inefficiencies before they happen.

If you get more high quality work done in 20 hours than you get done in 100 at low quality, suddenly a 15 hour week is not only possible, it’s downright irresponsible not to aspire to it.

It’s not possible to do your best work if you work 100 hours a week. You’re run down physically and mentally not your best from sleep deprivation alone.

I got to the point that I needed to do less, spend the bulk of my time on the right thing, and increase my quality to compensate.

That gave me the what but not the how.

via GIPHY

HOW do you increase the quality of your work in less time?

How do I drop tasks, or even figure out which ones are droppable? That was a huge obstacle for me.

So I started reading and began to experiment with things.

My first experiment was about my routine. (Which is how that sleep example from earlier becomes even more relevant to you.)

In more reading about how we humans are creatures of habit, I learned that much of what we do is because it’s part of our routine.

And routines are just habits strung together, triggered by a recurring motivation.

via GIPHY

Time to go to sleep?

At some point we all lay down and close our eyes. We all have a series of steps we normally take before that.

For a while I had a great morning routine.

I was kicking ass and taking names, because my habit was

  • get up,
  • produce,
  • proofread and publish content,
  • then add whatever would the most profitable action after that. (Usually marketing.)

And it worked really great. Until.

PeteLinforth / Pixabay

I got sick again, and for a period of time, I’d have no routine. Or at least I thought so.

This brings us back to the point we were talking about earlier, piggybacking on other habits.

We humans are creatures of habit.

If you want to make a lasting change, it helps if you work within the framework you already have, but upgrade the processes within them, so to speak.

So I thought, if I can get on a routine, and fold my goals into this routine and stay on it, I will always achieve my goals.

Because the tasks that took me there were force of habit.

The problem was, I could never stay on the same routine.

Sometimes I woke up to client emergencies. When my sister and her kids lived with me on and off, I often woke to the noise of them getting ready in the morning, or a problem with them I could intervene to solve.

Some days I would wake up with varying levels of mobility issues due to my illness. I had lost my routine- or so I thought.

My routine had changed, but I still had one.

via GIPHY

And if I had a routine, I could upgrade the building blocks of that routine, and exploit the timing to reach my goals, and change my life.

How I changed – and how I believe my experience can help you make real, lasting changes – is what this #60to15 series is about.

So far we’ve covered:

  1. Why it’s time to focus on your productivity as an entrepreneur, before it’s too late
  2. How to overcome your subconscious mental blocks about becoming more productive by bringing your fears to the surface.
  3. A Proof of Concept first step to taking your time back. When this works, you either won’t need my help anymore or you’ll want me to tell Everything I know.
  4. An easy exercise to prioritize your work day and start down the road to doing mostly profitable work. Eliminate or reduce tasks that make you feel busy but not accomplished, too.
  5. How to do less yet accomplish more, starting with the next open space on your calendar. Once your input rocks, your output needs to be maximized too.

In coming days I have at least a dozen tools to help you automate or reduce the time certain entrepreneurial or freelance tasks takes.

Then we’ll round out this free mini-course with:

  • how to tie what you’ve learned to a new routine,
  • the best course of action to self-correct if you fall off course,
  • tips on when and how to delegate- even if you do complicated work like mine, or don’t think you can afford permanent staff to help you.

Too busy to stop and read these blog posts as they come out?

I promise all of them aren’t this long.

via GIPHY

But I know how it is to want to learn something to help you with your business, and barely be able to find time to breathe.

You can sign up for my famously sporadic email newsletter and get:

  • a summary of these tips as a free audio refresher course when we’re done,
  • all of the #60to15  checklists and tip sheets,
  • and a discount for the full course coming up in February 2017.

You can do this.

via GIPHY

I share my story not to brag.

Okay a LITTLE bit to brag.

But mostly to show you that I come from some of the worst circumstances and was able to turn them to some of the best.

First I lost my job and had to turn a side hustle into a full time business in less than a year.

Then I had to figure out how to write and sell marketing guides, have clients, and still market myself.

All while having two chronic pain conditions that meant I would suddenly be unable to work for days at a time. You think the people paying me to meet deadlines were able to let me off the hook because I was sick?

No, that was my problem. So I had to set up to be able to meet any reasonable demand for all my clients, and process sometimes hundreds of digital sales each day.

I failed a lot at first – rapid growth is hard to contend with when you are inexperienced. I learned from those failures and gained a sterling reputation. It’s very, very hard to find people who were dissatisfied with their time with me.

They exist- I’m not perfect. But I can count them all on one hand with a finger missing. That’s after 19 years online.

I was still a workaholic though. I got cancer last year and beat it, all while working my full time job part time.

Since then I’m yet to work more than 15 hours a week except by choice. (I have occasional client emergencies that take a bit of extra hands on work.)

If I can do it, with all of that on my back – you can too.

So let’s!

Got tips? Did you write about your experiences? Add it to the #60to15 hashtag, then anyone can read your submission. I’ll do round-ups to feature the best ones.