Being productive and effective in business are some big, heavy and weighty topics.
We’re all looking to tighten our processes, banish procrastination and have our businesses running like a lean, mean machine. However, what is easy to forget, is, for many of us entrepreneurs, that we are the business. Or at least a huge part of it.
And we are not machines. Lean, mean or otherwise.
Whilst we might dearly love to be Terminators of the business world; being able to dominate our businesses, throw out Austrian accented one-liners and work 24 hours a day – we just can’t.You are a fundamental part of your business. You need just as much care and attention as the rest of it. Click To Tweet
So, let’s look at a few ways we can make you and your business more productive.
Have a Morning Routine
I am not at all a morning person. Not even a little bit.
One of the things I cherished about working for myself was not getting up at six am to go to the office. However, having flexible hours soon started to unbalance my precarious work/life balance.
Without a set routine, it’s very easy to say – oh well I’ll work three hours extra this evening and then finish early tomorrow. However, the early finish the next day rarely happens.
Soon I was trapped in a cycle of working late and getting up later. I was eating dinner later, finding I no longer had time for the gym and getting frustrated at social engagements for eating into my evening ‘work time’. Not mention my productivity was not exactly optimal.
I was checking my email in bed, eating breakfast on the move and immediately sitting down to work. This was not working for me.
I lost all perspective of ‘normal’ time. I wasn’t eating well and my sleep pattern was a nightmare.
It was time to set some boundaries.
I created a productive Morning Routine.
I now get up early and have a gentle, calm start to the morning. No emails get checked first thing. I get up and take my time making myself a tasty breakfast (it’s what motivates me to get up in the morning). I then take the time to clear my head (usually with some very light yoga).
Some people like to work out in the morning to get the blood flowing. I think that’s a great idea but I am simply not that energetic in the morning. Light yoga serves that purpose for me, enough to stretch out the muscles, calm my mind and letting me focus on the day.
Having taken the time to wake up a little early, I can think about the day’s tasks in an un-rushed manner and settle down to work with a fresh mind. I find the day much easier to tackle this way.
Give Yourself a Break
To the outside world, running your own business can seem like a dream. You can start work whenever you want, work from wherever you want, take holidays and simply take a day off when you feel like it.
The reality for most of us is quite different.
In fact, it might even be the opposite. Many companies nowadays will force their employees to take their vacation days. As our own bosses, there is rarely someone there demanding we must take a holiday.
I actually looked into my calendar last year to have a look at how many vacation days I took.
It was not pretty.
Most of my ‘vacation’ days were when I was sick and forced to take a break, rather than me taking an executive decision to ‘go on holiday’. Whatever one of those is.
If you run your health into the ground and end up taking all your days off as sick leave, that’s not going to leave you refreshed and recharged. It is a very effective to get burnt out very quickly – which is super non-productive!
In the UK there is a statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday (including bank holidays). It differs country to country but whatever minimum holiday number you observe – put it in your calendar.
Take the damn holiday. Boss’s orders!
Make Time for Your Health
Being productive is an important part of your job right? We’ll do anything to give ourselves a boost, from new software, downloading apps (here are a list of my favorites) to Googling obscure tips that might help us out.
But we often ignore the most obvious solution: exercise.
A study by the University of Bristol has linked exercise to increase worked performance and productivity, as evidence by improved time management skills and increased mental sharpness.
But let’s face it. Man, keeping to an exercise regime is hard.
I really struggled to get back into exercising regularly. I always had an excuse, that I was too tired after work, that I just didn’t have time to go to the gym at lunch etc.
In the end it was a matter of mindset and getting my priorities straight.
Now I schedule in my exercise times as I would a client meeting, straight into my business calendar.
Running your own business is hard. It’s draining. Often we forget to take care of ourselves.
But keeping healthy is not only a top priority for us as human beings but also as a business. For many small business owners – they are the business. We often are the sole employee, boss, head of PR, creative director and marketing chief. If you are sick, unwell or unhealthy. So will your business be.If you are sick, unwell or unhealthy: so will your business beClick To Tweet
So treat your exercise commitments like you would treat any other business commitment.
You don’t need to go to the gym if you don’t want to. There are some great workouts you can do at home, get a DVD (I love Jillian Michaels) or download some fitness apps (my favorites at the moment: Zombies, Run! and 30 Day Abs Challenge)
There are even ones that encourage you to work out by deducting money if you don’t show up! No excuses!
Keep Your Own Happiness In Mind
Something we oft forget, our mental well being is as important as the psychical. Me sure to be intentionally about doing one thing a day that makes you smile, even if it’s something small.
For Your Business
Have a Daily or Weekly Routine
It’s not just my mornings that have a routine, my business does to. Whilst I do a lot of different tasks, there are certain ‘business essentials’ that I complete every week without fail.
Having a routine to ensure these tasks always get done allows me to be a lot more effective. Having a routine creates a structure I can work within. This means I am less likely to be distracted by active events, like emails popping in to my inbox or social media. Less distractions = much higher productivity.
I am focused on completing a task that I have set myself to do, in a set time, on a set day.
It also allows me to work on ‘auto-pilot’. Before I had a set routine I’d often sit around thinking ‘what shall I do today?’ or ‘what should I tackle first?’. Doing the same task on the same day removes that need to think.
I know what I have to do and I can just sit down and get it done.
You know when you get ‘in the zone’ and you can just blaze through all your work in a super fast time? This is exactly what a routine allows me to do. By freeing me from distraction or having to really think about what I’m doing, I can perform much more efficiently and concentrate on the task at hand.
Create a Client Journey
Quick – someone sees your post on Pinterest – how do they get to your ‘buy now’ page?
If your answer is some variation of, they go to my site and they click on my shop – then we have some blanks to fill in.
A customer or client journey sets up a sequence of predetermined steps which not only takes your client/customer from Point A (discovering you) to Point X (buying your product/working with you) it also describes how and why your customer goes from Point to Point.
For example, your client journey might start with a person seeing your Pinterest Pin and clicking on it to be taken to a blog post. That’s step one.
But you need to answer why.
- Why does that person click your Pinterest Pin?
- Why that Pin?
- What are they looking for help with?
- What are they interested in which led them to click on your Pin?
- What about the design of the Pin itself encourages them to click on it?
You need to answer these questions, not only in order to make sure your Pin design is the most effective it can be – but to ensure the next step is effective.
For example, if your next step is a blog post, then your blog post needs to satisfy your reader’s problem. The problem they clicked on your Pin, hoping your resource would solve.
For example, if someone clicks on your Pin in order to learn more about building an email list – you need to make sure your blog post teaches them one, actionable way they can build their email list today.
This builds your trust and authority and makes sure that the reader doesn’t leave your website but takes the next step. So your next step here might be to offer a lead magnet to encourage them to sign up to your email. That’s step three. But, remember we can’t just assume they will go from step two to step three – how do we get them to step three?
Again think about your reader’s why.
They’ve clicked on our post to learn about building an email list. Why do they want to build an email list? If that’s what they are struggling with, what is their likely next move or their next concern? How can we help them with that?
And then we offer a lead magnet as the next, obvious step for our reader to take.
And so on and so forth until we get to the final step of our journey – buying a product or signing up as a client.
Having a set system in place, which I know is going to take my customer from step one to the checkout, means that I have a much more stable idea of how much money my business will bring in each month. I don’t have to worry about the right customer not getting to the sales cart, or where my next sales is going to come from. You can even look into invoicing software to help you streamline the process.
If I’m not getting sales or I want to improve my sales, I can focus on optimizing one step in order to increase my sales. I can work on increasing the number of sales by increasing the attention (or views) my ‘Attention’ Step or Step One gets. I can increase sales by working on my Step Two by writing better focused blog posts etc etc.
Whilst fluctuations are to be expected, this creates a stable and consistent flow of customers to the website and to the sales pages. Much less stressful than hustling for every single client or customer, yes?
I hope these tips have given you that extra bit of motivation to help quick start the process of shedding old, harmful habits and embracing new routines.
My number one piece of advice? Don’t be too hard on yourself. I know the temptation, you have a weekly work out schedule and you miss a day. Suddenly, the work out schedule just isn’t working for you, you didn’t have time after all – maybe you should start afresh next week.
You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have mastered that morning schedule to perfection every day. You don’t need to think your whole work out regime has failed because you skipped a day. You don’t need to scrap your whole customer journey because you didn’t see an immediate rise in sales.
None of us are perfect. This is truly a case of, even if you are just trying to implement a more healthy and productive work day, then you are already succeeding. You are already doing better than you were before.
Keeping trying, routines are created out of habit. Keeping going until this one sticks. You’ll feel better for it – promise!
If you know a few bosses who could benefit with a gentle nudge towards taking better care of themselves I would be thrilled if you would share this post with them. Let’s make prioritizing your health a vital part of business again, instead of the after thought it often becomes.