Just before we dive in; this is quite a chunky module so I'd suggest giving yourself more time than you have been for the others. Don't worry -- you'll be feeling great and more in control of your time when you've finished!
Time management is always a recurring challenge with new clients of mine (hence why I’ve decided to create this course), and it used to be a major down-fall for me.
Up until a couple of years ago, my time was anything but managed. I was constantly flitting between tasks, doing a million things at once and being a slave to my inbox because, honestly, that’s what I thought running a business looked like. I thought you were meant to be constantly ‘busy’, glued to your laptop and running around town to meetings that could probably have been sorted in two emails. That’s what everyone was portraying on social media. Busy-ness. I thought that was the way things were done until I had my burn out episode and realised, no, that is most definitely not the way I want to do business. I realised I wasn’t actually doing anything of note. Yes, I was ‘busy’, but the things I wanted to do weren’t getting done. I didn’t want to be running around, playing the firefighter and putting out fires anymore. I didn’t want to be distracted or overwhelmed or stressed by tasks that I don’t actually need to do - the ones that aren’t bringing me closer to my version of success. I didn’t want to spend my life opening up my inbox and looking through my fingers, scared about what would be in there. So, I came up with a few systems and processes that have helped me implement my time better and get me achieving the things I set out to do.
In this module, we’re going to be exploring these and seeing how you can put them into place in order to manage your time a bit better, hit your goals and, ultimately, your version of success without burning out.
Sidenote: Before we dive in, you don’t have to use all of these in your daily life if they’re not suitable for you. Some things work for some, not all. If at the end of the module you think you can only use one or two realistically then that’s a-ok. I’m just here to tell you about them, you can decide whether or not to use them.
lesson one: do, delegate, delete
Firstly, we need to get clear on the exact tasks you currently do throughout your workweek. How are you spending your days at the moment? Think back to the first module when you wrote down what your current workweek looks like and in your notebook or on your digital document, write down all of the tasks you do for your business. Try to break it all down rather than grouping certain tasks with similar ones - be as specific as you can be.
Here’s a example that’s in no way gospel, in no particular order and with a mix of tasks for both product and service-based businesses:
- Planning, scheduling, posting social media posts for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc
- Writing and scheduling blog posts + other content
- Engaging on social media
- Answering inquiries and questions
- Checking orders
- Sending quotes
- Photography for website and social media posts
- Research and self-development- learning, courses etc.
- Emailing potential wholesale stockists
- Contacting potential clients
- Packing and fulfilling orders (taking to the post office/getting ready for post office)
- Ordering more stock or samples
- Merchandising the shop window
- Designing new products
- Uploading new products/services to website
- Updating your about page
- Updating your accounts
- Paying bills
- Chasing invoices
- Going to events, networking groups (basically -- leaving the house!)
- Face-to-face meetings with clients
- Skype/phone calls with clients
Afterwards, you should have a pretty sizeable list of all of the tasks you are currently undertaking within your business. I know it looks quite overwhelming right now, and you’re probably wondering “how the frick do I do all of this!?” (because you’re Superwoman, that’s how) but stay with me. The point of this exercise to show you how much you do that is perhaps not in alignment with your version of success.
Unfortunately, you can’t control time. It passes by whether you like it or not- you can’t speed it up and you can’t slow it down, but you can choose what you do with it. To radically reduce stress and working hours, stop focusing on becoming a more productive machine. Instead, decide how much time and energy you have for the things that’ll help you run and grow your business.
Step One: I want you to grab your pen, go through your business tasks list and circle the tasks that are bringing you closer to your version for success (if you’re using a digital document, use the highlighter tool). The tasks that bring you joy, that make you feel like you're getting shit done.
Think back to your version of success and your goals for the quarters ahead. Are the tasks on this list bringing you closer to those goals? Are there things missing that would help you get there?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Which tasks help me run and grow my business?
- Which tasks give me energy? What do I enjoy doing most?
- Which tasks will help me reach my version of success?
Perhaps one of your goals is to get 5 more wholesale stockists this quarter. Circle the task “email potential shops” as that brings you closer to your goal. Maybe another goal you have is to get yourself in front of your ideal audience in real life more in order to increase the reach of your message and trust, and ultimately your sales - you would circle ‘going to events/networking groups’. The circled tasks are ones that should be prioritised throughout your workweek if you want to reach your goals.
Step Two: I then want you to go through your tasks list and put an asterisk next to the tasks that you can delegate. Yes I said it- DELEGATE. As One Girl Band’s, we have a fear of offloading tasks to others. It might be for numerous reasons such as thinking we don’t have the money to outsource, we don’t have the time to explain to someone how to do it, "it’s not that much - I can do it myself” or we’re scared of giving up control. At the heart of those reasons, it is usually the last one that is the whole truth of it (even if we don’t want to admit it directly).
Yes, we’re One Girl Band's — we’re creating our own ventures and making our mark on the world on our own terms — but that doesn’t mean we have to go through this journey without support or a helping hand.
Just as much as we don’t have to do the long days and nights glued to the laptop, not seeing a single soul apart from the postman or the dog, we don’t have to make the big decisions about how much we should charge or which direction we should go in alone. We don’t have to figure out why we’re feeling so stuck and burnt out all by ourselves.
You’re allowed to ask for help. It doesn’t make you unworthy of being a business owner. It’s not you being a pain. As self-employed, self-starting business owners, we’re the talent, the marketer, the designer, the photographer, the accountant, the order fulfiller, the PA, the PR, the CEO, whilst no doubt still being expected to be the mother, the wife, the girlfriend, the best friend, the daughter, the sister. Yes, we can be everything but we can’t do everything.
The tasks with the asterisks are ones that you can outsource. For instance, if you’re currently doing all of the photography for your product shots, website and social media and it’s taking hours of your time, you’re not enjoying it or the quality isn’t that high, hire a photographer who can do the work for you. If you don’t like doing your accounts, hire an accountant. If your emails are taking over your day or you’re not able to create graphics for your blog posts with ease, hire a Virtual Assistant to do it for you.
By delegating the tasks you’re not strong at or don’t have time for, you’re making way for the tasks that are going to make a difference to your work week. By focusing on them, you’re going to feel like you’re making a lot more progress. You are worth investing in, and so is your business. Don’t be afraid to spend money if it makes a difference to your business.
Step Three: Finally, I want you to put a line through the ones that are not bringing you joy or bringing your closer to your version of success. The ones that are taking up too much time and stopping you from making progress. We’re deleting them. There is no point in wasting our time and energy on things that aren’t bringing joy, making money or doing good in our lives or others. Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. If you’re in too many meetings each week that aren’t actionable or practical, delete them (we all know nothing actually gets sorted in meetings- most of the time a couple of emails or a phone call would suffice -- stop trying to get me out of the house!). If you’re spending time posting and planning for Facebook and you’re not getting any engagement, or more importantly, your ideal customer isn’t there- delete it from your tasks.
You can use Do, Delegate and Delete every day in your workweek. Whenever a new task or opportunity presents itself, ask yourself if it’s aligned with your version of success. If so, can you do it now without it derailing your scheduled day? If not, can you delegate it? If not, delete it.
lesson two: batch days
This is my favourite productivity system of all time. You’ve probably heard me talk about it before like a broken record -- that’s because it works!
Up until last year, I was writing and creating content the day it was meant to be going out. I’d hurriedly write blog posts and post straight away, barely proof-reading or checking to see if it made sense because they just needed to be out there (of course no one was actually telling me a specific time or date, it was all self-defined deadlines- something I’ll talk about later). I’d post on Instagram when I remembered to. I’d flit between tasks as and when, never giving something my full attention because I’d glance at my inbox halfway through and there’d be something else sitting there. I’d try to do 4 different tasks in one day and would get incredibly frustrated when I couldn’t. I thought multi-tasking was something to strive for. Eventually, I realised I was doing more harm than good. I was procrastinating more, getting distracted by the tiniest things and Never. Following. Through. When I learned that our brains can’t actually multitask efficiently, I was astounded. Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. There’s no wonder why we struggle to write a blog post after doing our accounts all morning, our brains can’t switch easily from different sort of tasks. This is where Batch Days come in.
A batch day is an entire day dedicated to one thing. A day where you'll focus on doing one sort of task and nothing else. It’s a common practice for many business owners and it's certainly not a ground-breaking discovery but I know that when I tell my clients about it, they wonder why they had never done it before. Completing a bunch of similar tasks at one time is way faster than doing them as they come up. When you clean your house, you don't wash a couple of dishes, then go hoover a room, then come back and wash another plate, and then go clean your toilet, then hoover another room, etc. It’s more efficient to wash all the dishes, then clean the entire bathroom, then vacuum the whole house. Switching between different types of tasks slows you down and makes you less productive in the long run. Using batch days is a perfect example of working smarter not harder as we’re grouping together all of the tasks we need to get done and probably getting them done a hell of a lot quicker than if we were jumping between them all on any given day.
Batch days can be implemented in a few different ways. You can choose to plan a day or two a month, once a week, or you can use them every day. Personally, I use batch days in some shape or form every day. Monday’s are for admin, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for clients, Thursdays for One Girl Band and Friday is my negative space/self development day (more on that later). However, I do also have three 'big' batch days dotted around: content batch days, general admin days and one day I’ve called my Gatekeeper day.
For example, my content batch days are always at the beginning of each quarter, and they tend to take up an entire week (so I guess, a Batch Week would be better suited here!). This is so I have all of my content done or at least planned for the entire quarter and I don’t have to worry about it throughout the month. I’ll write blog posts, podcast episodes and newsletters, schedule them, create graphics and other content-y things. On these days, I don’t answer emails, I don’t have client calls and I don’t do my accounts. I just write. The general admin day is for things that don’t need updating weekly in my Monday admin day. It’s for stuff like updating SEO on the website, updating my testimonials page, speaking with my accountant, making sure I have no outstanding emails or projects. These occur every month or two. With my Gatekeeper day, this is where I spend the day making sure I’m on track to my version of success. I’ll go over my stats and figures, make sure I’m striving for the goals I’ve set for the quarter and also reevaluate how I’m spending my time. Is this where I want to be going? Is there anything that’s working/not working? I usually come out the other side of these days as a new woman. Motivated, excited and ready to go. I do these once a quarter.
There’s no wrong or right way when it comes to which way you want to do Batch Days. If you’d rather use the system once a month, then go for it. If you think you’d benefit from using it every day, do. Do whatever feels right for you.
Step 1: Choose your batch day topics
Batch days tasks are those you do regularly, those you forget to do or those that take you a long time.
Think about what your batch days could be. Struggling to get social media content out every day? Batch it. Want to keep on top of your website SEO and other updates? Batch it. Want to spend a day a month doing those e-courses you’ve purchased but 'can’t make time' for? Batch it. You don’t have to batch every single task you do, but think specifically about the ones that take you a long time or you put off.
Step two: Assign tasks to your batch days.
Now, using the list you’ve got from your Do, Delegate and Delete exercise, group together tasks that can go under one batch day.
We’ll start with an easy one. You could schedule in one Batch Day a month to do all of your tasks that are relevant to social media. Planning posts, writing captions, shooting or responsibly sourcing imagery, scheduling posts with a scheduling tool (For Instagram, I’d recommend Planoly for being visually-led and easy to use. Buffer is great for Twitter and Facebook) could all be done on this day and at the end of it, you’d have all your content ready for the month ahead. No more panic-posting, no more procrastinating. It’s all done in one day because you put all of your focus on it and nothing else.
Another batch day topic could be for sales. On this day, you could email potential or old customers/clients, come up with new strategies to attract your ideal customer. If you’re service-based, you could offer free clarity calls on this day. By getting your head in the game for sales on one particular day, you’re more likely to follow through on it and get the results you want.
If you run your business alongside your 9-5, you can use batch days in blocks. For instance, if you can only work on your business in the evenings or weekends, use Monday and Tuesday evening to do sales, Wednesday and Thursday to do admin and Friday- Saturday to do order fulfillment. Batch days don't have to be literal 'days', just blocks of time where you focus solely on one thing.
And for one last example: if you are a product-based business, you could have one day a month or week where you design new products. No emails, no writing, just you and your tools. Because at the end of the day, you sell your wares to be able to make and create all day but sometimes the business stuff gets in the way. By scheduling in a day to create and only create, you’ll get to do just that.
Struggling to know what tasks could go on your batch days? Download the Batch Day Cheatsheet above to give you more ideas.
Step 3: Schedule it in.
Spend 10 minutes planning your Batch Days at the beginning of each quarter, month or week and you’ll save hours of stress in the future. The key element to Batch Days is that you treat them like an important business meeting; no rescheduling, no cancelling. You’ve gotta do them.
Open up your digital calendar or your diary and spend some time planning when you could do your chosen Batch Days. Is there a Monday at the beginning of the month that works well for Social Media Batch Days? Is there a Thursday that you could schedule in a Design Batch Day? Perhaps you want to have a Admin day on a Monday and a Self-Development day on a Friday every week. Get them in your schedule so you’re not tempted to leave it until another day.
How does that feel? Do you feel like you have a better grasp on what you spend your days doing and how you can effectively group them so you’re working smarter, not harder?
lesson three: make time work for you
There are a lot of productivity trackers, schedules, diaries and calendars out there. Go into any stationery store now and you’ll see sections upon sections of Filofaxes, Bullet Journals and desk pads -- all complete with a smattering of millennial pink and the promise that you’ll be better at managing time and drinking more water if you use them. These days, every planner seems to come with a habit tracker, to-do list section and goal setting pages which is brilliant but also pretty overwhelming for some. Due to the sheer amount of choice out there for organisational tools, we’re becoming overwhelmed by organising. How about that irony, eh?!
I remember last year I got swept up into the bullet journaling trend and bought one, spending two days laying it out and getting a structure in place. TWO DAYS. When those two days were up, I think I used the journal for two weeks before getting frustrated and putting it in my drawer, along with the 10’s of other half-used diaries and planners I’ve accumulated over the years. I didn’t actually need to get into bullet journalling; I already had a diary, Google Calendar and a weekly desk pad, but I think I fell for the beautifully minimal, clean, crisp pages I was seeing pop up on Pinterest.
“Should I use a paper diary or a digital calendar? Should download that app that everyone is talking about? How many desk pads should I have?”. These are the sort of questions I hear time and time again and here’s my answer. Like I’ve mentioned in previous modules, it is all completely up to you. There is no wrong or right way to organise. If BuJo-ing works for you, do it. If Asana is where it’s at for you, that’s great. I think the vital thing to remember here, and to stop us from getting overwhelmed, is to find what works for you and stick with it. Honestly, it’s completely up to you.
I’m going to take you through some options and tools that I use to organise my time and keep on top of my tasks. But remember, some may or may not work for you and that’s ok! You don’t need to (and in fact, I encourage you not to) use them all the same time to avoid overwhelm and stress. Just do what works for you.
1. The to-do list.
To-do lists used be a blessing and a curse for me. I would put down EVERYTHING I ‘needed’ to do and would spend at least an hour on it before looking up and thinking ‘nope, that’s too much- I can’t do that’ and then ultimately giving up and putting it all off by watching hours of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Before I hear you cry ‘but I never get anything done on my list, that’s why I’m here!’, firstly, I hear you. To-do lists don’t have to be another source of overwhelm for you, they’re meant to bring you closer to your version of success and they can be used very simply.
The process of a good to-do list.
- Write down everything you need to do in a list.
- Sort your list into priorities.
- Do the most important things first.
- As other things come in, add them to the list.
- As you complete tasks, cross them off.
You can have a to-do list for your whole week or you can use them daily -- it’s up to you. What I would suggest is having a to-do list for your daily tasks and then a separate notebook/calendar for your weekly schedule (more on that next). In this module, you'll see there is a downloadable template for this to-do list process. Download, print it off and see how you get on using it for a few weeks. You could start a new to-do list every morning by completing the next few statements:
“Today, I am grateful for:
Today, I will let go of:
Today, I am focused on:
Three simple statements that help you cultivate gratitude (and in turn, see the positivity in a new day), let go of negative self-beliefs or limiting views and get focused on exactly what you need to do today. I also like to add an affirmation for the day such as ‘today I will make my desired income’ or ‘I will achieve all I set out to do’. These are great to physically write down and make happen. Just remember that it’s ok if you don’t get all of your tasks finished; there’s always tomorrow or the next day. Let's not add even more pressure onto ourselves.
- Strive for progress, not perfection.
Remember when we broke down our quarterly and monthly goals into weekly actions? The weekly actions are what will get you to your goals, and these are what will show up on your to-do list. I would encourage you not to put your big goals on your to-do list as that’s what they are -- big. They’re not broken down enough to be able to complete and you’ll just stress when you see you haven’t done it. The tasks that go on your to-do list should be ones that will help you get closer to your end goal, are aligned with your version of success and bring you joy (basically, all of the ‘do’ tasks on the previous exercises and your weekly actions).
- Stick to a maximum of three tasks.
Apart from on days that are big Batch Days (because you've dedicated that day to focus solely on those tasks), don’t overload yourself by planning to do more than 3 or 4 tasks. When you schedule less, you’ll actually feel like you have more time and more gets done because you’re not constantly worrying about time. You’re also prepared for any last-minute additions or emergencies that might come up.
Having less on your daily plate will do wonders to your stress levels, and people who are less stressed are more productive. So, if you schedule less, you’ll accomplish more.
2. General Notebook
I always have a notebook on me, whether that’s at my desk or in my bag. This notebook is like a "catch-all" for my thoughts, random ideas that pop up whilst I’m walking the dog or sitting on the train to London or plans for upcoming weeks. I also use it as a daily planner- noting down my to-do list in there and a little affirmation each day to keep me going, as well as an overview for my week.
The advantage of a notebook is that you keep all of your thoughts, conversations, and ideas in one place. And, once things are written down, you don't have to waste mental energy remembering everything.
It's helpful to start a new blank page each day and date it. This way, you can easily go back and find the information you need.
3. Weekly/Monthly Schedule
This is what I do in my notebook but you can use a deskpad, large planner or a printable (you get one to use in the last module!). Schedule out your week on a Sunday evening or Monday morning on paper. Write out your tasks for the week ahead in each of the days: What you want to do in the AM and what you want to do in the PM. Breaking it up into morning and afternoon makes it seem less overwhelming as you know what you're doing before and after lunch (because you're taking time off for lunch, remember!). Again, I would recommend keeping it up to four tasks a day at most; that's two tasks in the morning and two in the afternoon. Doesn't seem so bad, right? If you find it easier, you can do two days at a time, and then come back to the planner when you know what direction your week is going in. Keep this in mind for your last module.
3. Google Suite
Google Suite is my lifesaver. I use Gmail for my inbox, Google Drive for my photos, files that need to be shared with clients, GCalendar for my appointments and Google Docs for all of my writing. It’s all in one place and I don’t need to remember to back up my laptop every time I write a new paragraph! I especially love Google Calendar as it’s interface is easy to use, clean and not at all frilly. It’s also so easy to add in appointments through Gmail or just adding them on your phone, I don’t miss a single thing (whereas with a paper diary, I can forget to input it/get confused as to where I’ve inputted it and that’s when things get tricky).
I organise my calendar using colour blocks that represent different aspects of my life. Each colour block is a reminder, appointment, meeting, or any other sort of obligation I feel I need to keep such as ‘Edit Podcast (content-based tasks are in brown)’, ‘Coaching Session with Emma (meetings in red)’, and personal life things (such as ‘Cinema’ or ‘Dinner with G’) are in blue. White space, where there is nothing scheduled and I know I can just be, is quite simply white space. If I see a lot of colours and hardly any white, or I see that I have no blue in this week, I know I need to create more literal white space on my calendar or make room for more personal things so I’m actively seeking balance.
Now, think about ways you can organise your time better? Would bullet journalling work for you? Maybe you want to keep everything digitised and take advantage of the thousands of productivity apps out there? Use this time to research tools and systems that would work for you. Here are some options for you to explore:
lesson four: work around your energy levels
To manage your workload, decide how much energy you have and what you can realistically get done with that energy.
There’s no point in writing down a 20-point to do list if you’re absolutely shattered. It’s just going to make you feel terrible when you haven’t got any of it done. Ask yourself this:
‘If I can only sit at my desk for 3 hours today, what shall I do?’
That’ll help you separate the high priority tasks from the little, not-so-important-but-feel-you-should-do-them-anyway tasks. Taking advantage of your “good hours”, when you have the most energy, to focus on what you need to get done is great for your productivity. Our brains aren’t programmed to be constantly on and working, they need to be given time to do the low demand tasks just as much as the high demand tasks, so remember that the next time you feel guilty about being too tired to write a blog post when you’ve been packing orders all day.
For instance, I’m a morning person (yup, sorry- one of those). I’m more switched on and energetic between 8am-12pm, so I try and schedule my most important tasks first thing. I get them done a lot faster and easier because they’re my good hours, and it also means sometimes I can take the rest of the day easy. You can expand this idea to your whole work week by figuring out which days work best for the tasks on your plate.
For example, you might schedule important meetings or brainstorm sessions for the middle of the week when energy is generally high, and low key tasks for Friday.
The following is an example week if you were to plan around your energy levels:
Monday: You’re getting over the weekend — schedule low-demand tasks like setting goals, organizing, and planning.
Tuesday, Wednesday: Peak of energy — tackle the most difficult problems, write, brainstorm, create.
Thursday: Energy begins to ebb — schedule meetings, get out of the house.
Friday: Lowest energy level — do open-ended work, schedule for next week, do some long-term planning, and relationship building i.e connect with people on social media/meet ups.
This week, spend the next few days tracking what you do and how you feel whilst doing it (i.e. are you shattered come Thursday afternoon?) and then on Sunday, plan your work week around your energy levels. This’ll help prevent overwhelm and will get you working a bit more efficiently.
lesson five: overcoming procrastination, eliminating distractions and what to do when you feel 'stuck'.
Hi, my name is Lola and I'm a serial procrastinator. I procrastinated writing this course. I procrastinate replying to emails; forever putting messages back on 'unread' until I feel like I'm in the 'right' mood to reply. I procrastinate making dinner until I'm starving and far too hungry to actually cook ("Dominoes it is!"). I've been known to procrastinate having a shower because it just 'requires too many steps'. I think we can all relate to the pain that is procrastination, especially the guilt that comes along with it.
So, what does procrastination actually look like?
It’s when you fill your day with low-priority tasks, leave an item on your To-Do list for a long time -- even though it's important. You might read emails several times over without making a decision on what to do with them, just putting them back as ‘unread’ and waiting until you feel ready to answer. You might start a high-priority task, get distracted and then go off to make a coffee.
You could also be filling your time with unimportant tasks that other people ask you to do, instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list, or (now this one is my go-to) you’ll wait to be in "right mood," or wait for the "right time" to tackle a task.
We get distracted. We put things off. We tell ourselves it's because we're lazy (and, in turn, berate ourselves for it) but do you know the real reason you procrastinate? It's because, subconsciously, you're scared about what will happen if you complete that task and have to do something with it. For instance, with this course, I was putting it off again and again because ultimately I was scared about putting it out there and people having access to it and their feedback. So, I just pretended I had other stuff to be doing and I was all of the sudden very interested in cleaning the dishwasher.
We end up staring into space when we've got a deadline for a client -- because we're worried about what the result will be. We start to do meaningless, unimportant tasks in the middle of writing a boundary-setting email because what the customer/our mum will say.
Here's the thing though- the only thing we can control is our reaction. We can choose to put the washing on when we should be sending off orders or doing proofs because, deep down, we're worried about what the customer will think. Or, we can just. do. the. thing and see what happens. We can't control what people will think or do; we can only control what we do.
Procrastination can be a schedule killer but it doesn’t have to rule our lives. Here are my tips for overcoming those ‘oh I’ll just do it later’ moments:
1. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. The technique has been widely popularised by dozens of apps and websites providing timers and instructions. Here are the six steps of the technique:
- Choose just one task that needs to be done, and then draw a small box on a piece of paper
- Set the timer (traditionally to 25 minutes, it’s ok if you don’t have a tomato one!).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a tick in the box on the piece of paper.
- Take a short break (3–5 minutes), and then continue with the previous task if not completed or choose a new one. Re-start the timer to 25 minutes.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
I love using this technique when I can’t seem to get going. Having those minutes of focused thinking tricks our brain back into a productive state.
2. Count down from 5 and Just. Do. The. Thing.
This exercise is derived from Mel Robbin’s Ted Talk, The 5 Second Rule, which has been viewed over 8 million times and has helped more than 100,000 people in 80+ countries who are using the Rule in remarkable ways. If you've been sitting on an idea for a long time but your fear of imperfection has stopped it from evolving and becoming reality, countdown from 5. On the '1', get up and do the work. When you start counting backward, you interrupt the habit of overthinking, you assert control, you focus yourself on taking new action, and you activate a different part of your brain. It’s a trick you can use to outsmart your brain in order to achieve your goals. You can use it to wake up from autopilot mode, to interrupt your self-sabotaging habits, to outsmart your brain, and to take control of your life with five second decisions. The simple act of counting backward to yourself, 5-4-3-2-1, does some shockingly powerful things in your brain. Researchers that study habits call it a “starting ritual” that triggers positive new habits.
3. Give yourself grace.
The more you can forgive yourself for your current procrastination, the more likely you are to overcome your current procrastination and take action. Don’t waste time and energy beating yourself for not being able to work- we all get struck by the procrastination monster -- it doesn’t mean we’re bad entrepreneurs.
4. Put Beyonce on. Loud.
There’s something to be said for putting on a motivational, upbeat song and dancing around for a couple of minutes. Pick a song that really gets you energised, and play it whenever you want to tackle something you’ve been procrastinating. The brain likes to have a trigger to create a new habit, plus you’re more likely to follow through when you’re feeling good in your body. Get Yoncé on and create some goodness!
5. Bet on it.
We know how effective it can be having an accountability buddy, but there’s one way to take this a step further: have a bet with your buddy. Choose a day and time within the next week that you will complete this task and then tell your pal; “I’ll give you £5 / take you out to lunch / buy you coffee / watch that awful series about high-school students turning into zombies you’ve been wanting to see / etc. if I haven’t completed this task by next Wednesday at 10:00am.” Give your accountability buddy a date and time within the next week and tell them in order to redeem the agreed upon prize, they must check in with you at that appointed day and time. If you haven’t completed your task by then…you owe them whatever you bet.
6. Do the yucky tasks first.
If you do your accounts first thing and say to yourself you can’t do any other tasks until they’re done, you won’t be thinking all day ‘oh gawd, I need to do my accounts at some point’ and you’ll be less likely to put it off.
7. Get outside first thing in the morning
Going outside first thing for a walk, or a run, if you’re one of those people, starts your day off right, and helps create the divide between work and home. It wakes you up, gets your blood going and helps get you into the mindset ready for productive work. I’m lucky, in more than ways than one, that I’ve got a little terror of a Border Terrier who requires going outside every so often. Obviously more than every so often, every morning and evening otherwise he’s a little hairy Usain Bolt with paws, zooming through all of the rooms until you succumb to his demands and put his collar on. So I’m forced to go outside and to take a minute in between the moments of terror and embarrassment when he starts humping other dogs. Head to the local park or fields or piece of grass by the petrol station and just take a minute. Notice the air, the sounds and the smells and be present. It makes a huge difference.
8. Try and be an early bird
I can just feel the eye rolls that are coming from your head right now. I know, I know. Some people do just work better at night and prefer rising later- if you are one, then keep doing you. But I’ve found I’m much more productive in the morning and throughout the whole day if I start early. For me, it doesn’t necessarily mean starting work earlier than 9am, it just means getting out of bed around 6/6.30 and moving about before I go and sit at my desk. If you’re not used to early starts it might be painful at first but start by waking up a half an hour earlier, then another half an hour a week later, until you’re at a time you feel you can live with. This isn’t about 4am starts (unless you’re into that). It's about whatever feels right for you. Consistency is key, so try and aim for the same time each morning.
Whilst we’re on the subject of mornings, it’s a good idea to not check your phone/emails/social media until you’re ready to sit down and work. Now this is something that’s, again, subjective. I have friends who swear by scrolling through Twitter as soon as their eyes open to wake themselves up and get their daily fix of memes. But I’ve found by not scrolling through social media or checking my inbox before I’m ready to work, I don’t get as distracted or filled with rage/sadness/negative thoughts before the sun has even risen. It’s all about starting the day off on the right foot, and if you’re seeing not-nice stuff early on, it can be detrimental to your whole mood. Schedule in an hour for emails and socials at the start of your working day, rather than at the start of your waking day (but more on this in the next module!).
9. Turn off notifications
Another boundary I have in place is that I don’t have my notifications turned on on my phone or my desktop. It’s so easy to get distracted by the buzzing of the metal on your desk, or seeing the screen flash on out of the corner of your eye. What starts with just a harmless reply to a comment on Instagram can turn into 3 hours of scrolling and liking, and before you know it, it’s 9pm and you haven’t finished that proposal nor eaten dinner. Turn them off, and try to resist the urge to look throughout the day. As I mentioned earlier, schedule in time to look.
10. Have a workspace that inspires you
A desk or space that looks and feels beautiful will help you work so much more efficiently. Having a tidy desk makes a huge difference in feeling calm and peaceful which ultimately results in more work getting done, rather than ‘oh god there’s so much STUFF EVERYWHERE I CAN’T WORK AHHHH’. And, it eliminates the distraction of cleaning.
If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room or a box room that you can turn into a home office, do it! When we had our 2 bed flat, I absolutely loved having a room just for my stock and my desk. Being able to shut the door and switch off at the end of the day was a feeling like no other, after years of having my work things in all corners of the home. If you don’t have a spare room, you could try making a corner of the living room ‘your’ space or putting a small desk in the hallway. Just somewhere where you can have a defined space that creates a divide between work and home. That way, when you enter it, you know consciously what you’re there to do: go to work. It changes the state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work”.
If you’re not able to have a home office, or a place in the house that’s just yours, consider joining a coworking space. You’ll get to go to a separate place that creates the divide of work and home, and you’ll meet some likeminded people and become a part of a community at the same time. 2 birds, 1 stone. You don’t even have to get a full time desk, just a couple of days a week makes a huge difference. I don’t even spend all week at ours, mostly because I’m in and out of client meetings, and because I quite like having my little introverted days at home once or twice a week.
Keeping these tips in mind, have a think about what you can do the next time you feel you want to procrastinate. Also, think about why it is that you want to procrastinate. Are you fearful of something? Are you bored? Or do you just feel stuck and in a rut?
Last year, I experienced quite a few creative ruts. Ok, that’s an understatement. I felt like I spent the year under the umbrella of one, huge, all-encompassing creative rut. I couldn’t write more than a sentence for weeks at a time. I’d get distracted by the washing up in the middle of the day and end up not going back to my desk because I’d get distracted by the massive pile of washing that was starting to fossilise. My days were just all of ‘the bare minimum’. And then, on a random Tuesday morning, I clearly remember thinking ‘something isn’t ok’. This was more than just a break in productivity or motivation. I was well and truly stuck.
Firstly, we will ALL feel like this at some point in our businesses’ journey. We will feel like we’re going around in circles, putting in hard work with no payoff, or that there’s just no inspiration to do the work. We will feel like we’re not worthy as a business owner because we’re not hitting the targets we set out. Some of us might start to have thoughts of going back to a J-O-B. This is completely human and natural. Being a business owner (unfortunately) isn’t glamorous. You will go through rough patches and hit every high and low possible throughout your journey to making things happen. It’s inevitable. But there are ways that we can make these creative ruts a bit easier and less intimidating.
1. Figure out why you feel stuck
It might not always be obvious as to why you feel stuck in your business, but it’s a good idea to start by asking yourself the following questions. There may be a specific reason you’re feeling blocked and if you figure out what it is, you can resolve it quickly.
- Are you following your version of success? Ask yourself if what you’re doing right now is getting you closer to living that big vision. If not, how can you change it so it is? Sometimes what was once important is no longer is a top priority. Ask yourself if you’re pursuing the right goals for you and your business or if you need to make a change. The goals you set should feel good to you. They should excite you and motivate you and get you out of bed in the morning. Your actions should be actions that solely bring you joy, not deflate or demotivate you.
- Am I passionate about what I do, or am I doing it because it’s ‘on trend’? The biggest mistake I see a lot of us business owners make is that we try to do what’s ‘on trend’ instead of what's in our hearts. If you don't feel called to offer workshops then by all means don't do it. Don’t want a YouTube channel? Don’t do it. Don’t want to sell physical products but feel like your purpose could be in teaching others how, do it. Do what's in your heart and not what you think is working for everyone else.
- Have you lost the passion for your work? Do you feel like you don’t have the same amount of passion you once had for the work you’re doing? Ask yourself if you need to change your direction or if you can reinvigorate the passion you once had. You should also ask yourself if you’ve felt this way before. Is it the first time you’ve felt stuck or has it been a recurring issue?
2. Are you clear on who your ideal audience is?
It’s easy to feel stagnant when you lose sight of who your ideal audience is. I remember having a big rut at the beginning of the year when I wasn’t receiving new client inquiries, engagement had dropped on all platforms and I was starting to wonder whether people actually needed me. I had been creating consistent content but I realised it didn’t have my ideal audience at the forefront. So, I started over and got really specific on who I wanted to cater all of my content to. Once I became extremely clear on my ‘girl’ (a creative entrepreneur/small business owner who wants to gain clarity and focus through practical and relatable advice), I began writing to them. I addressed them in every single piece of content and soon enough, I was seeing results and I could feel the rut lifting.
Not everyone will need what you have to offer, nor will everyone even like what you have to offer. And that is more than ok. We can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, remember! Focus on the people who are truly within your target audience and consistently show up for them.
3. Is it truth or fear?
Are we thinking we’re stuck when really we’re just scared? We can sometimes feel scared when things are about to blow up, when we’re edging closer to our version of success. Or we can feel scared when things feel too far out of our reach, and that common fear of failure pops up. Why? Because growing your business stirs up old patterns and narratives of self doubt. The key is to recognise an old pattern for what it is: the inner critic, the ego, trying to do everything in its power to keep you small. Recognising this gives you the key to freedom, because with this awareness you can make new, thoughtful, and empowered choices.
4. Give yourself space
Sometimes, we just need a break. Allowing yourself to step back and have space from your venture can be all you need to get out of your rut. Consider taking a mini break from your business by giving yourself a day or two off to take care of yourself and reflect on the direction you’re heading. Ask yourself those important questions to figure out why you’re feeling like you can’t move forward. A change in perspective will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. Alternatively, you could even take a workcation to get out of your normal environment for a week or two. Close your shop, tell clients and customers you’re going on a break for X amount of time. They’ll understand- if they don’t, they’re not your people! Our ‘stuckness’ might be a warning sign of burn out, so it’s always a good idea to rest rather than working through to the point of exhaustion. I’ve found this is the best thing for me when I feel like I’m just going round in circles.
5. Do Something, Do Anything
One easy way to get moving is just do something, anything—no matter how small. There is ALWAYS something we can do, even if it’s just reflecting some more on the issue over lunch or at a yoga class; making a list, a phone call or journaling; or taking 15 minutes to do web research or buy a book. Maybe even answer just one email and see what happens after that.
6. Reach out to a coach or business pal
Sometimes when you feel stuck in your business, you just need to get a little help from an outside source. Talking to someone else and working through the issues you’re facing can be a major help in getting you unstuck. Find a coach you can work with to help you break through any blocks in your business. A coach can help figure out what’s making you feel stuck and help you create a plan so you can finally move forward.
You can also choose to turn to a business pal for guidance. If you don’t have one, you should definitely find someone to be your confidante. A business pal is great because you’ll always have someone who understands the struggles we go through as entrepreneurs and will be there to bounce ideas off of. Basically why One Girl Band exists!
I also want you to remember two words; persistence and patience.
These two things are vital for getting out of the rut you’re feeling right now, and they are the two things that will help get you to your version of success. Keep persisting, keep showing up and putting the work in even when it feels futile. Be patient because you are right where you need to be, right now. It may not feel like it, you might hate where you are, but it’s all just a stepping stone to the next part of your life.
module three recap
Lastly, I think it’s important to add that you are not defined by your state of productivity or motivation. Nowadays, there is so much noise out there about being 100% on it all the time, consistently and constantly being productive and waking up ready to smash the day- but in reality, that’s very hard to keep going. We are bound to have bad days, weeks or even months. It’s inevitable that we’ll have creative ruts every so often that make us question whether we can keep going and reach our version of success. But, I promise you that you can. Some days, it may not feel like it when sitting down at your desk/kitchen table/table in a cafe and getting quality work done seems impossible, but it will happen. It will come back. Just show up every day as the best version of you that you can possibly be. When I say the best version you could possibly be I mean it- if you’re having a bad day, you’re in a funk, you’re feel unmotivated, then that’s your best version that day and you have to work around that. There’s no forcing productivity. So, remember, you are still worthy as a business owner and human even if you’re in a funk.
That’s the end of module 3! Hopefully now you have a few tools and tricks up your sleeves for the next time you feel stuck in procrastination mode or unsure about managing your workload. Let’s complete the following statements to reflect on what you’ve learned.
The priorities in my business right now are:
The tasks that are essential to reaching my version of success are:
The tasks I can delegate look like:
The tasks I can delete from my workweek look like:
I could use Batch Days for tasks like:
The organisational tools that work for me are:
Whenever I feel I am procrastinating, I will:
The days I am most energised are:
The days where I need to do low-key tasks are: