In these bleak days of toxic productivity, the desire to become the “most productive entrepreneur” sits at the heart of so many exhausted, burnt out business folk like myself.
We just want to do all the things, all the time, perfectly.
Then, when we act like regular people (who get sick, run late, and miss deadlines,) we berate ourselves endlessly for not living up to our own potential.
So let’s just get this out of the way now – it’s pointless to berate yourself for not being perfect.
You can’t be a productive entrepreneur when you’re too busy struggling with your own demons, and guilt is one HELL of a demon.
But not all demons are bad news. And not all productivity is toxic productivity.
Sometimes ya just gotta get stuff done, and productivity demons are getting in the way.
Once you learn to see your productivity demons, you can fight them head-on.
You can approach them like a challenge: Some days you win, some days you lose, but ultimately they are always going to come back.
Everyone’s productivity demons are different, but I have a feeling that mine are somewhat universal.
Let’s see if you can relate…
Demon #1: My super comfy bed
My biggest problem these past few years has been my unlimited capacity to sleep in.
Some cold days in winter, when bleak wintertime depression had been invading my brain for weeks, I would just straight up bring my computer into bed and never leave all day.
Forget about walking 20 steps to my beautiful work space and taking advantage of my huge screen and graphic tablet. That would mean leaving the soft cozy womb of bliss that is my bed.
Ultimate solution: Have relaxing, enjoyable activities built into my morning routine
I really thought I had tried everything. Shake ‘n Wake apps, setting alarm clocks all over my apartment, even living with someone who worked a regular 9-5 wasn’t enough.
Earlier this summer, I broke down the problem and realized the main issue – I just wasn’t enjoying the morning enough to motivate my ass out of bed.
I would stay in bed because I’d wake up and immediately think of all the work I had to do, all the chores, all the non-dreamy errand type crap that I’d put off as long as possible.
Here’s what I did to make my morning as chill and enjoyable as possible…
- Before I go to bed at night, visualize myself waking up on time and completing my wake up ritual
- Set regular alarms for 7:30am every weekday. No matter what.
- Prepare a big glass of water or black tea the night before and have it sitting out by my phone.
- When my alarm goes off: stretch, take 5 deep breaths, take 5 big gulps of water (or tea), and do 20 jumping jacks
- Have my workout clothes ready to go so I can change right after I get out of bed
- Make a delicious smoothie with avocado toast. Because nothing says “happy millennial” like avocados and strawberries in the morning.
- Take a walk and listen to a book or podcast. If I don’t do this, I sometimes don’t see the outside all day.
- When I get back, do a preset 15m stretch routine that emphasizes the parts of me that need the most work, usually my back and hips. (FYI – I have about 10 years of yoga practice built up, but I don’t recommend this unless you have an instructor who can teach you the basics.)
BONUS TIP: For morning workouts, get one of these visual analog countdown clocks that lets you quickly see how much time you have left in the workout and stay focused. I found this necessary since I’d always be glancing at my watch / phone to look at how much time I had left, get startled if the timer went off while I was in the zone, and I would often get distracted if I didn’t set a timer in the first place.
Demon #2: Avoiding Important Yet Not-Urgent Tasks
Everyone deals with this demon, whether they have an office job or not.
To me, avoidance will usually take the form of procrastination. For me personally, I procrastinate on writing & marketing tasks.
I might be good at writing, but it’s something I can easily avoid, since it’s not an urgent priority or a project that’s directly tied to my income.
Additionally, I hate self-promotion with a passion, and have spent years avoiding basic business essentials like posting to Twitter, running a FB group, and running weekly ads (all of which are pretty critical to maintaining a successful business).
I’d just default to working on client tasks nonstop and pushing business stuff (even enjoyable business stuff) to the back burner. It’s simply easier to work on client projects, which are my zone of genius (and reason for being in business in the first place.)
Ultimate solution: Set aside time blocks for important, not-urgent work
Not only do I build 1-2 hours of writing & marketing tasks into my mornings, but I also implemented broader weekly & monthly task lists to keep me on track with my big-picture business goals.
Basically, I have 3 types of ‘important work’ blocks that rotate throughout the week: Content blocks, Website blocks, and Product blocks. Each of these has it’s own task list that I’ve broken down into clear, easy-to-follow steps in a Trello board.
Why does scheduling time blocks work so well for me?
- It keeps it interesting. Knowing the big picture keeps me inspired to do even the most boring tasks, since I know how they will help me achieve my goals in the long run
- It helps me take one step at a time. I have issues with my brain leaping too far ahead and getting overwhelmed, but maintaining a broader monthly marketing schedule breaks down larger more daunting tasks into daily bits which are easy to knock out first thing in the morning
- It puts my productivity on autopilot. Because I’m always 10 steps ahead, I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by how far I still have to go. This calendar helps me stay zoomed in on my present task, and encourages me to move forward instead of navel-gaze endlessly.
Demon #3: Solitude
Working from home started out as this incredibly liberating experience. I can’t tell you how much time and money I spent curating the most perfect workspace imaginable.
Yes of COURSE I enjoy my clothing-optional, always tidy, totally private living situation… until 5 days pass without me ever walking outside or talking to anyone besides my fianceé. There was a stretch of time where I’d go out on Saturday night and not even know how to interact with other people.
Especially in the winter, my workday solitude turns me into an actual hermit.
Before long, I’d find myself unwilling to leave the apartment even to work out. I’d just do some yoga in my bedroom and tell myself “that’s enough for today”. But my brain was suffering.
Ultimate solution: Schedule time in a cafe or co-working studio
This might have been obvious to most people, but I put off justifying this expense for WAY too long. I kept telling myself that money was better spent on a VA, advertising, or that trip I’d been wanting to take.
But most of all, I put off joining a studio because I loved my home workspace so damn much. If I was going to do this co-working thing RIGHT, I needed to set myself up with a dedicated desk, a large monitor, a kneeling chair, and lots of sunlight.
Fortunately, I knew myself well enough to anticipate these needs, and 3 months ago I finally joined a co-working space near my apartment. Needless to say, it has kept me afloat socially and improved my productivity in several ways.
Here are some positive changes I’ve noticed in my daily life:
- I get dressed and put on makeup. It’s easier to take myself seriously when I don’t spend the entire day in pajamas.
- I joined the yoga studio next door which has gotten me back to a regular practice and peak flexibility. Plus it’s hot yoga so my skin is super smooth and I stay detoxed like woah.
- I get out more, since there’s a subway station and massive park literally across the street
- I’ve been meeting lots of local entrepreneurs who do all sorts of amazing stuff. It’s inspiring to be around people doing their own thing, and running their own businesses too.
- I can relax much easier when I get home, because I’m able to schedule work-specific time as separate from home-chill time.
Now for the real test…
You gotta ask at this point – have I been slaying my productivity demons?
Well, sort of. I’d say these practices have helped me become a little more productive each week.
The truth is, even if I stick to these habits 25% of the time, they are still going to improve my life and make me a more productive entrepreneur. If I fall off one week, I don’t berate myself or feel guilty. I just get back on next week and do as much as I can.
We can’t change the past. Guilt has no place in the life of a productive entrepreneur.
Knowing that my morning routine, business development time, and co-working hours are built into my schedule already makes me feel focused and in the flow. Then nights and weekends I can do whatever I want and feel like I deserve it.
Here are some questions to consider as you conquer your OWN productivity demons…
- Do you have morning and evening rituals already in place? If not, what are some ways you can create a truly enjoyable morning experience? How about a peacefully relaxing before-bed experience?
- If you work from home, what are some “demons” that might be limiting your daily productivity? How can you make peace with these demons?
- What does your “ideal week” look like? How many hours a day would you LIKE to spend on physical fitness, focused work, and personal business tasks?
Yours in hours, minutes, and seconds,